Analyst: Is Jackson a good fit for Vikings?

Vincent Jackson is probably the biggest receiver (literally and figuratively) left in free agency, but do his skills match the Vikings' needs? One NFL Films buff and a Vikings receiver both talked about finding the right fit and their answers may surprise you.

Monday's deadline for NFL teams to designate a franchise player came and went with a flurry. By the time it was done, 21 of the 32 franchises had designated "franchise" players, a number that included five kickers and a punter.

In relation to positions of Vikings' needs, the franchise-tag deadline essentially took three receivers (Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson), one tight end (Fred Davis), one linebacker (Anthony Spencer), one cornerback (Brent Grimes) and three safeties (Tyvon Branch, Dashon Goldson and Michael Griffin) off the free-agent market.

While the free-agent market on receivers is still pretty healthy – players like Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston and Pierre Garcon, among others, could be available – the franchising of Bowe may have taken the best "fit" away from the Vikings' pursuit to upgrade that position.

"I like Vincent Jackson a lot, too, but I think Bowe is a different receiver. I think Bowe would fit Minnesota and Christian Ponder better than Vincent Jackson would because I think Bowe is a better short to intermediate receiver than Jackson," NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell said. "And I think ultimately Ponder at his best is a quick-game passer – a three-step, five-step and the ball's got to come out. He's not a deep-drop QB. Jackson played with (Philip) Rivers in that Norv Turner offense with a lot of deep drops, a lot of vertical routes."

That falls in line with what Percy Harvin also told Viking Update in December when asked about the need for a deep-threat receiver. He said the calls for a big-bodied deep threat like Jackson might be misplaced because the Atlanta Falcons offense doesn't necessarily have that dimension, either, and the Vikings offense under Bill Musgrave is patterned after the Falcons' scheme.

"This offense is not particularly built for that 6-5 guy that can stretch the field. You can look to Atlanta and it's identical to our offense. You don't see them catching too many balls. It's (tight end Tony) Gonzalez catching 10-yard passes off of option routes. It's (Roddy) White catching 100 balls a year off the same routes," Harvin said. "It's not too many flat-out deep balls. I don't think this offense is tailored for that deep pass, although we've been able to draw some up this year. We'll see what direction and how much coach adds to the playbook."

With a pass game that struggled to give Ponder enough time and a rookie quarterback that is still learning the offense, a deep threat might not be maximized in Minnesota in his first year.

But if the Vikings' top two needs on offense are a pass-protecting left tackle and a playmaking wide receiver, Cosell reinforced the Vikings' way of looking at the big picture of an offseason – knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both free agency and the draft when making personnel decisions. Free agency is often weak at offensive tackle "because there are very few of those guys," at least quality ones, that get away from NFL teams. Despite three receivers getting the franchise tag on Monday, there are still more than a half-dozen starting-quality receivers that could be available when free agency starts on March 13.

Meanwhile, the Vikings appear to stand a good chance of landing the top left tackle in the draft, USC's Matt Kalil.

"I don't know their money situation and I don't know their mindset," Cosell said before the franchise tags started to be dished out. "But you'd be better off, just to throw this out as a paradigm, drafting Matt Kalil and getting Dwayne Bowe – I don't even know if they're interested in that, but I'm throwing it out – than drafting (Justin) Blackmon and maybe the left tackle you end up with in the draft, whether in the draft or just a journeyman free agent, that's not as good as drafting Kalil and signing Bowe.

"I think teams have to think of it in those broader terms. As you know, a lot of people think, ‘OK, it's the No. 3 pick. We need a receiver. We've got to draft Blackmon.' I'm not saying that's the wrong choice, but there has to be a larger context to it."

The drawback now is that free-agent market shrank on Monday with the record 21 players being franchised.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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I think Bowe would fit Minnesota and Christian Ponder better than Vincent Jackson would because I think Bowe is a better short to intermediate receiver than Jackson,\" NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell said. \"And I think ultimately Ponder at his best is a quick-game passer – a three-step, five-step and the ball's got to come out. He's not a deep-drop QB. Jackson played with (Philip) Rivers in that Norv Turner offense with a lot of deep drops, a lot of vertical routes.\" That falls in line with what Percy Harvin also told in December when asked about the need for a deep-threat receiver. He said the calls for a big-bodied deep threat like Jackson might be misplaced because the Atlanta Falcons offense doesn't necessarily have that dimension, either, and the Vikings offense under Bill Musgrave is patterned after the Falcons' scheme. \"This offense is not particularly built for that 6-5 guy that can stretch the field. You can look to Atlanta and it's identical to our offense. You don't see them catching too many balls. It's (tight end Tony) Gonzalez catching 10-yard passes off of option routes. It's (Roddy) White catching 100 balls a year off the same routes,\" Harvin said. \"It's not too many flat-out deep balls. I don't think this offense is tailored for that deep pass, although we've been able to draw some up this year. We'll see what direction and how much coach adds to the playbook.\" With a pass game that struggled to give Ponder enough time and a rookie quarterback that is still learning the offense, a deep threat might not be maximized in Minnesota in his first year. But if the Vikings' top two needs on offense are a pass-protecting left tackle and a playmaking wide receiver, Cosell reinforced the Vikings' way of looking at the big picture of an offseason – knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both free agency and the draft when making personnel decisions. Free agency is often weak at offensive tackle \"because there are very few of those guys,\" at least quality ones, that get away from NFL teams. Despite three receivers getting the franchise tag on Monday, there are still more than a half-dozen starting-quality receivers that could be available when free agency starts on March 13. Meanwhile, the Vikings appear to stand a good chance of landing the top left tackle in the draft, USC's Matt Kalil. \"I don't know their money situation and I don't know their mindset,\" Cosell said before the franchise tags started to be dished out. \"But you'd be better off, just to throw this out as a paradigm, drafting Matt Kalil and getting Dwayne Bowe – I don't even know if they're interested in that, but I'm throwing it out – than drafting (Justin) Blackmon and maybe the left tackle you end up with in the draft, whether in the draft or just a journeyman free agent, that's not as good as drafting Kalil and signing Bowe. \"I think teams have to think of it in those broader terms. As you know, a lot of people think, ‘OK, it's the No. 3 pick. We need a receiver. We've got to draft Blackmon.' I'm not saying that's the wrong choice, but there has to be a larger context to it.\" The drawback now is that free-agent market shrank on Monday with the record 21 players being franchised. 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