Many of us have presumed the imminent departure of receiver Bernard Berrian whenever the Minnesota Vikings can begin overhauling their roster this offseason. As the chart shows, Berrian's production has dipped notably since he averaged 20.1 yards per catch in 2008. He is also scheduled to earn nearly $4 million in 2011 and occasionally seemed detached on a personal level last season.
But unless he was putting on an impressive con job, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made clear this week he wants Berrian to return. Speaking at the NFL owners meeting, Frazier said "there are no guarantees in this league" but offered no indication Berrian will be anywhere other Minnesota when the season begins.
"We need to get him up to speed," Frazier said. "He's a talented guy. He can run with the best in the league and he did put up some big numbers for us a couple of years ago. So we've got to get him back in the fold and get him to where he's a major contributor to our offense. We're going to need him this next season in a big way."
Frazier said he has informed Berrian of his thoughts and plans.
"I talked to him just about that," he said. "[About] how important it's going to be for him to step up and be a featured player in our offense in order for us to get to where we want to go as an organization. So he understands what's ahead and what he has to do and I'm looking forward to when he gets back. Just seeing a renewed attitude and coming back with some vigor and really trying to have a great season."
Indeed, Berrian's public persona soured notably last season, and it was clear he wasn't a favorite of quarterback Brett Favre. And it seems fair to note that the Vikings would have released Berrian before the lockout began if they were certain they wanted to move on without him. If they believe they can get value in a trade, however, the best course would be to proceed as they have -- including some positive public statements from team officials that suggest he is more valuable to the franchise than people might realize.
Did Frazier express optimism for Berrian in hopes of enhancing his trade value? My sense is Frazier won't often involve himself in that kind of posturing. I'll believe what he says at face value until proven otherwise. So for now, that means there is a much better chance of Berrian remaining with the Vikings than originally believed.