The Vikings have not approached Sam Bradford about a contract extension this offseason, but they have taken steps to give the veteran quarterback every chance to show that he deserves to be the franchise’s long-term solution at the position.
This includes the addition of free agents at left (Riley Reiff) and right tackle (Mike Remmers), a shuffling at running back, where veteran Latavius Murray will provide far better pass protection than Adrian Peterson ever did and rookie Dalvin Cook will be counted on to provide the explosiveness for which Peterson was once known. Both should be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Vikings also signed free agent wide receiver Michael Floyd to pair with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell. General manager Rick Spielman added wide receivers Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley in the later rounds of this year’s draft. Another option at the position hit the market on Monday afternoon when former Gopher Eric Decker was released by the New York Jets.
The Vikings would be foolish not to seriously consider the Cold Spring, Minn., native. According to OverTheCap.com, the Vikings have $13.9 million in cap space so they would have room to sign Decker.
The Jets told Decker last week that they would either trade or release him. A deal with Baltimore had appeared possible but that option disappeared when free agent Jeremy Maclin signed a two-year deal with the Ravens on Monday.
Shortly thereafter, the Jets announced that Decker had been released in a move that will take $7.25 million off the payroll of a team that clearly has little interest in trying to win games in 2017.
The 30-year-old Decker is coming off a season in which he played only three games because of a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum in his hip. He had surgery on both but, according to ESPN, had returned ahead of schedule and had been practicing throughout Organized Team Activities.
Decker played his first four seasons with the Denver Broncos before signing a five-year, $36.25 contract with the Jets in 2014. He had 74 receptions for 962 yards with five touchdowns in his first season with New York and followed that with 80 catches for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2015.
Decker getting a clean bill of health will be the most important thing. He played in all 16 games in each of his final three seasons with Denver and then appeared in 15 games in each of his first two years in New York.
Decker, who is 6-3, 214 pounds, would provide Bradford with a big target in the red zone and give the quarterback a better chance to be successful in the final season of his contract.
Diggs is the Vikings’ top wide receiver but he is coming off a season in which he was slowed for much of the year by a nagging groin injury. He still finished with 84 receptions for 903 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. Thielen also emerged in his third NFL season, catching 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games.
The biggest question marks for the Vikings are Floyd and Treadwell.
Floyd signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Minnesota in May after finishing last season in New England. Floyd, a first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2012, was released by Arizona last Dec. 14 following a drunken driving arrest.
He is expected to be suspended by the NFL for an undetermined amount of games to begin the season, although nothing has been announced. The Vikings are hoping Floyd can make a contribution and get his life on track but his one-year contract is a sign that this is a trial.
The Vikings appear confident that Treadwell, their first-round pick in 2016, will take a significant step forward after a very disappointing rookie season in which he had only one reception and was targeted on three passes.
If the Vikings were just hoping to make a playoff run, this group of receivers might be good enough. But with the Super Bowl scheduled to be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in February, and Vikings’ ownership feeling this team should be able to make a run at playing in that game, hoping that everyone stays healthy, or that Floyd can rebound and Treadwell can make big strides, is taking a risk.
Decker’s presence could help lessen that risk and give Bradford a valuable target.
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