Whether free-agent signee Bernard Berrian is considered a No. 1 receiver in league circles or not, he will get that designation in Minnesota, where the Vikings want him to stretch the defense for explosive plays.
Vikings coach Brad Childress isn't one to make bold statements, but he does admit he sees receiver Bernard Berrian
"as a number one type guy."
Considering the Vikings gave the free agent a six-year, $42 million contract that includes $16 million in guarantees he better turn into Minnesota's No. 1 receiver.
The Vikings targeted the speedy Berrian from the outset of free agency — he was flown from his Northern California home to the Twin Cities in the plane of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf — and Wilf never let him leave town.
Berrian, who spent his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears
and caught a career-high 71 passes in 2007, was scheduled to visit with the Vikings before heading to Oakland to talk to the Raiders.
The latter visit never happened. Instead, the Vikings threw money and opportunity in Berrian's direction. The opportunity will be to serve as a deep threat in an offense that has lacked such a player in Childress' first two seasons.
, who was recently traded to Jacksonville for a sixth-round draft choice, could have been that player but he was plagued by dropped passes in his time with the Vikings.
The feeling among the Minnesota brass is this: Berrian's presence on the field is going to force opposing defenses to respect the Vikings' deep passing game. That, in turn, won't allow teams to consistently put eight men in the box to stop Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson
Thus, the Vikings won't be nearly as one-dimensional as they were in 2007. For this to work, however, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
must prove he can connect with his receivers on a consistent basis. For his part, one of Jackson's strengths is his ability to throw the deep ball with timing and accuracy.
Berrian, who played with several different quarterbacks in Chicago, has received some guarantees about the Vikings' plan at that position.
"You can't do anything if you don't have the ball, someone to get you the ball," Berrian said. "You can't do anything if you aren't getting open in the first place. They assured me there was definitely going to be stability here. I didn't have to worry about that or anything of that nature. It's just coming in here and getting a chance to work out so we can get that competitive nature together."
WR Bernard Berrian will get plenty of money from the Vikings but he won't get his old number. Berrian wore No. 80 in Chicago but those digits belonged to Cris Carter in Minnesota and were retired in 2003.
The Vikings created plenty of controversy around the NFL in March 2006 when they signed Seattle Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet that included $16 million guaranteed. That made Hutchinson the highest-paid guard in NFL history. Crazy money, right? Not anymore. The Jets recently made Steelers guard Alan Faneca the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman by giving him a $40 million, five-year deal that includes $21 million guaranteed.
With Tarvaris Jackson expected to be the Vikings' starting quarterback in 2008, but nothing having been set in stone yet, Berrian said he sought assurances about that situation: "Definitely it's always an important part. You can't do anything if you don't have the ball, someone to get you the ball. You can't do anything if you aren't getting open in the first place. They assured me there was definitely going to be stability here. I didn't have to worry about that or anything of that nature. It's just coming in here and getting a chance to workout so we can get that competitive nature together going together and get on a roll and get a rhythm established and start to work."
Vikings safety Darren Sharper, a former teammate of Brett Favre's with the Packers, told Minneapolis radio station KFAN that he doesn't necessarily believe the quarterback is going to retire. "I think sometimes people make decisions in their life at certain times and those decisions can change," Sharper said. "I believe he still has those competitive juices in him that make him want to play football. ... Come mid-summer when everyone starts talking about football, and he's done about four months worth of fishing and playing golf, it wouldn't be a surprise to hear speculation that Brett Favre might be coming out of retirement."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just saw the upside that was here going on with the team. I think just the key part they were missing was a receiver out there to take some pressure off of that running game. If you get both of those parts added in there, it's hard to stop. Which one are you going to choose? ... Pick your poison is basically what is going on." — Wide receiver Bernard Berrian on what he feels he will bring to the Vikings.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
S Mike Doss made little impact in first season with the Vikings; likely will be allowed to find work elsewhere.
WR Robert Ferguson didn't put up big receiving numbers, but did an excellent job of downfield blocking. Has expressed a desire to remain with the Vikings.
DE Darrion Scott had 2007 season ended early by injury after recording team-high 5.5 sacks the previous year.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
CB Ronyell Whitaker (not tendered as RFA) was used primarily on special teams.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
LB Heath Farwell (tendered at $1.417M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) is a special teams ace who is almost certain to remain in Minnesota.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
WR Bernard Berrian: UFA Bears; $42M/6 yrs, $16M guaranteed.
RB Maurice Hicks: UFA 49ers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
FB Thomas Tapeh: UFA Eagles; $6M/5 yrs, $1.2M guaranteed.
S Madieu Williams: UFA Bengals; $34M/6 yrs, $13M guaranteed.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.
QB Kelly Holcomb (released).
DT Spencer Johnson: UFA Bills; $17.5M/5 yrs, $6M guaranteed.
RB Mewelde Moore: UFA Steelers; $4.95M/3 yrs, $1.35M SB; 2008 cap: $1.1M.
FB Tony Richardson: UFA Jets; 1 yr, terms unknown.
S Dwight Smith (released).
LB Dontarrious Thomas: UFA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
S Tank Williams: UFA Patriots; 1 yr, terms unknown.
WR Troy Williamson (traded Jaguars).