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Vikings free-agent focus: Wide receivers
Adding to the complications is that the 2014 NFL Draft is deep with quality receivers. Will that devalue the options on the free agent market? Probably not initially, but after the first week of free agency there could still be plenty of quality, experienced receivers willing to lower their asking price in hopes of catching on with a team before the draft in May.
The Minnesota Vikings could conceivably go into free agency with receiver low on their priority list. Cordarrelle Patterson is likely ready to become a full-time starter (many would argue that should have happened earlier than it did) and Greg Jennings should have three or four quality years left in him.
Jarius Wright is turning into a solid slot option and Greg Childs will attempt to continue his comeback from surgery to repair both of the patellar tendons in his knees after tearing them in training camp 2012, his rookie season. Realistically, the Vikings could bypass a receiver in the initial phase of free agency and the draft and simply see what they have on their roster and how it fits Norv Turner's offense.
The only free-agent receivers for the Vikings are Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb.
Simpson was given successive one-year contracts by Minnesota the last two offseasons. The first of those produced an offseason full of intriguing athleticism, followed by an early-season injury that sidetracked the remainder of the year. The second season brought the fulfillment of that intriguing athleticism but also another run-in with the law when Simpson was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. That could mean another suspension from the NFL so teams, including the Vikings, may wait and see what happens on that front before committing any more money to Simpson.
Without Leslie Frazier as the head coach, it could be the end of the line for Joe Webb in Minnesota. He didn't have a defined role last year, except that when he was in the game it often resulted in a running play.
TOP OUTSIDE OPTIONS
With Patterson, Jennings and Wright in the fold, the Vikings aren't likely to tangle with any of the top free agents, like Eric Decker, Golden Tate or Hakeem Nicks.
Older free agents like Anquan Boldin and Jerricho Cotchery also swim against general manager Rick Spielman's current. That leaves the lower level of free agents, if any, that could be on the radar of the Vikings. The most logical "body type" to pursue would be some of the taller ones who could offer the jump ball ability that isn't necessarily the strength of Patterson, Jennings and Wright (if healthy, Childs could provide that, too).
Brandon LaFell: The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder caught 49 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns with the Panthers last year and has played in all but four games in his first four seasons in the NFL. His production last year saw more catches than Simpson and Patterson.
JaCoby Jones: He is nearly the same size as LaFell, but has seven seasons in the league and it's questionable whether the Vikings would want to commit much of a contract for a receiver who will turn 30 before the start of the season. Still, Jones has proved a nice complementary option for the Ravens, catching 30 or more passes for more than 400 yards each of his last four seasons. He would also provide another options on returns if the Vikings wanted to limit Patterson's exposure there or move away from the sure-handed but fair-catch-prone Marcus Sherels on punts.
THE FREE AGENTS
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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