Walker on Vikings' Radar?

The Vikings are clearly on the lookout for help at wide receiver. While free agency and the draft are viable options, perhaps the ideal solution could be disgruntled wideout Javon Walker, who appears to be ending his tenure with Denver and could be had at a reasonable price for a player of his skill and experience.

One of the burning questions of the offseason is going to be what the Vikings are going to do at the wide receiver position? The team has a decent foundation at the position with a dependable receiver in Bobby Wade and a young up-and-comer in Sidney Rice. Veteran Robert Ferguson has made it clear he wants to come back – even if it means at a bargain price. But Ferguson's value to the Vikings could extend beyond that.

It is assumed that the Vikings are going to make a play for a difference-maker at wide receiver in the offseason. It could be through the draft. It could be through free agency. Or it could be a through a third route – via a trade.

Trading established players was a lost art for many years after full-blown free agency took over the NFL landscape. Why trade for a player and give up a draft pick when you can sign someone of equal value in the free-agent market and give up nothing? But, as big-time players have a falling out with management, trades happen. That's why a name that might be making more of an impact around Winter Park in the comings weeks and perhaps months is that of Javon Walker of the Broncos.

Walker burst on the scene with the Packers as a go-to guy who wasn't even a full-time starter. Walker blew up much in the same way guys like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings have in recent years – coming from near-obscurity to become a double-digit touchdown and big-play threat. After putting up Pro Bowl numbers, Walker wanted a better deal with the Packers and threatened a holdout. On Draft Day 2006, he was traded to the Broncos for a second-round pick.

He agreed to a long-term deal that, while expensive, is not out of line with what a dozen of the top wide receivers make in the league. It is a contract that could be easily absorbed in the Vikings' salary cap and, by virtue of being traded, Walker's cap number with the Vikings would only include base salary – Denver would be on the hook for his signing bonus money. With his familiarity with the West Coast Offense from his years with the Packers and having a friend like Ferguson on the team (not to mention kicker Ryan Longwell) it wouldn't be like Walker would be walking into a completely foreign environment.

Much like his tenure with the Packers and those of guys like Randy Moss with the Raiders and Darrell Jackson with the Seahawks, getting a fresh start somewhere else can jump-start a career. It's been the talk of the Denver media that with the emergence of Brandon Marshall as a legitimate go-to guy, Walker is on the trading block. Seeing as the Broncos won't play the Vikings for another four years, moving him to the Vikings would assure he couldn't come back to burn the Broncos for some time to come.

The only problem with the scenario would be potential compensation. If the Broncos would agree to a third-round pick, the deal could get done early in the free agent period – settling a position for the Vikings and still leaving them multiple options in free agency and the draft, while sliding wide receiver from the forefront to the back burner.

If no deal materializes that would reunite Brad Childress and Donovan McNabb, the Vikings could find themselves trading a non-premium pick for a proven NFL talent and address one of their most glaring need areas. While nothing is set is stone yet, it seems clear that Walker is going to get moved in the offseason. With the Vikings it would seem like a win-win for a willing buyer and a willing seller. If nothing else, it's food for thought and can and probably should happen.

* While the Vikings weren't in the playoffs, several former Vikings had noteworthy performances Saturday. Nate Burleson had a few big plays, including a critical third-down catch that set up the go-ahead touchdown for the Seahawks in the fourth quarter. Safety Brian Russell also made some big plays, as did former Viking and current Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot. In the late game, Mike Tomlin made his playoff debut against former Viking Jack Del Rio and assistant coach Mike "The Big Galoot" Tice. Former Viking Richard Angulo saw a lot of playing time in two-tight end formations for the Jaguars and former Vikings safety Tyrone Carter got lit up a couple of times, especially on a phantom tackle of David Garrard late in the game that led the Jags to a comeback win after falling apart earlier in the quarter. Former Viking Brian Williams also plays for the Jags.
* A player to keep an eye on in today's action will be Donald Penn of the Buccaneers. If that name is familiar to you, you really are a fan because to many hard-core Vikings fans, he remains relatively anonymous. Penn was on the Vikings practice squad in 2006 and the Bucs signed him to their active roster due to a rash of injuries to their O-line in '06. Penn has become the team's starting left tackle. When Luke Petitgout went down in Week 4, Penn got his shot and made the most of it and has likely earned himself a starting spot for the future even when Petitgout returns. The Bucs also have better-known former Vikings in Chris Hovan and Michael Bennett.
* While he never fully lived up to expectations with the Vikings, Fred Robbins has made quite a career for himself with the Giants. Playing in between Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan can increase the odds of looking good.
* Former Vikings center Cory Withrow has been seeing some starting time for the Chargers due to injuries, but he isn't expected to start today.

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