Updated: November 2nd, 2012 1:15am
Pelissero: Deadline deal for top receiver was never in Vikings' plans

Pelissero: Deadline deal for top receiver was never in Vikings' plans

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by Tom Pelissero

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have no illusions about their receivers, but they were never going to address the situation now.

They were never going to give up what it would take to land someone like Dwayne Bowe, whose hopes to escape a sinking ship in Kansas City ended when the NFL trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The lead-up to this deadline featured no more action for the Vikings than in years past, despite the shift from after Week 6 to after Week 8, plus a two-day extension when Hurricane Sandy closed the league offices.

Only two trades got done league-wide in the extra 16 days. Detroit acquired receiver Mike Thomas from Jacksonville and New England acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay -- both low-risk deals involving mid- to late-round draft choices.

The Vikings had nearly $8.5 million in salary cap space to work with, but that was irrelevant. So was their 5-3 record and a scuffling passing game opponents know they can expose by getting a lead on a team constructed to pound the ball on the ground and play defense.

There are reasons beyond the receivers for why the Vikings rank 27th in passing offense. There also are reasons so few deals get done at the NFL trade deadline, and the Bowe situation embodied almost all of them.

For one thing, any player available at this time of year is available for a reason. Thomas had lost his starting job with the Jaguars, and Talib has a history of off-field issues, including a four-game drug suspension he's still serving.

Bowe, 28, probably would have the long-term megadeal he wants if the Chiefs trusted him, although some scouts grade him as a No. 2 receiver. His work ethic and leadership always have been an issue, and he's had trouble with his weight in the past.

Receiver is one of the most difficult positions to pick up midstream, too, since the route tree and adjustments vary widely from team to team and passing games rely on rhythm, timing and tempo that take time to build.

That's not to say Bowe's not better than what the Vikings have. He is. Defensive coordinators aren't scared of anyone in that group except Percy Harvin, whose touches still must be manufactured to a large degree.

But Harvin expects the last year of his rookie deal to be ripped up after the season, and bringing Bowe into the fold only would have complicated their situation.

Bowe is owed another $5.04 million in guaranteed salary this season under the franchise tender. League rules prohibit him from signing a new deal until after the regular season even if he were traded, and word circulated in league circles he had no interest in that anyway.

Would the Vikings -- or anyone else for that matter -- even consider giving up a high draft choice for the right to negotiate with a malcontent or franchise him again for $11.418 million next season?

If the price were a second-round draft pick, that would mean surrendering four years of labor from a player for less than $6 million total. The Vikings gave the Chiefs more than that for Jared Allen, but that was a deal done in April for a player two years younger who had an extension worked out.

Every team has limited cap resources and must divide them wisely. No team has two receivers with contracts averaging at least $6 million a year -- which is precisely what the Vikings would have been staring down with Bowe and Harvin after the season.

That's why draft picks are valued so highly and receiver is likely to be among the Vikings' top targets in April. Early projections have Cal's Keenan Allen, Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Southern Cal's Robert Woods as first-round prospects.

They could go the free-agent route, too, as they tried with Pierre Garcon before he signed a five-year, $42.5 million deal with Washington in March. But the crop of receivers under 30 with expiring contracts is thin, with Bowe and Green Bay's Greg Jennings a sizeable cut above the rest.

For now, it's Harvin, Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins, plus whatever they can get from Stephen Burton, Devin Aromashodu and Jarius Wright. Simpson and Aromashodu are on one-year deals, and Jenkins has a $2.425 million roster bonus due in March that almost surely won't be paid.

The Vikings can do better. They know that better than anyone. But they're building for the long haul, not selling out for 2012, and expecting a quick fix at any position was a pipe dream. 

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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