Monday, March 11, 2013
Now the hard part: Restocking Vikings WRs
By Kevin Seifert
In the flurry of tweets that followed news of Percy Harvin's trade to the Seattle Seahawks, one stood out to me. It was from Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, who said: "Can't say im sorry to see Percy go lol #gopackgo."
Yes, the instant analysis from one of the Minnesota Vikings' division rivals was excitement. For one day, at least, a contender for the 2013 NFC North title had been weakened.
The decision to trade Harvin might well have been in the franchise's best interest for the long-term. Immediately, however, it means the Vikings' once-undermanned receiving corps is nearly barren. They will need to work hard just to get back to even, let alone enter the 2013 season with a more dynamic group than they had last year even when Harvin was on the field.
Last season the Vikings got 163 first downs from their passing game, tied for the sixth-fewest in the league, and ranked last in average air yards per thrown (6.43). That speaks in part to quarterback Christian Ponder but also to their limited downfield threats. At a time when the Vikings want to enhance Ponder's options, they have -- for a moment at least -- not a single established NFL receiver on their roster.
Jarius Wright, a 2012 fourth-round selection, is the closest thing. He caught a total of 22 passes in seven games last season. There is no doubt that the Vikings will add receivers in the coming days and months -- according to Pro Football Talk, they offered the Baltimore Ravens a seventh-round draft pick for Monday for veteran Anquan Boldin -- but how many immediate contributors is it reasonable to expect that they add in one offseason?
If you want to quantify talent, rest assured it will take multiple significant acquisitions to make up for Harvin's loss and come out ahead on the other side. As we discussed earlier this offseason, any reasonable effort to upgrade the Vikings' receiving corps would include activity in both free agency and the draft. Needless to say, nothing has changed since then.
The Vikings can now pursue free agents knowing that Harvin won't be on their books. It remains to be seen if they can overtake the Miami Dolphins to sign free agent Mike Wallace or if they will pursue Greg Jennings, Brandon Gibson or another player looking for a team. They can seek out a playmaker with one of their two first-round draft choices, at No. 23 and No. 25, or could package them to move up if needed.
But if you were hoping the Vikings would emerge from the offseason with a more dynamic set of playmakers than they had in 2012, it's time to at least temporarily adjust your expectations. You better hope they rebuild themselves to 2012 form first.