There was a time not too long ago that the Vikings were a haven for wide receivers. Cris Carter and Jake Reed were both 1,000-yard receivers before Randy Moss arrived and, once he did, the Three Deep era of Vikings receivers began. Now the Vikings seem more like a place where veterans look to re-start their careers.
Robert Ferguson joins a growing list of players that have come to the Vikings with hopes of reviving what had been viewed as a promising NFL career. Ferguson, who signed a one-year deal worth $700,000 with incentives that can push to contract to as much as $1.3 million, becomes the latest chapter in a book of veteran receivers to join the Vikings after falling short of expectations elsewhere.
In 2004, the Vikings signed former Bear Marcus Robinson, who caught eight touchdowns in his first season with the Vikings. In 2005 – the first post-Moss season of Vikings football – Travis Taylor and Koren Robinson joined that list, not to mention the team using the seventh overall draft pick to take Troy Williamson. In 2006, Billy McMullen and Bethel Johnson were added to the list. In 2007, Bobby Wade and Ferguson have become the latest additions to that stable of wide receivers.
It would seem clear that the Vikings have become an attractive landing spot for veteran receivers looking to breathe life into their careers. Why? Because they and their agents believe that there is a better chance of hooking on here and winning either a starting job or securing significant playing time with the Vikings than with teams that have more established veteran receivers.
When Ferguson was released, it was almost assumed that the Texans would be his choice of landing spots. It made sense. He's a native of the Houston area and would be reunited with Texans offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who was his head coach in Green Bay. But, when it was learned that Ferguson wasn't going to be given any special treatment – his first assignment would be running with the scout team and have his progress evaluated on that basis – it didn't sit well with the veteran receiver. With Andre Johnson having one starting spot locked down and two or three others in line in front of Ferguson, there was little in the way of job security and plenty of "ifs" regarding his future with the Texans.
"I feel like can definitely come in and contribute to what we've got going on right now with a young group of guys that are very talented," Ferguson said after joining the Vikings. "I definitely feel like I have my niche, something I can bring to the offense. We have a great group of guys right now. I just want to contribute to that."
With the Vikings, Ferguson has more of a chance to showcase his skills and prove that he isn't a second-round bust from the 2001 draft. With the Packers, he had clearly fallen behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and, with rookie James Jones being the talk of training camp, his role was likely to be as a fourth or fifth receiver at best. By coming to Minnesota, he will have a chance at a minimum to be a third or fourth receiver and has the potential to be a starter – or at least see significant playing time.
"All of that will be determined by how I perform out here on the field," he said. "Coach Childress didn't promise me anything. He just told me to come in and work hard and we'll see what happens."
Whether Ferguson is the answer to the questions the Vikings have at wide receiver or not is still the subject of debate, but one answer is pretty clear – the Vikings are looking to improve the receiver corps wherever they possibly can. Wade was their most expensive off-season signing and Ferguson is a signal that the team is willing to go outside the organization even at this late date to make improvements. We may have to wait until October or later to find out of he was part of the solution or not, but he's getting with the Vikings something that he wasn't going to get with the Packers and likely wouldn't have had with the Texans – an honest chance to show he can cut it in the NFL.
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