The Vikings made their third big free-agent signing on defense on Friday with cornerback Corey Chavous, and they aren't done on that side of the ball by a longshot (head coach Mike Tice told VU Friday that Fred Vinson is still very much in the plans as a nickel back).
But over the weekend and into the very early part of next week, the Vikings are also looking at the offensive side of the ball, specifically to replace wide receiver Cris Carter. Two players are the immediate targets of Tice's desires — D'Wayne Bates of Chicago and Jerome Pathon of Indianapolis.
But both come with a signing catch. Bates is an exclusive rights free agent, and although he wouldn't require compensation if he signed with the Vikings (contrary to other reports), Chicago does have the right of first refusal. That means the Bears have seven days to match any offer the Vikings would float Bates' way.
Pathon is the more decorated NFL receiver, but he comes with an injury qualification. The Vikings will have him in town Monday and he will visit a foot specialist. If the news on his recovery is good, the Vikings appear poised to sign him. If not, they would likely look at other options.
Bates (6-2, 215), played three years in Chicago, but it was often in a backup role despite very strong college numbers at Northwestern. He has played in only 23 games in his first three years and made only 15 catches. Still, he has some good upside potential if given the opportunity, like he was in college. There he finished his career with a school-record 210 receptions, 3,370 yards and 26 touchdowns. His catches and yards were second in Big Ten history.
Pathon (6-0, 182), entering his fifth year in the NFL out of the University of Washington, has had much more success on the NFL level, and his signing could end the Vikings' search for Carter's replacement. As a rookie in 1998 (seems like there was another rookie receiver that year in the NFL overshadowing Pathon), the former Colt started 15 games, had 50 receptions and 511 yards. In 1999, he played in 10 games, started two, and caught 14 passes for 163 yards. In 2000, he rebounded to play in 16 games, starting 10, and had 50 receptions for 646 yards.
However, his foot injury limited his effectiveness in 2001. He played in only four games, starting three, but did have 24 catches for 330 yards. If healthy, he could be the ideal complement to Randy Moss at a price the Vikings could stomach.
FREE AGENT NOTES
* Tice confirmed to VU that former Bucs cornerback Donnie Abraham was given an offer by the Vikings, but that Abraham's financial desires would have severely limited the team's ability to fill the rest of their holes on the free-agent market. Tice also said it didn't appear Abraham wanted to sign as quickly as the Vikings wanted to wrap up a deal.
* Because Vinson, a former second-round pick of the Packers, would come with a much cheaper price, he is still in the Vikings' crosshairs.
* Tice is especially interested in making a few more signings quickly so he can departed on a family vacation next in peace (if that is every possible for an NFL coach).
* Other free agents he is targeting: Running back and kick return man David Allen, a player Tice compare to former Viking David Palmer. Allen could be used as a third-down back if signed.
* Shane Burton (Jets) would be used as a defensive end if signed.
Next Target: Wide Receiver
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