Vikes Avoid Free Agent Wide Receivers

For all the emotional baggage Terrell Owens brings to the table, over the last five years, he has been one of the few free-agent wide receivers that has actually produced at a level with his new team that he did with his previous team. Perhaps this sad trend of player disappointment is why the Vikings didn't get in the deep end of the wide receiver free-agent pool.

Maybe the Vikings know what they're doing by not going after a top wide receiver in free agency.

Brad Childress has always seemed to be a man who looks at history when making decisions, and Rick Spielman can count toothpicks with "Rain Man" precision. Between the two of them, they must have realized that taking a free-agent wide receiver or trading for a veteran is a dicey proposition.

While Vikings fans lamented the loss of Randy Moss in 2005, in 29 games with the Raiders, he has fewer catches (102), yards (1,558) and touchdowns (11) than he had in the 2003 season – his last healthy year as a Viking. But he is far from alone.

Ashley Lelie cost the Falcons a first-round pick last April and what did he deliver? Twenty-eight catches for 430 yards and one TD. Muhsin Muhammad signed two years ago with the Bears after coming off an enormous season with the Panthers. In those two years, he barely has more yards and receptions than he had in 2004 and has seven fewer touchdowns. Nate Burleson signed his alleged seven-year, $49 million contract with the Seahawks last year and, despite playing in every game, caught just 18 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

Need more ammunition? Joe Jurevicius has burned both the Buccaneers and Browns by signing free agent contracts and then stinking up the joint. The only good year he's had since he left the Giants was in 2005 with the Seahawks – who picked him up after being released by Tampa Bay. Antonio Bryant signed a free-agent deal with the 49ers last year and responded with numbers of 40-733-3 – totals so bad that he was released prior to the start of free agency this year. Derrick Mason was a big free agent signee in 2005, but in his last five years with the Titans he never scored less than five touchdowns in a year. In two full seasons with the Ravens, he has a total of five touchdowns. The Jets thought they were getting a budding star in Justin McCareins when they signed him away from Tennessee in 2004, a year in which he caught seven touchdown passes. In the three years since, he has caught a total of seven touchdowns.

The same can be said for players like David Patten, Donte Stallworth, Peerless Price and Antwaan Randle El. Each signed for multi-millions. Each has been a disappointment with his new team. A look at 25 recent free agent signees shows that more than 80 percent of them have posted numbers even or less than they did with their previous team. While teams have found free-agent windfalls in quarterbacks like Drew Brees and running backs like Chester Taylor, wide receivers almost invariably don't live up to the hype – or the paycheck – when they move to a new system.

Is it the difficulty of moving to a new city and new offensive scheme? Is it a matter of getting timing down with a new quarterback? Perhaps. But the numbers don't lie. Maybe that is why the Vikings went after a lesser-known player like Bobby Wade. If he can produce like Mike Furrey did when he was given an opportunity, the Vikings will benefit, as opposed to paying huge money with little return like so many other NFL teams have done in recent years.

It's understandable that Vikings fans are upset that the team hasn't made a stronger push in free agency, but, when it comes to wide receivers, maybe doing little or nothing has turned out to be the better option.


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