- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Vikings re-signed Jerome Simpson in March 2013, taking a second chance on the receiver after a disappointing first season in Minnesota, one could have argued the team had already spent more time and capital on the receiver than it needed to.
The Vikings signed Simpson in the spring of 2012 knowing he was likely going to be suspended for the first three games of the season after a drug-related arrest, and Simpson was limited the rest of the year by a back injury that rendered him inactive for one game and ineffective for numerous others. He was unable to push off or gain separation from defensive backs, and he caught just 26 passes for 274 yards, going all year without a touchdown. But the Vikings had enough faith in Simpson's ability to help them when he was fully healthy that they brought him back for 2013, on a one-year, $2.1 million deal that included a $500,000 signing bonus.
Until sometime early on Saturday morning, that looked like a sound investment. Simpson had become a solid downfield threat for the Vikings, leading the team with 491 yards in its first eight games, and had helped Minnesota solidify its split end position while rookie Cordarrelle Patterson was still learning the offense. Simpson continued to serve as an effective downfield blocker, and after the Vikings gave $18 million in guaranteed money to Greg Jennings, Simpson was the most productive receiver in their offense. He talked this spring about being grateful for another chance in Minnesota, about wanting to earn a multi-year deal with a big season, and he seemed on his way to making that happen.
But now, after Simpson was arrested on Saturday morning on suspicion of drunken driving, he might have to hope the Vikings have a little more goodwill for him yet. His future with the team, and in the league, could be in jeopardy, given the fact Simpson was already on probation in the state of Kentucky and would likely be viewed by the league as a repeat offender after his drug-related suspension last year. That could lead to a four-game ban this time, and as the Vikings found out earlier this year with fullback Jerome Felton, drunken driving charges can sometimes trigger league action even if they're later dropped. Felton was viewed as a repeat offender after a previous drunken driving arrest, and got a three-game suspension, even though his charge was later reduced to reckless driving.
We don't have all the details on Simpson's arrest yet, but in light of his history, he could be just about out of leeway with the Vikings. Coach Leslie Frazier has typically been willing to work with players who have had legal troubles, believing he can help them get things turned around, but he hasn't had to deal with many situations where a player ran afoul of the law after the Vikings extended a hand to him.
Cornerback Chris Cook, who was suspended by the team for the second half of the 2011 season after being arrested on domestic violence charges, has become one of the Vikings' leaders in a young secondary and spent the offseason back at the University of Virginia working toward his degree. Defensive lineman Everson Griffen has stayed out of legal trouble after being tased twice in one weekend in January 2011, and Felton became a Pro Bowl fullback after his arrest last spring. In fact, the Vikings haven't had an arrest since July 2012, and until Saturday, it looked like their approach had worked with Simpson, too.
Now, the receiver's future could be in jeopardy because of another mistake. He'll have to wait and see what legal repercussions await him, and Simpson will have to find out how much more patience the Vikings still have in reserve for him.