- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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ESPN.com's blog editors have put together a comprehensive chart of the 21 franchise players for 2012. That's a high number, but it still leaves dozens of high-quality players to hit the free agent market next week.
I'm sure we'll discuss a number of them over the ensuing days, but for now I think we should recognize that San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson is highly regarded by multiple NFC North teams. The Chargers did not franchise Jackson, making him one of the top prizes of the free agent market.
It got overshadowed by subsequent events, but the Minnesota Vikings pushed hard to acquire Jackson via trade in 2010. Rebuffed near the trade deadline, the Vikings turned instead to talks with the New England Patriots and Randy Moss. I'm sure you remember what happened next.
Jackson is two years older and the Vikings are in a different place now, but they are just as bereft of receivers now as they were in 2010. General manager Rick Spielman has spoken often this offseason of getting quarterback Christian Ponder more help from playmaking positions.
Jackson isn't believed to be eager to leave San Diego, where he has excelled in Norv Turner's offense and has a good relationship with quarterback Philip Rivers. He might not be ready to start over with a young quarterback, but he wouldn't have to if another NFC North team pursues him.
The Chicago Bears have a significant need at receiver, and Jackson could team with quarterback Jay Cutler to make an instant impact. The Bears' plans under new general manager Phil Emery remain unclear from a public perspective, but given the state of the position, it's easy to envision the Bears making a serious run at Jackson next week. Stay tuned.