Vikings

Wideouts Minnesota Could Add in Free Agency

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings currently have one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL, but the lack of a WR3 is a glaring absence. While they are primarily a run-first team that uses 12 personnel (two wideouts, a running back, and two tight ends) as their base formation, they would benefit from adding another wideout to the mix to take attention away from Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

In a recent interview with Paul Allen, Jefferson spoke about the increased number of double teams he faced towards the end of the year. “They also started playing a little off on me too, making it more difficult to win on routes,” he said on KFAN. “Once you see that, you see that you’re a problem in the league.”

While the Vikings likely won’t be in play for any big-name receivers, here are some free agent options this offseason.

Tyrell Williams

Williams hasn’t been able to replicate his sophomore success in 2016 when he went for over 1,000 yards. After four years serving as the third option with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, he signed with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders to serve as the second option to Antonio Brown.

After Brown’s incredibly weird offseason, which ended in his release from the team, Williams became their de facto WR1. He battled injuries in his two years with the Raiders, playing the 2019 season with plantar fasciitis and missing all of 2020 with a torn labrum.

The Raiders announced that they would release Williams at the start of the new league year to save $11 million in cap space. He’s an outside-the-numbers wideout who played 552 of his 730 snaps in 2019 outside the slot. At 6’4″, Williams can split out wide in three-wide receiver sets, allowing either Thielen or Jefferson to take advantage of the slot corners with their height and physicality.

Williams is a bona fide downfield threat who owns a career 16.1 average yards per reception.

Marvin Jones Jr.

Jones has spent his last five seasons with the Detroit Lions, capping off what is his final game with the Lions by torching the Vikings’ secondary for 180 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17. Detroit probably won’t keep Jones, 31, after trading Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.

Jones showcased his ability to extend drives by recording a career-high 52 first downs and, like Williams, is an outside-the-numbers wideout, playing 645 of his 941 snaps out wide.

With Jones, the Vikings could run more 11 personnel and incorporate more passing into their playbook. Jones could also replace Jefferson or Thielen in a pinch if they were to get injured.

T.Y. Hilton

Hilton, 31, isn’t the same guy he was two or three years ago. He’s lost a step and experienced subpar quarterback play since Andrew Luck retired, finishing last year with his second-lowest total yards in a season (762).

Even though Hilton is no longer in his prime, he could provide some savvy veteran wideout presence to the roster. Hilton likely wouldn’t be a long term WR3 solution at this point in his career, but he’d be an effective bridge player.

A.J. Green

Another player who has struggled recently with injuries, Green, 32, saw a sharp decrease in production this season after missing all of last year with an injury. While Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins ended up out-producing Green towards the end of the season, Green could still add value to the Vikings as a third wideout.

While his 523 yards were the lowest of his career, Chad Beebe finished with 204.

Green could also give the Vikings a true jump-ball receiver who can go outside the numbers and make a play. Despite his poor showing in 2020, I think that no longer having the pressure to be the No. 1 receiver will serve him well, and he could see an increase in production despite a more limited role in the Vikings offense.

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