Vikings by position, Day 7: Sidney Rice's value on open market unclear
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Editor's note: Each weekday until the NFL Draft begins on April 28, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (7)
Assuming he's unrestricted under the next labor agreement, Rice (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) -- who received a first-round restricted tender ($2.736 million) from the Vikings -- plans to test the free-agent market. But there is some skepticism among NFL personnel people about the sort of contract Rice will command with his lengthy injury history, including late-August hip surgery that limited him to 17 catches in six games and helped derail the Vikings' 2010 season. Still only 24 years old, Rice is a fully dimensional receiver whose 2009 tape (83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns) speaks for itself. He may have to settle for an incentive- and escalator-laden deal, though, rather than big guaranteed money. The only other accomplished outside receiver is Berrian (6-1, 185), whose 9.0-yard average on 28 catches in 53 targets (52.8%) reflected what he's become at age 30: a vertical-speed receiver who can't outrun anyone anymore. One longtime NFC scout said Berrian "can't really play anymore." Keeping him for $3.9 million would be an act of desperation even if Rice departs. Despite ongoing migraine problems, Harvin (5-11, 184) played the most snaps (60.9%) of any Vikings receiver last season and performed at an elite level once coaches stopped trying to force him outside. His production (71-868-5 in 14 games) doesn't fully reflect what he means to the offense -- or how good he can be, if he adds route detail to his explosiveness. Harvin has plenty of time to do it, with two seasons under his belt at age 22. Another slot man, Camarillo (6-1, 190) has to hope a new offensive coaching staff and scheme will allow him to bounce back from a disappointing season (20-240-1, 30.7% snaps). If not, the $1.7 million base salary the Vikings inherited in the trade with Miami might get kicked to the curb. Lewis (6-0, 185) hasn't reached 20 receptions since 2006 and, at age 31, will be lucky to catch on a roster somewhere. Arceneaux (6-2, 210) worked out for eight teams before signing a three-year contract that reportedly included a $75,000 bonus -- sixth-round pick money -- on the strength of two standout seasons in the Canadian Football League. Fellow Alcorn State alum Leslie Frazier might have a soft spot for Arceneaux, but it's a tough road from CFL slotback to NFL receiver. A third-round pick only two years ago, Iglesias (6-1, 205) signed off Chicago's practice squad on Jan. 1 and figures to get a long look. Johnson (6-0, 176) spent 2010 on injured reserve (thumb) and has one catch in three seasons. This is his last chance. Baskett (6-4, 220) only played 50 snaps last season, wasn't tendered and won't be back. Brown (6-4, 200) spent all of last season on the practice squad.
One scout's take
"That's going to be thing -- what do they do? Do they choose to get (Rice) a deal? If this whole thing shakes out like it probably will, he could end up being unrestricted and so he hits the market. Somebody's going to pay him, because he's proven that he can play. He's also proven that injuries are an issue. I see somebody loading him up (with incentives and escalators) -- giving him enough money to make it interesting enough for him to come, but then also not tying their hands to a contract that says that they've got to give him a bunch of guaranteed money and then he ends up having another injury-plagued season. I could see him ending up having to earn a little bit of it along the way."
-- AFC executive
The Vikings' lack of outside receiver options makes this position at least a "B"-level need that would become even more pressing if Rice departs. Unless Alabama's Julio Jones slides -- NFL sources doubt it -- help won't come at No. 12 overall. A mid-round selection would be no surprise.
Last 10 drafts
• 2010: Joe Webb (sixth round, 199th overall).*
• 2009: Harvin (first, 22nd).
• 2008: Johnson (sixth, 193rd).
• 2007: Rice (second, 44th), Aundrae Allison (fifth, 146th), Chandler Williams (seventh, 233rd).
• 2006: None.
• 2005: Troy Williamson (first, seventh).
• 2004: None.
• 2003: Nate Burleson (third, 71st), Keenan Howry (seventh, 221st).
• 2002: None.
• 2001: Cedric James (fourth, 131st).
* Webb converted to quarterback during rookie minicamp.
According to various reports, the Vikings have held a private workout with Nebraska's Niles Paul and hosted private visits with Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates and Troy's Jerrel Jernigan.
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: 1. A.J. Green, Georgia. 2. Jones. 3. Leonard Hankerson, Miami. 4. Torrey Smith, Maryland. 5. Titus Young, Boise State.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: 1. Green. 2. Jones. 3. Smith. 4. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh. T-5. Young. T-5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: 1. Green. 2. Jones. 3. Smith. 4. Baldwin. 5. Cobb.