Vikings position outlook: Wide receivers

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
8:00
AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook at the Vikings' roster. Today: the wide receivers.

WIDE RECEIVERS


2014 free agents: Jerome Simpson, Joe Webb.

The good: In his first year in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson looked like a star in the making. Granted, much of his best work came as a kick returner, but Patterson had moments when he showed he could be a dangerous threat as a receiver, too -- most notably his 79-yard screen pass against the Ravens on Dec. 8. Patterson could be the Vikings' next iteration of Percy Harvin, and will likely be the team's starting split end for years to come. Greg Jennings had an underwhelming first year in Minnesota, but that was due largely to the uncertainty the Vikings had at quarterback; once Matt Cassel took over as the starter at the end of the season, Jennings took off, catching a career-high 11 passes in the Vikings' Dec. 15 win over the Eagles. And Simpson emerged as a third receiver, nearly establishing career highs for catches and yards.

The bad: The Vikings will have to get more out of Jennings if he's going to live up to the $18 million in guaranteed money the Vikings gave him. He'll be 31 in September, and while a more stable quarterback situation should help, the Vikings still need to see him produce more. They will also have to decide whether or not to bring Simpson back, knowing he could be facing another NFL suspension after pleading guilty to DWI and careless driving charges stemming from a Nov. 9 arrest. And they'll want to see Patterson mature in his second year; the rookie said last month his goal for the offseason was to "stay out of trouble."

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Jennings ($7 million), Patterson ($1.64 million), Jarius Wright ($675,027), Greg Childs ($645,146), Rodney Smith ($495,000). The Vikings would likely add another $2 million or so to their cap figure for the position if they re-signed Simpson; otherwise, they're not terribly over-committed at the position, given how young their receiver group is behind Jennings. Wright disappeared for the first half of his second season, but played well at the end of the year with Cassel. Childs is still trying to make it back from two torn patellar tendons that have kept him out since Aug. 2012.

Draft priority: Low. It's possible the Vikings could take a flier on a young receiver in case they didn't re-sign Simpson and didn't feel like Wright could be a capable third receiver, but there's talent here, and much of it is young.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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