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This is the third in a series of position-by-position looks at the Vikings' personnel entering the 2011 offseason. We continue with an analysis of Minnesota’s WR situation.
Overview: This position was a season-long concern, with mis-fitting pieces and subpar performances, injuries and letdowns. And yet it remains, on paper, one of the team's potential strengths. The passing game certainly was derailed by some poor quarterbacking, too, as Brett Favre struggled to match his 2009 brilliance.
The October trade for Randy Moss also prevented this from being an exceptional unit, and it hurt the team's offensive chemistry. The deal cost the Vikings a third-round pick in the upcoming draft, too. Although Moss caught touchdowns against the Jets and Packers, he was released less than a month after the trade. The move was a seismic event in the Vikings' season, and it directly or indirectly led to Brad Childress' demise for the way it was handled.
Here's a breakdown of each of the wide receivers on the roster:
Percy Harvin: He was the best playmaker on the team, even as he struggled with continued migraines and hip and ankle injuries. Early on, Harvin struggled to get into a groove with Sidney Rice out and Bernard Berrian a nonfactor. Moving out of the slot took away some of Harvin's best opportunities and minimized his strengths. But once he was back in his home in the slot, Harvin mostly shined despite everything that was going on around him. He has explosive ability and can burn lesser corners on two-way go routes. Although he didn't take a giant step statistically from his rookie season, we saw a more polished and dangerous receiver when healthy. Harvin has the chance to be special if he can avoid injuries, overcome the migraine headaches and clean up some of his route running. A star in the making.
Sidney Rice: Rice suffered a hip injury in the NFC championship game in late January, but it wasn't until late August — just a few weeks before the season opener at New Orleans — that he had surgery to correct it. The hope was that rest and rehab would suffice, but Rice chose to have the procedure and significantly shorten his season. Only Rice knows his body and whether this situation could have been avoided. When he returned for the final six games, his timing was off. Rice gave us a glimpse of his breakout '09 season with a big performance against the Bills, showing what might have been if he had been on the field for a whole season. His season ended after he suffered a concussion against the Eagles. But despite the truncated 2010, Rice would attract major attention on the free-agent market — if his four years of service are enough to set him free. (The new CBA will dictate whether four-, five- or six-year players are free agents.) The Vikings want him back very badly but have yet to execute the franchise tag with the hope that he will remain a restricted free agent.
Bernard Berrian: Berrian never meshed with Favre in either of the past two seasons and missed a golden opportunity to prove his worth when Rice and Harvin went down. He has deep speed, but Berrian was not able to make plays downfield and averaged only nine yards a catch. His effort was suspect, and he was overmatched against better, more physical cornerbacks. All signs point to the Vikings cutting him, with a contract that calls for him to make $4 million next season.
Greg Camarillo: Acquired after Rice had surgery, Camarillo never was able to translate his possession-receiving skills to the Vikings' offense. He's a smart receiver with reliable hands, and he filled in mostly admirably as the replacement punt returner. He also blocked well. Perhaps Camarillo's best play of the season was chasing down and stripping Cardinals S Kerry Rhodes after a turnover, preventing a touchdown. It was a great example of Camarillo's hustle and value on the back end of the roster. Expect the Vikings to bring him back with one more year on his contract.
Greg Lewis: The hero of the 49ers game in 2009 offered few highlights this past season despite ample opportunities to play. He caught only 17 passes, with only two going for more than 20 yards, and is one-dimensional enough for the Vikings to cut him safely.
Hank Baskett: Although Baskett has size and special-teams value, he has done little as a receiver, often finding himself on the Vikings' inactive list. There's no place for him on the roster going forward.
Jaymar Johnson: Pegged for one of the return spots and perhaps as the No. 5 receiver, Johnson finished off a so-so training camp and preseason with a broken thumb and spent the year on injured reserve. He could be back.
Juaquin Iglesias: The former third-round pick of the Bears was picked up at the end of the season and will be an offseason project worth keeping an eye on. He's young, has some NFL ability and will come cheap, but he must round his game into form, even on a team lacking bodies at wideout prior to free agency and the draft.
Bottom line: Although the position has some bright spots, more depth is needed. Health is another issue. Rice could leave this year or next as a free agent, and his absence ruined the offense last season. Harvin's absence hurt badly, too. Together, they are a dangerous pair, but another consistent receiver — replacing the disappointing Berrian — is needed. The Vikings rolled the dice on Moss and crapped out. Look for them to go with a younger, surer product at the split end position.