The Minnesota Vikings’ potential to look into free agency at wide receiver will likely depend heavily on two things – do they re-sign Cordarrelle Patterson and how much confidence do the Vikings have in 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell and veteran Jarius Wright?
Patterson is likely going to get offered significant money – something in the neighborhood of four years, $25-30 million. It seems that it is the going rate for wide receivers in a pass-heavy world and, given Patterson’s dual role as a decent receiver and an electric return man, he may be in line for big money, but likely not from the Vikings.
Treadwell caught just one pass in his rookie season, but, as a frustrated Treadwell said many times during the 2016 season when approached by the Vikings beat writers, he wasn’t getting opportunities to make plays. You can’t catch passes when you’re not on the field and not targeted when you are. If he makes the jump many rookies do in their second season, the Vikings will have three legitimate wide receivers in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Treadwell.
Wright is in a very similar situation. A consistent performer early in his career, he was inactive for seven games last season and was active in two others but didn’t play. At his current $4.26 million salary, those two paradigms don’t mesh. He is likely going to be approached to take a pay cut, because, if he was released, the Vikings would free up more than $3.1 million is salary cap space, which they may do.
The biggest issue the Vikings face is that the market value of many of the available free agents, given the higher prices being paid to wide receivers, are likely going to be too rich for the Vikings’ blood. There are some talented playmaking wide receivers on the market, but the Vikings likely won’t be in the running for them if more than one team shows an interest. Here’s the players that are available – the ones that don’t appear realistic despite being tempting in Pat Shurmur’s offense and which ones may be more affordable.
Alshon Jeffery – He was franchised by the Bears last season and was paid $14.6 million. He likely won’t get that kind of money again given his injury-plagued 2016, but could get close to $9-10 million a year in a multi-year deal from somebody.
Pierre Garcon – A 30-year-old receiver who played out his huge contract with Washington, he likely isn’t going to get the $8.6 million his last deal paid him. But he also isn’t likely to see his next deal drop him into the team-friendly realm.
DeSean Jackson – Like him or not, at age 30 he is still a dynamic playmaker who was making $6 million a year. His asking price likely will start at that number and somebody probably will pay it.
Kenny Britt – He’s been one of the more overrated wide receivers in the league in his time in Tennessee, St. Louis and Los Angeles, but he’s likely going to get a deal approaching $5 million a year – too much for a player who hasn’t consistently done it.
THE MORE REALISTIC
Andre Holmes – A dangerous slot receiver buried behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, he could be a guy the Vikings legitimately target if they’re planning on parting ways with Wright.
Robert Woods – At just 24, Woods may be in line for a big deal from somebody because he has played well enough to earn a solid second contract. He can make plays downfield, but likely isn’t going to be on the Vikings radar unless the first wave of free agency comes and goes without him finding a new home.
Brandon LaFell – He signed with the Bengals for just $2.5 million as Cincinnati scrambled to replace the backup band for A.J. Green, but expect to see that amount go up considerably this time around.
Terrance Williams – An enigma in Dallas, he has always been capable of making big plays but has never been consistent, even when Dez Bryant was sidelined and more was expected of him.
Kendall Wright – A speedy underachiever in Tennessee, he has the capability of being a difference-maker. He just hasn’t put it together enough for a team like the Vikings to invest heavily.
Michael Floyd – A hometown kid who has talent, Rick Spielman is known for avoiding players with red flags and his DWI last season that resulted in him being released outright by Arizona is a giant red flag.
Ted Ginn – He’s 31, but he has return ability and deep speed, which might make him an attractive option if Patterson leaves via free agency.
Cecil Shorts – A slot receiver with speed whose value goes up if the Vikings can’t work out a restructured deal with Wright.
Jeremy Kerley – An underrated chain mover with the Jets and 49ers, he wouldn’t break the bank.
Marc Mariani – Not a big receiving threat, but his return ability makes him someone to keep an eye on.
Marquise Goodwin – Another Buffalo receiver who could be had from the bargain bin because he was buried behind Sammy Watkins and Woods his entire career.
Percy Harvin – He says he’s retired, but he’s said that before. He may have burned his bridges too badly in Minnesota to end his career where it started.
The bottom line for the Vikings is that they need to get their own house in order before they start looking at outsiders to bring in. Last season, Wright was the vested veteran in the wide receiver room and he was only in his fifth season. If they’re going to keep Diggs and Thielen in the long-term, the Vikings likely won’t break the bank on an outside veteran because the expectation will be that the younger homegrown talent will be expected to be taken care of when their time comes.
The unknown wild card here is that Thielen is a restricted free agent and a team like the Patriots may be willing to sign him to an offer sheet and force the Vikings’ hand to keep him. Don’t expect a big free-agent splash here because the Vikings’ primary concern should be whether they can retain Patterson at a reasonable price and, if not, replace him with a hungry player looking for an opportunity, not a showcase star because, as Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace have taught them, paying big for an outside wide receiver doesn’t always produce what is expected.