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OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Wide Outs

[Check out my other previews:  Quarterback, Running back, Full back, Tight end]

It took quite some time for Vikings fans to come to terms with the absence of Randy Moss, but that time may have finally arrived.

Second round pick Sidney Rice finally had a breakout season and Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin has proven to be a true game changer.  Needless-to-say, the Vikings have a receiving group that should be generally feared by opposing defenders.

2009 Season

One big highlight of this season was third year player Sidney Rice.  Rice had shown glimpses of promise in his first two years, but injuries and perhaps poor quarterback play greatly limited his production.  The arrival of Brett Favre, a rigorous offseason training program with Larry Fitzgerald and Cris Carter, and more opportunities allowed Rice to emerge as one of the best in the game.  He ended the regular season with 83 catches, 1,312 yards, and eight touchdowns. 

The addition of Percy Harvin also helped jumpstart a previously flat offense.  Lining up primarily in the slot position, Harvin managed 60 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns.  These numbers are in addition to his production as a kick returner and a runner.  Toughness is the defining trait of this young man, as his willingness to go over the middle is Brandon Marshall-like.

Bernard Berrian was marred by hamstring problems beginning in pre-season, and had a down year.  His 55 catches for 618 yards and four touchdowns were not the numbers the Vikings had hoped for when they signed him to a big-money deal in 2008.  He did, however, somewhat redeem himself in the playoffs where he had a team high 12 catches which went for 134 yards.

Greg Lewis and Darius Reynaud provided adequate depth at the position when called upon to do so.  Jaymar Johnson saw virtually no action this season, but Cris Carter once boasted that Johnson could be a number one receiver in this league which means he must have some skills because that is high praise coming from someone that knows.

Current Roster

On the surface, this team seems set at wide receiver, but there could be some undercurrents that could have the potential for change.

For starters, the Vikings have given Bernard Berrian a contract that should belong to a number one receiver.  The money is very disproportionate to his production, and with the emergence of Sidney Rice as the top threat he will be unlikely to regain his go-to status any time in the near future.  With 2010 gearing up to be an uncapped year, the opportunity for the Vikings to part ways with Berrian and not have any penalty implications is there.  With that being said, the coaching staff seem to really have faith in Berrian to the point that they were rumored to have instructed Favre to get him more involved in the games.

Furthermore, Sidney Rice is entering a contract year.  While he does not seem to be an ego-driven type of guy, he may want to make a play for a more lucrative contract given his recent success.  It is too soon to discuss hold-outs, but there is always that risk when a player achieves elite status prior to his contract expiring.  Also, given that Rice’s personal history with injuries will tell him that two out of three seasons can result in hampering injuries, he may look towards a long-term security plan. 

The league has warned teams to proceed with caution when it comes to big money contracts, as nobody knows what the salary cap rules will be when they come out of the other end of this whole Collective Bargaining Agreement thing.  One season of greatness may not be enough for the Vikings to cough up big money for Rice, especially considering that he will likely be a restricted free agent after this season meaning they could potentially keep him around for two more seasons with a relatively inexpensive price tag.

Percy Harvin, Darius Reynaud, and Jaymar Johnson will most likely have little in the way of contract talk this offseason which leaves only Greg Lewis.  Lewis is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.  Despite his miracle catch against the Niners, Lewis is easily replaced if the Vikings choose to let him walk.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to keep him around.

Unrestricted Free Agency

There are a number of quality veterans available set to be available in free agency this year.  Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, Derrick Mason, Plaxico Burress (maybe), Chris Chambers, Nate Burleson, and Domenik Hixon are kind of the cream of the crop.  Unless the Vikings decide to part ways with Bernard Berrian, however, I have a hard time seeing them go after one of these guys.

Given the restrictions placed on the Vikings in free agency this offseason, I also find it highly unlikely that they could get around the logistics of signing any of these guys.

Do not expect the Vikings to have any of these guys on their roster any time soon.

Restricted Free Agency

Again, there are plenty of solid options should a team decide to get a high-quality receiver by going down this road.  Fairly high compensation will likely be required to obtain guys like Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, and Braylon Edwards.

There are some other quality options out there that may not require as much compensation, however.  Guys like Steve Breaston, Lance Moore, Brad Smith, Malcom Floyd, and Kevin Walter could provide significant help to a team needing reliable receivers.

Again, I highly doubt the Vikings are willing to give up the draft picks it would take to land one of these guys unless they deal away Bernard Berrian.

Draft Possibilities

I would be shocked if the Vikings opted to use a high draft pick on one of the top receiving talents in this draft simply because their needs are elsewhere.  I would think that guys like Dez Bryant, Brandon LaFell, Damian Williams, Golden Tate, and Arrelious Benn are completely out of the question.

With that being said, trying to find a sleeper in this draft may be worth spending a draft pick on in later rounds to replace Greg Lewis.  Outside of Sidney Rice, the Vikings don’t have any real size to their receivers, so snagging a guy like Carlton Mitchell, Seyi Ajirotutu, or Bryan Anderson in the sixth or seventh round might be the type of project that pays dividends in the long run.

Trade Possibilities

I have a hard time seeing the Vikings make a trade to gain a receiver.  However, if they have faith in guys like Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud to succeed in having expanded roles in the offense then it is not out of the realm of possibility that they try to deal Bernard Berrian.

Trading Berrian might be tough given his sizeable contract and the fairly decent free agent options for teams to pursue.  However, if they get an offer that could upgrade another position of need or adds adequate draft picks to their arsenal, then it may be worth considering.

Projections

As you can tell, I think the Vikings future at the wide out position depends on their feelings towards Bernard Berrian. 

The best case scenario would be to trade Berrian to some gullible team, address another need using the compensation received, have Sidney Rice keep his mouth shut in regards to his contract, and have some of the backup receivers step up in a big way.

The worst case scenario would be the Vikings releasing Berrian, Sidney Rice getting into a hold out, and Greg Lewis leaving.  If all three of these things happen, then I have trouble seeing the Vikings solving all those problems at once.

Don’t panic, though.  I think that Rice will play out under his rookie contract, Berrian will remain with the team, and the Vikings will replace Greg Lewis with a late round pick.  Also, I have liked what I have seen out of Darius Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson and think they are about ready to be more consistent contributors.

I think we’ll see very little movement at wide out this year.


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17 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Wide Outs”

  1. Randall G says:

    I enjoyed the read and I agree with your assesment on Berrian. I think it would be wise for the Vikes to dish him out. Did you catch CC’s comments on JJ last offseason? CC believes JJ would be a stareter anywhere in the league, lets see what the guy has. His hands couldn’t be any worse and he has equal speed..

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Randall, great thoughts and its always good to have new readers around! Hope you stick around over the offseason!

      I did mention CC’s assessment of Jaymar in the first section.

  2. Fragile Freds says:

    Fred has no idea what you get for Bernie in the event of a trade. Perhaps a 3rd rounder? It’s probably not enough to trade for a draft pick. If you can get a number 2, do it. Can’t just cut him, we need something in return. Find a starting older offensive lineman with 2 or 3 years left on him? Who knows. This guy isn’t a great asset, let’s get something and move the hell on!

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Don’t get me wrong, while I think Berrian is something to talk about, I think it is highly unlikely that he is moved. Straight up value would probably be a third rounder, or 2nd rounder in 2011. More likely would be part of a blockbuster package deal… which don’t happen very often.

  3. Fragile Freds says:

    AK –

    Sometimes there comes a point in time when an aging superstar athlete understands that their role is no longer being a top dog at their position and resign themselves to a backup or in this case a number 2 or 3 receiver. Especially when they know they are running out of their chances to win a ring.

    Has Terrell Owen become humble enough and smart enough to shut his big fat mouth and play a number 3 in Minnesota? Fred has always hated his guts, but assuming Banjo comes back, perhaps TO looks at this as his best and last chance to get a ring? IF we have to use a young QB, forget it, but he may respect Favre enough to fall in line.

    A crazy thought, but who knows. Thoughts?

    • Adam Warwas says:

      I thought that about T.O. last year Freds… and my opinion hasn’t really changed. However, unless T.O. is willing to make less than $2 million in 2010, the Vikings won’t be able to sign him because of the uncapped year rules. Virtually no chance of this happening.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Freds, for some reason Mrs. Warwas was watching “teen cribs” or some B.S. and guess who was on there playing basketball in some spoiled rich kids indoor arena? None other than the Smooter himself. He missed a layup.

  4. Ole says:

    the great Hank Baskett (yes THAT Hank Baskett), former Viking WR, will be playing in the Super Bowl.

    …… unless he is placed on the inactive list

    Keep Belinda Berrian, he needs that $13 mil a year

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Remember, Berrian’s contract was incredibly front loaded. $13 million in the first year. $6 million in 2009.

      While specific cap numbers are not available for 2010 and beyond, Berrian will average $5.75 over the next four years. While that is nothing to blink at, the fact is he only got paid to be a #1 guy in 2008… which he was.

      Also, in an uncapped year, why should we care what Zygi is spending?

      Furthermore, the contract is very incentive-laden. Much of the money will correlate with his production.

      I don’t see him leaving unless he is part of a big multi-player/multi-pick trade.

  5. CalVkg says:

    “…Vikings have a receiving group that should be generally feared by opposing defenders.”

    gotta get ’em the ball, who’s the QB?

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Cal, I attempt to look at that exact question in my OFFSEASON PREVIEW of QBs:

      http://www.vikingsgab.com/2010/02/01/offseason-preview-quarterbacks/

      Obviously that is the biggest question of the offseason. My guess is that it will be one of the guys on our roster… barring a big trade.

      I’m with Freds though, if Favre doesn’t speed up his decision, which he wont because even if he says something we wont know if it is true until August. He’ll hold this team hostage and then either come back or not. If he comes back he’s the guy, if not then it is T-Jack or Sage.

      Although, I keep thinking a trade for Brady Quinn could be on the horizon.

  6. Mark S says:

    My personal wish is the Vikings trade Berrian to Denver for Brandon Marshall. We would probably have to include a draft pick (maybe a 3rd).

    Denver would get a veteran WR that I think played with Orton but I am not sure and they get a decent pick for letting Marshall go.

    The Vikings can afford to give Marshall about the same money that Roddy White received from Atlanta (5 year 50 million) and they can give Rice a 3 year deal worth about 16 million with 8 million guaranteed. Rice is set to make about 500,000 next year which is the last year of his contract so giving him 4 mil next year and the year after and then 8 mil in the last year. That way they do not try and lock him down with a bad deal and they reward him for this past season.

    Imagine Marshall, Rice, & Harvin with AP in the backfield & Shiancoe at TE!

    This is how you build a championship offense.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Broncos might be willing to deal Marshall, but they’re gonna want a lot more than Berrian and a 3rd rounder. Good deal for the Vikings, but heads would roll in Denver for something like that.

  7. Randall G says:

    Call me crazy but I would be much happier with a draft pick, maybe a mid 3rd (notthing less) and see how either JJ or Reynaud could fair. Both have the speed to stretch the field and quickness for YAC.

  8. Fozz44 says:

    I hope they stand pat.

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