Vikings WR search: If not Jennings, then who?

The Vikings are expected to get into contract talks with Greg Jennings on Friday, but what are their fallback options if he leaves without a deal? There are a several intriguing options on the free agent market, but none as consistently productive as Jennings without giving up a draft pick. We review the top options and some intriguing ones built mostly on potential.

The Vikings are expected to get into numbers-crunching mode with Packers free agent receiver Greg Jennings on Friday.

The question for the Vikings is this: If not Jennings, then who? They almost certainly need to get one receiver in free agency and it would preferably be a No. 1 with proven production. After that, they could dip into the draft pool for another receiver selection or two.

But who is available after Jennings in free agency? The pickings are getting slim.

The Oakland Raiders released Darrius Heyward-Bey this week, opening him up to sign with any team, and he is one of the most intriguing height and speed guys available. One of the fastest receivers in the NFL, he drew comparisons to Troy Williamson coming out of college, and the Raiders lived up to their reputation for being intrigued by measurables. While being drafted that high can increase expectations, Heyward-Bey has been decently productive over the last two years, when he has played in 30 games and made 28 starts. He's never been the star, but he has shown potential. Last year, he caught 41 passes for 606 yards and five touchdowns. In 2011, it was 64 catches for 975 yards and four touchdowns. He could be a decent fallback insurance option for the Vikings if Jennings doesn't sign.

At 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, Domenik Hixon offers a bit more size than some of the other free agent receivers left out on the market, but he will be entering his eighth NFL season. Last year, he played in 13 games, starting only three, and had 39 catches for 567 yards (14.5 average) and two touchdowns. Those are similar numbers to his best season as a pro in 2008, when he played in all 16 games and started seven.

Brandon Gibson has already visited the Dolphins and Jets and is expected to visit the Titans Friday. Last year with the St. Louis Rams was one of the best for Gibson (6-0, 205). He caught 51 passes for 691 yards and five touchdowns, but he is reportedly looking to become a No. 2-type receiver.

The Giants' Ramses Barden is interesting because of his height (6-foot-6), but if Minnesota is looking for receivers with starting experience, he isn't the man. He has started only one game in his four-year career. That came last year, when he played in a career-high 12 games and also had career bests in receptions (14) and yards (220). Interestingly and curiously, he has never caught a touchdown pass, despite his height. He is clearly a project player and the Vikings don't have time for that at receiver.

Austin Collie (6-0, 204) would be a decent fit if he could stay healthy, but his history of injuries should scare teams looking for a consistent on-field threat. The fact that he might not be fully recovered from a knee injury by the start of the season should keep the Vikings leery of signing him. In two of his four seasons, he has only played single-digit games, including last year, when he play in only one game. Still, the potential is there. In three of his four seasons, he has had more than 50 catches and 500 yards. Consistency and health is the key for him.

On the restricted market there are a couple of intriguing prospects. The best of them is Victor Cruz of the Giants, but he will be costly for a reason. The Giants placed a first-round tender on him, meaning the Vikings would have to give up a first-round pick and pay him big money, likely in the neighborhood of what Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson got over the last two years, averaging about $11 million per season. Given Rick Spielman's love of draft picks, that isn't likely to happen unless he gets desparate.

Danario Alexander is an intriguing player because of his measurables – he is 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds. He has started 11 games over the last two seasons, catching 66 passes for 1,089 yards. He wouldn't cost the Vikings anything in draft picks, but the Chargers would have the right to match any offer, as he was tendered at the lowest level.

Still, if the Vikings were going to go after some of the receivers on the list above, they might be just as well-served by waiting and drafting a receiver that could likely offer that sort of production in his rookie season. A few would still be upgrades, but after that the free agent market starts to turn to mediocrity.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Vikings are expected to get into numbers-crunching mode with Packers free agent receiver Greg Jennings on Friday. The question for the Vikings is this: If not Jennings, then who? They almost certainly need to get one receiver in free agency and it would preferably be a No. 1 with proven production. After that, they could dip into the draft pool for another receiver selection or two. But who is available after Jennings in free agency? The pickings are getting slim. The Oakland Raiders released Darrius Heyward-Bey this week, opening him up to sign with any team, and he is one of the most intriguing height and speed guys available. One of the fastest receivers in the NFL, he drew comparisons to Troy Williamson coming out of college, and the Raiders lived up to their reputation for being intrigued by measurables. While being drafted that high can increase expectations, Heyward-Bey has been decently productive over the last two years, when he has played in 30 games and made 28 starts. He's never been the star, but he has shown potential. Last year, he caught 41 passes for 606 yards and five touchdowns. In 2011, it was 64 catches for 975 yards and four touchdowns. He could be a decent fallback insurance option for the Vikings if Jennings doesn't sign. At 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, Domenik Hixon offers a bit more size than some of the other free agent receivers left out on the market, but he will be entering his eighth NFL season. Last year, he played in 13 games, starting only three, and had 39 catches for 567 yards (14.5 average) and two touchdowns. Those are similar numbers to his best season as a pro in 2008, when he played in all 16 games and started seven. Brandon Gibson has already visited the Dolphins and Jets and is expected to visit the Titans Friday. Last year with the St. Louis Rams was one of the best for Gibson (6-0, 205). He caught 51 passes for 691 yards and five touchdowns, but he is reportedly looking to become a No. 2-type receiver. The Giants' Ramses Barden is interesting because of his height (6-foot-6), but if Minnesota is looking for receivers with starting experience, he isn't the man. He has started only one game in his four-year career. That came last year, when he played in a career-high 12 games and also had career bests in receptions (14) and yards (220). Interestingly and curiously, he has never caught a touchdown pass, despite his height. He is clearly a project player and the Vikings don't have time for that at receiver. Austin Collie (6-0, 204) would be a decent fit if he could stay healthy, but his history of injuries should scare teams looking for a consistent on-field threat. The fact that he might not be fully recovered from a knee injury by the start of the season should keep the Vikings leery of signing him. In two of his four seasons, he has only played single-digit games, including last year, when he play in only one game. Still, the potential is there. In three of his four seasons, he has had more than 50 catches and 500 yards. Consistency and health is the key for him. On the restricted market there are a couple of intriguing prospects. The best of them is Victor Cruz of the Giants, but he will be costly for a reason. The Giants placed a first-round tender on him, meaning the Vikings would have to give up a first-round pick pay him big money, likely in the neighborhood of what Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson got over the last two years, averaging about $11 million per season. Given Rick Spielman's love of draft picks, that isn't likely to happen unless he gets desparate. Danario Alexander is an intriguing player because of his measurables – he is 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds. He has started 11 games over the last two seasons, catching 66 passes for 1,089 yards. He wouldn't cost the Vikings anything in draft picks, but the Chargers would have the right to match any offer, as he was tendered at the lowest level. Still, if the Vikings were going to go after some of the receivers on the list above, they might be just as well-served by waiting and drafting a receiver that could likely offer that sort of production in his rookie season. A few would still be upgrades, but after that the free agent market starts to turn to mediocrity. 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