MINNEAPOLIS (AP) It is no secret that smoothing out the inconsistent play at quarterback is the biggest priority for the Minnesota Vikings heading into next season.

The team may be on the verge of addressing that need when the NFL's new fiscal year and free agency begins at 11 p.m. Central time on Thursday night.

For the second offseason in a row, the Vikings are in talks with the Houston Texans about adding quarterback Sage Rosenfels to compete with incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson. The Houston Chronicle first reported that the Vikings will send a fourth-round draft pick to the Texans for Rosenfels.

Both teams have declined comment because no trade can become official until the NFL's new year begins.

Adding Rosenfels to the team's current list of quarterbacks, which includes Jackson, Gus Frerotte and John David Booty, wouldn't be a sure-fire solution to the erratic play at the position that has plagued coach Brad Childress in his three seasons in Minnesota.

But it would give Minnesota another veteran option if Jackson's inconsistency continues. Jackson was benched after two losses to open last season and Frerotte went 8-3 in his place.

When Frerotte went down with a back injury, Jackson flourished to finish the regular season. He won NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in December after throwing four touchdown passes in a road victory over Arizona.

"I think that Tarvaris continues to improve without a doubt," Childress told reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I just expect another step in the development."

In the first round of the playoffs, however, Jackson regressed to the shaky youngster he was at the start of the season. He went 15-for-34 for 164 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown in a 26-14 loss to the Eagles that ended Minnesota's season.

The implosion cast into doubt Jackson's status as the team's quarterback of the future, and present.

"We need to put somebody in place that will push (Jackson) and compete with him, and I think competition is the nature of the game," Childress said. "At some places it may not be (but) in our situation, we need to have a good healthy competition, because I think that makes everybody better."

The Vikings also have needs at right tackle and cornerback and are negotiating to re-sign veteran Matt Birk. But adding Rosenfels would no doubt be the headline-maker of an offseason that is expected to be on the quiet side because of a mediocre pool of free agents.

Minnesota tried to bring Rosenfels in last season, but the two teams couldn't agree on compensation for the 30-year-old quarterback. Rosenfels went 2-3 in five starts for the injured Matt Schaub last season, often displaying the same type of up-and-down play that Jackson was showing in Minnesota.

He threw for 1,431 with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but did complete 66.7 percent of his passes.

Rosenfels threw for 21-for-29 for 224 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Schaub against the Vikings in November, but he also threw an interception in the end zone in the 28-21 loss.

In October, Rosenfels came in for Schaub again and had the Texans up 17 points in the fourth quarter, but fumbled twice as the Colts rallied to win, 31-27.

But almost every available quarterback appears to have faults in a group that includes Dan Orlovsky, Jeff Garcia, Rex Grossman and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

And the top two in the draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez figure to be gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock with the 22nd pick in the first round.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.