The Minnesota Vikings released veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb on Thursday, creating the possibility that McNabb could join his fourth NFL team in the past three seasons.
Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier called the decision for the team to cut its ties to McNabb, who had lost the starting job to rookie Christian Ponder, mutual.
“We both agreed that this was probably going to be the best thing to do,” Frazier said at a news conference.
McNabb, 35, can be claimed by any NFL team off waivers, and there was immediate speculation Thursday that he could be headed to Chicago to play for his hometown Bears. If he clears waivers, he would become a free agent.
After spending his first 11 NFL seasons in Philadelphia and helping the Eagles to reach five NFC title games, McNabb has bounced around in recent seasons. The Eagles traded him to the Washington Redskins last year. But he failed to mesh with Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan and Shanahan’s son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator, and was benched by the Redskins in favor of Rex Grossman with three games remaining last season.
The Redskins traded McNabb to the Vikings this past summer after the NFL lockout, and McNabb began the season as the starter in Minnesota with hopes of recapturing his former Pro Bowl form. But the Vikings managed only one victory in McNabb’s six starts this season. He threw for 1,026 yards, with four touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Ponder, who was chosen by the Vikings with the 12th overall selection in the NFL draft in April out of Florida State, has taken over as the starter and is the franchise’s quarterback of the future. Frazier said McNabb did not mention the possibility of retirement.
“I think he can still play in the right situation,” Frazier said. “I think he can still play if he chooses, if he wants to play again. I’m not sure that that’s what he wants to do, but I think he could.”
The Bears, with a record of 7-4, are in the thick of the NFC wild-card playoff chase but lost their quarterback, Jay Cutler, to a fractured thumb on his throwing hand. Backup Caleb Hanie took over as the starter but threw three interceptions in last Sunday’s loss at Oakland. The Bears reportedly put in a waiver claim last week on Kyle Orton after he was released by the Denver Broncos. But Orton was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs, who had a higher priority than the Bears in the waiver-claim process because of their inferior record.
The Houston Texans, who lead the AFC South, reportedly are not “immediately” interested in McNabb. They lost starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart to injuries, leaving them with rookie T.J. Yates as their starter. But they signed veteran Jake Delhomme this week to go with Yates and Kellen Clemens on their roster. The Dallas Cowboys, seeking a backup to Tony Romo, reportedly also made a waiver claim last week on Orton.