It wasn't Torry Holt, but wide receiver Glenn Holt might have been tagged by the Vikings for his return abilities.
The news that the Vikings signed a wide receiver named Holt perked up the ears of a lot of fans, but it wasn't the Holt that many expected or at least hoped for.
The team has signed wide receiver Glenn Holt
, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals
, to a one-year contract. Although his signing may not on face value be viewed as significant, it could have more far-reaching consequences for the draft.
Holt's contribution to the team likely won't be as a wide receiver, but rather as a return specialist. An undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2006, in three seasons he has caught just 20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. However, he has averaged 24.3 yards on 122 kick returns during his three-year career with the Bengals and will likely be one of the top competitors for the primary kick returner with the Vikings. That role on the team was left vacant when the team's leading kick returner in 2008 – running back Maurice Hicks
– was released.
It may also fill a void that some thought might be filled in the draft with the selection of one of the top speed receivers potentially available, like Jeremy Maclin
of Missouri of Percy Harvin
While the Holt signing doesn't preclude the Vikings from going after one of the top wide receivers in the first round of draft, it could reduce the chances that the Vikings will go in that direction on draft day as a means to help their kick-return unit.
The kickoff return spot for the Vikings has been an annual kiss of death for the player who has had it. If Holt remains healthy and becomes the full-time returner, he will be the 12th different player in the last 12 years to lead the team in kickoff returns. The last time the Vikings had a player lead the team in kickoff returns two years in a row was David Palmer in 1997-98. Since Palmer led the team in '98, the last 10 years have seen the team leader change from Palmer to Robert Tate, Troy Walters, Nate Jacquet, Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith, Kelly Campbell, Koren Robinson, Bethel Johnson, Aundrae Allison and Hicks. It seems only fitting that Holt signed just a one-year contract.
The Vikings aren't in the practice of announcing what draft prospects they will bring in for a visit, but offensive tackle Phil Loadholt of Oklahoma of scheduled to make a visit to Winter Park in April, Scout.com first reported.
Last year in the draft only four centers were taken and none of them went before the fifth round. This year, that will change. Alex Mack of Cal is expected to be a late first-round or early second-round draft pick and had 30 of the league's 32 teams with representatives at his Pro Day Wednesday.
The NFL competition committee is looking at changing instant replay rules in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the embarrassing Ed Hochuli call that cost San Diego a game against Denver in Week 2 of the 2008 season. A similar adjustment to the replay rule went into effect in 2007 concerning down-by-contact calls.