General manager Rick Spielman emphasized last week that the Minnesota Vikings would not be taking another shot with Randy Moss, who has announced he is returning to the NFL.
Moss might be one of the few wide receivers Minnesota doesn't take a look at this offseason, though.
Speaking with reporters last week, Spielman seemed intent on upgrading Minnesota's receivers and giving second-year quarterback Christian Ponder more weapons to work with. Aside from Percy Harvin, who had career highs with 87 catches, 967 yards and six touchdowns, no other Vikings' receiver had more than 38 catches last season.
"Well, you know, we think Percy is a weapon," Spielman said. "We think (Kyle Rudolph) is going to develop into and is going to be a really good player. You have (Adrian Peterson). (Toby Gerhart) came along, but we do need to get some more playmakers around him. I think to give Christian the best chance at success is to get him around as many playmakers as we can on offense."
Aside from Harvin, Spielman's other named playmakers were a tight end (Rudolph) and running backs (Peterson and Gerhart), and that only further illustrates the need for help at wide receiver. Even with Harvin's various talents and athletic ability, he isn't considered a true deep threat.
Fortunately for Minnesota, Spielman believes the most depth in free agency and in April's draft happens to be at the wide receiver position.
The Vikings cut former No. 1 receiver Bernard Berrian midway through last season. Michael Jenkins caught 38 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns in his first season in Minnesota but missed the final five games with a knee injury. Devin Aromashodu came on late with 26 catches, including 17 the final five weeks. Aromashodu is an unrestricted free agent, though, and no other wide receiver caught as many as 10 passes last season.
Whether it's in free agency or the draft — or both — expect Minnesota to have some new faces at receiver next season. Spielman just isn't sure where the upgrades will come from.
"We have a young quarterback, so we talk about that," Spielman said of building through the draft or signing a veteran free agent. "Is it better to have maybe a more polished receiver who's been in the league? Or is it the other thing, do you get another young receiver to come in with this young group and let them continually grow together as they come through the ranks?"
Those are decisions Spielman is still trying to weigh and how to use maybe "one big bullet" to fill a major need for the Vikings.
This year's class of free-agent receivers is strong and includes eight players who've made a Pro Bowl in their career. Among the top available options are Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), Marques Colston (New Orleans), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia), Vincent Jackson (San Diego), Stevie Johnson (Buffalo), Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis), Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham (New York Giants), Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis) and Wes Welker (New England), though some could receive franchise tags from their respective teams or re-sign.
Spielman knows the names and the overall depth of this group and believes the team has the salary cap room to make a big move it if needs to.
"Whether we make a big splash or not, if there's someone out there that we think can help us, that we're willing to spend a lot of money, we'll definitely look at those options," Spielman said.
Minnesota could also look to the draft. Only one receiver — Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon — would seem an option with the Vikings' No. 3 overall pick, but maybe the depth in the draft will lead Spielman to believe he can hit on a receiver after the first round.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had Blackmon listed as his top receiver before this week's scouting Combine, followed by Kendall Wright of Baylor, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Reuben Randle from Louisiana State and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery in the top five. Mayock had first-round grades on Blackmon, Wright, Floyd and Randle. Jeffery, Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and Wisconsin's Nick Toon could be available later.
Mayock said most of the receivers are "big-body guys," though Blackmon is the standout.
"I think you have to look at him like Larry Fitzgerald a few years ago, which is I don't think he's going to run a great 40," Mayock said. "I think he's going to run a 4.5, or a 4.52 somewhere in there, and I think you have to say that's okay. He's big, he's physical, he's got tremendous body control and tremendous ball skills.
"I don't think you're going to see a guy that wows you with vertical speed, but his body control, hands and ability to catch the football are exceptional."
Spielman believes the change in the college game is what has determined the depth of the draft, mainly on the outside of the offense and defense.
"I think there's going to be a lot of good receivers in this draft," Spielman said. "There's also going to be — we haven't got to them yet but I've got a pretty good feel for it — some good corners in this draft as well. So I think it'll be a pretty strong area, and that's just a reflection of where the college game is going, too. Because at the college game, if you go watch those they're, again, like watching basketball games. It's spread out. Receivers are going up and down the field. DBs are trying to cover them. That's I think where kind of the strength is going to be."
Coincidentally the NFL game has gone the same way and the Vikings might have their chance to catch up with the rest of the pass-happy NFL if they can find the right receivers.
Brian Hall writes about the Vikings for Fox Sports North.
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