The Minnesota Vikings will likely be in wait-and-see mode over the coming days as they monitor Michael Floyd’s legal situation.
Floyd, who has been under house arrest as part of his sentence for a severe DUI in December 2016, will be in court June 26 to answer for a positive blood alcohol test. He is not allowed to consume alcohol while under house arrest and has been tested multiple times per day since mid-March.
Floyd offered an explanation on Friday via a statement:
“Michael was five days away from the end of his home monitoring. Prior to and after this incident, Michael has not had any alcohol whatsoever since the start of his home monitoring. Unfortunately, the kombucha teas that Michael did drink resulted in a positive blood alcohol content reading.”
It will be difficult for Floyd to prove that the tea, which includes tiny amounts of alcohol, was actually the cause of his positive reading.
If the court elects to hand down further punishment, that could mean the end of Floyd’s tenure with the Vikings. The team can release him without any penalty on the salary cap because his contract includes zero guaranteed dollars.
Moving on from Floyd would leave the Vikings’ group of weapons weakened as they had expected the Minneapolis native to provide them with a deep threat that previously hadn’t existed on the roster.
How might the Vikings fill in the gap? Here are five possibilities:
Neither free agent wide receiver offers the ability to stretch the field like Floyd, but Decker and Boldin are both proven possession receivers who could improve the Vikings’ woes in the red zone.
Decker has pulled in double-digit touchdowns in three of his last five seasons. His 2016 was shortened by injury and the former Bronco and Jet still grabbed two touchdowns in three games. The one potential snag is that Decker will have all types of options as it’s rare that a player of his caliber comes on the market this late in the offseason.
Boldin may be on the wrong side of 35, but he provided plenty of evidence last year that he can still play. The soon-to-be 37-year-old receiver caught 67 passes and eight touchdowns with the Detroit Lions. Nine of his catches and two of Boldin’s touchdowns came against the Vikings. Signing Boldin could be difficult as the veteran receiver reportedly wants to play close to his home in Florida.
UPDATE: Eric Decker signed with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday
The best remaining wide receiver free agents are: Eddie Royal and Steve Johnson
There has been a lot of praise for Laquon Treadwell’s offseason progress over the past few weeks. During OTAs, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he has seen improvement in one major area where the 2016 first-round pick struggled last season:
“Laquon is an extremely hard worker, maybe he even works too hard, he’ll come in evenings and work,” Zimmer said. “He’s been running routes good, he’s caught the ball well…I think he’s developing a trust with the quarterback. That’s most important, that trust with receivers, that they can get the right depth and be in the right place.”
If Treadwell has truly improved and is ready to step into a significant role, then he could provide a similar skill set to Decker and Boldin, using his size and strength to win battles for the ball. Even if the former Ole Miss star has grown, relying on a player who performed so poorly in Year 1 carries a long a great deal of risk.
While the Vikings may have ranked dead last in Yards Per Carry last season, they have overhauled the running game by signing two quality run-blocking tackles, drafting Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein signing Latavius Murray. There is no question the NFL is a “passing league,” but teams also have to play to their strengths.
The Vikings’ offense could be effective by being excellent in the running game and serviceable through the air. Take the 2016 Tennessee Titans for example. With a good offensive line, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, the Titans were an elite rushing team, ranking fourth in Yards Per Rush Attempt and rushed the fourth most times in the NFL. Tennessee also ranked 12th in Yards Per Pass Attempt, which resulted in finishing ninth overall in Yards Per Play and 14th in Points For.
If the Vikings repeated those rankings and received the type of defensive excellence we expect, they would cruise into the playoffs without requiring Sam Bradford to take huge leaps forward. Jumping from last to the top five is a lot to ask, but plausible considering across-the-board improvements.
Throughout his first three seasons, McKinnon has occasionally been used as a receiver. He made a memorable touchdown catch out of the slot against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. At this stage, moving him to receiver full time would be a lot to ask, but using him in two-back sets and in the slot could be a viable option to replace some of the expected production from Floyd.