With a free-agent freeze on NFL talent until the league's collective bargaining agreement gets resolved, the Vikings are turning to the Canadian Football League to supply their roster with additional talent before the attention turns too heavily toward the NFL draft.
Earlier this week, the Vikings agreed to a three-year deal with wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux that could be worth up to $1.8 million. Arceneaux caught 130 passes for 1,972 yards and 12 touchdowns over a two-year period playing for the B.C. Lions of the CFL.
"He was one of the players that kind of stood out to us up in the Canadian League. He's a big receiver with very good speed. Made a lot of good catches," said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel, after another session of watching college prospects at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
The Vikings gave Arceneaux a workout on Dec. 29, 2009, and waited until this week to ink him to a deal.
He was listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds coming out Alcorn State, the alma mater for Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, in 2009.
"We liked his size and how well he catches the football. And then his route-running and then just to be able to see how he grew while he was (in British Columbia). His numbers just continued to get better in the short time he was there. We think he has a lot of upside," Frazier said.
"We're going to give him every shot to compete in training camp and hopefully we'll have OTAs. We're going to give him every shot."
Arceneaux reportedly also had tryouts with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in December.
The Vikings also confirmed their interest in defensive end Philip Hunt, who after a productive career with the Houston Cougars in college, also went to the CFL after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coming out of college, Hunt posted impressive numbers at his 2009 pro day in Houston, running a 4.75-second 40-yard dash and posting a 41½-inch vertical jump.
"We liked his burst and the way he gets off the football," Frazier said. "As you know, one of the things that we're trying to find all the time is pass rushers. He showed a propensity to be able to do that. Not that he'll be – everybody wants to compare the Canadian guys to (Dolphins defensive end) Cameron Wake – but he has some qualities that we think really fit our scheme."
Vikings defensive ends Ray Edwards and Brian Robison are both scheduled to be free agents, but Frazier said their interest in Hunt isn't to protect against losing either of those two.
"More just to add another good football, a guy that can really rush the passer," he said.
The Vikings haven't signed Hunt yet, as he is getting interest from other teams as well, and he made no bones about his motivation and options in an interview the Winnipeg Free Press.
"I want a signing bonus worth enough that me and my family could live off it for the season just in case the NFL goes into a lockout or if things don't pan out and I come back to the CFL during the season," he told the Free Press. "I want to have enough so that my family has some stability. The Bombers are a great safety net for me right now but I can't see myself putting that in jeopardy for an NFL tryout without a signing bonus.
"Me and (Bomber GM) Joe Mack have a good relationship and I know they'll take care of me in Winnipeg. I don't want to put that stress on myself where I have to go to the NFL just to make a practice roster when I've got the situation I have in Winnipeg."
Hunt reportedly had workouts with Philadelphia, Cleveland, New England and Houston, in addition to the Vikings. He led the CFL with 16 sacks in 2010.
"We looked at him," Spielman said. "He was another guy that stood out to us on film and I know he's being pursued by some other teams too, so we'll just kind of see where that goes."
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.
Frazier, Spielman address Canadian pursuits
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