A mercurial wide receiver wears out his welcome, but not before his team makes a playoff appearance against Green Bay. After the season, which ends in an early playoff exit, the superstar receiver finally pulls out the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and he’s traded to the West Coast for a first round pick, giving the team two first round picks and a golden opportunity to upgrade the roster.
No, I’m not talking about Percy Harvin. The year was 2005, and the receiver was Randy Moss. Moss wore out his welcome with the Vikings (maybe specifically Red McCombs), and the Vikings were able to trade him to Oakland for their first round pick and LB Napoleon Harris. Harris wasn’t the big catch in that trade, it was the Raiders first round pick, #7 overall.
The Vikings infamously used that pick from the Raiders to draft Troy Williamson, who has been the biggest bust in recent Vikings draft history not named Demetrious Underwood. I remember writing at the time that the Vikings needed to draft any position other than WR with that pick, because no matter how good that player might have been, he would always be compared to Randy Moss.
Williamson moved fast to make sure those comparisons would never had to be made, though. And other than a Pro Bowl season from Sidney Rice in 2009, the Vikings receivers as a group haven’t really recovered since then.
Which is why, on the heels of the Harvin trade, Greg Jennings is such a big deal for the Vikings. He’s been a top NFL wide receiver for several years, and his signing might be the first step in replenishing what has historically been a position of strength for the Vikings.
But the Vikings cannot make the same mistake in 2013 that they did in 2005 and draft Troy Williamson 2.0 with a first round pick–if they even go that route.
Greg Jennings plugs a big hole in the Vikings line up, but they need another WR or two. Free agency is still a possibility, but with the first wave essentially over, most guys that were available are gone, and the draft seems like a more realistic possibility for finding a receiver.
Jennings replaces Harvin in that he now becomes the new #1 target for Christian Ponder, and a more traditional #1 receiver. Make no mistake, Jennings isn’t as explosive as Harvin, but he’s a better route runner and will be used as a pure outside WR, whereas Harvin was moved all over the field–the slot, out wide, and in the backfield.
But they still need to find a slot guy. You can make the argument that Jarius Wright has the inside track on that job–in 7 games he had 22 catches and averaged 14 yards per catch, and really came on at the end of the year. But you can make an even stronger argument that 7 games proves nothing.
On the outside opposite Jennings is Jerome Simpson, who was given a one year ‘prove it’ contract…after being unable to ‘prove it’ with last season’s one year contract. In his defense, he was suspended the first three games of last season because he thought it might be okay to have a ton of pot mailed to his house, and he was injured. He only had 274 yards receiving in 13 games and was a non-factor all season.
And then there’s Greg Childs. We only got a brief look at him in training camp before his freakish double patella tendon tears, and he was impressive. He’s working like a maniac to get back, and if he can, he could be the secret weapon. But as much as I’d like to see him succeed, he’s a longshot.
At the end of the day, even with the addition of Jennings, the Vikings still only have one proven receiver on the roster. Jennings has a track record, Wright has a lot of potential, and Simpson has a lot to prove. Other than Jennings, this is a fungible group of players who can be supplanted by a highly drafted rookie.
But the Vikings also need help elsewhere, and now that Greg Jennings is in the fold, the thinking could easily now switch to other areas of need, like CB or DT, and hold off on WR until the second or even third round. Those are reasonable arguments, but I would still hope the Vikings will take a WR if a top flight talent is available.
The Harvin trade, while necessary, left a gaping hole at wide receiver, and it hasn’t been completely patched up with Jennings. Greg Jennings in purple is a great start, but it’s not the end.
It’s close, but it still needs some work.