Thursday, March 7, 2013
Vikings: Percy Harvin or a top FA, not both?
By Kevin Seifert
A line in a recent NFL.com analysis indicates the Miami Dolphins anticipate competing with the Minnesota Vikings for free agent receiver Mike Wallace. In the video, ESPN's Adam Schefter mentions the Vikings as a likely suitor for free agent Greg Jennings. And for months, we've discussed the Vikings' looming contract discussions with their own star receiver, Percy Harvin.
So how will these tentacles mesh over the next week? I won't pretend to have direct insight into the Vikings' plans, other than an informed assumption that they know they need a better receiving group. I'll just return to what we discussed a few days ago: In a relatively tight salary cap era, it would be surprising if the Vikings pay out two market-level contracts at the same time for one position group.
You figure that Harvin, 24, and Wallace, 26, are seeking deals similar to what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Vincent Jackson last season and the Kansas City Chiefs paid to Dwayne Bowe this week: Around $11 million annually. It's doubtful, but not impossible I guess, to envision the Vikings paying that to Harvin and Wallace. So in essence, it's one or the other (or neither).
Jennings, 29, won't exactly be cheap, although as Matt Bowen writes for ESPN Insider , he won't be viewed by all NFL teams as a classic No. 1 receiver. You need an Insider subscription to read what is really an extraordinary breakdown of Jennings' skill set, but here is the bottom line according to Bowen: "Jennings can still play and still produce. But he isn't a 25-year old receiver in his prime that can consistently flip the field and put stress on the league's top corners in the vertical passing game."
Jennings' ability to get open -- Bowen wrote he is still "one of the top route runners in the game" -- and history of turning short slants into big gainers mesh well with the Vikings' offense. Ideally, the Vikings could sign Jennings for the rate Bowen recommends: $6-$8 million annually on a shorter-term contract. That would give them more flexibility to retain Harvin if that's their plan.
On the other hand, if you see the Vikings jump out and offer top dollar to Wallace and/or Jennings, you could reasonably guess they have at least delayed plans to re-sign Harvin. We're down to a few days before we find out.