Over the last several weeks, the focus of the offseason has been centered on whether the Vikings will be bringing Adrian Peterson back for 2015. Currently under league suspension, Peterson is in limbo as to what the Vikings can do with him and when they can get to the point that they make an organizational decision about how to move forward.
But a secondary question is what to do with the wide receiver position. Greg Jennings is in a precarious position with an $8.9 million salary in 2015 and an $11 million cap number. That could end up being bad news for Jennings because, as things currently stand, the wide receiver market in free agency could be as strong as it has ever been for those in a buying mode. However, simply releasing Jennings would still cost the Vikings $6 million in dead money and they would lose a valued veteran presence in an otherwise relatively young receiving corps.
Many have speculated that the Vikings will use the draft to bolster their receiving game, with the name most commonly thrown around being DeVante Parker, Teddy Bridgewater’s college teammate. But, before the draft arrives, the Vikings could lock in on a veteran receiver that could make a big difference for Bridgewater and the Norv Turner-led offense.
The free agent class at wide receiver is stocked, headed up by Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. There is growing speculation that, barring getting contracts done before free agency hits, Dallas and Denver may well slap the franchise tag on them – precluding them from hitting the open market. However, the wide receiver market goes far beyond them and, if the Vikings aren’t looking to spend $9 million a year on a wide receiver, there will be younger options readily available, and much cheaper than what they’re currently set to pay Jennings.
Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree head up the list behind Bryant and Thomas for the wide receiver crew that is scheduled to hit free agency. Any of them could easily step in and become a go-to receiver for Bridgewater and the Vikings offense to build around as they look for Cordarrelle Patterson to blossom and Charles Johnson to take the next step in his NFL maturation. But they aren’t the only ones who potentially will hit the free agent market next month.
There are a handful of veteran receivers who could impact free agency in a big way. The question now is: What level of interest would G.M. Rick Spielman have in making them an offer to join the Vikings?
Larry Fitzgerald is at the end of his contract and his numbers are onerous for the Cardinals – a $16 million salary and roster bonus, and a $23.6 million cap hit. The two sides are talking about a restructured deal, but those numbers are too cost-prohibitive to follow through on for 2015. A native Minnesotan, Fitzgerald is on the downside of his career but still has plenty of good football left in him and could be a mentor to the Vikings’ young receiver nucleus.
Although the Vikings won’t be in the bidding, Percy Harvin is likely to hit the open market because it’s unlikely the Jets are going to honor the huge contract Seattle gave Harvin in 2013, which calls for the 26-year-old to be paid $10.5 million this year. Given the volatile nature of Harvin’s past, which got it’s unpleasant start with the Vikings, it would take a minor miracle for the front office to bring him back into the fold.
A pair of veteran receivers could end up on the free agent list as well. Vincent Jackson of the Buccaneers was openly shopped last year prior to the trade deadline, primarily because his current contract calls for him to count $12.2 million against Tampa Bay’s salary cap in 2015. That simply isn’t going to happen. Similarly, the Bears are scheduled to pay Brandon Marshall $7.5 million this year, which becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the Chicago roster as of March 12. If the two sides can’t change up that guaranteed money, Marshall may find his way to free agency as well.
Down in Miami, the front office has had a sit-down with Mike Wallace, who is scheduled to make almost $10 million in 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the level of interest Wallace and his agent would have in restructuring his contract. If they can’t reach an amicable decision, Wallace could find his way into free agency as well.
There are other players who could fill in as a potential upgrade for the Vikings, including free agent Cecil Shorts and potential cap casualty Marques Colston.
The conventional wisdom is that the Vikings and Jennings will re-work his contract to make it more team-friendly and that Parker is on their draft radar. But, depending on how the chips fall, the Vikings may well be willing to spend money on a veteran receiver with a proven track record, which might include a superstar talent that could give Minnesota a significant boost in their emerging passing game.
Vikings’ receiver options will be plentiful
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