The latest report on free agent receiver Mike Wallace is that the Miami Dolphins expect the Vikings to become heavily involved in the bidding for the Wallace now that Harvin is headed to Seattle. The price tag on Wallace could be $13 million a season, the bounty he would yield for being the best in a free agent class of receivers that leaves something to be desired.
But if the Vikings do go outside their free agent script and land Wallace, they can't say they weren't warned about the risks associated with heavy spending on free agent receivers. There is NFL history to be heeded, not to mention the Vikings' own history in free agency.
When the Vikings traded mercurial receiver Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders in 2005 following the only time in seven seasons that he didn't reach the 1,000-yard mark, they tried to replace him immediately in the draft. Using one of the picks they received from the Raiders, they chose another deep threat, Troy Williamson. Like Moss, Williamson had a skinny body and blazing speed. Unlike Moss, he didn't have the hands to be a consistent NFL receiver and became a running joke in Minnesota and a revenue source for the Nike Vision institute outsourced with the job of trying to figure out why Williamson couldn't consistently catch.
When the Vikings finally gave up on that experiment, they tried for another deep threat – this time turning to the more expensive option of free agency. In 2008, they signed Bernard Berrian to a six-year, $42 million contract with $16 million in guarantees. He continued a career-long trend of not reaching the 1,000-yard mark. His best season with the Vikings was his first, when he caught 48 passes for 964 yards. Over the next three years, he wouldn't reach a combined 1,000 yards before the Vikings wisely gave up on a guy that didn't seem all that interested in football anyway.
In 2007, the Vikings signed Bobby Wade, another former Bears receiver, to a five-year, $15 million contract with $4 million in guarantees. He wasn't a receiver to stretch the field and he didn't. Instead, he became more known for punt returns and fair catches than anything else.
Sidney Rice came closest to actually replacing Moss before the Seahawks took a chance on the oft-injured receiver when he became a free agent. Harvin was the next closest, and the Seahawks were once again in position to take him away, too.
Both of them came to the Vikings via draft picks – Rice in the second round, Harvin in the first – and that's the route the Vikings could find more success with rather than spending big in free agency. While the free agent market might provide more "proven" names at the NFL level, there is growing proof that a receiver's success with one team doesn't always follow with him to a new team that offered bigger money.
There are plenty of cases of that over the past five years, and the Vikings are far from the only team to get burned by the Berrians of the planet. In an Associated Press story listing the best and worst free agent signings on a team-by-team basis, more than one-third of the "worst" signings were receivers.
A number of examples:
Not all free agent receivers turn out to be busts – Vincent Jackson's career-best season of 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns with the Tampa Bay Bucs last year is proof of that – but the risks and history spin a cautionary tale for anyone pounding the table that the Vikings have to dish out $13 million a season to obtain Wallace.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.