Arguably for the first time since Jarius Wright (who left the team after the 2017 season), the Minnesota Vikings reportedly plan to sign a tried-and-true WR3.
That man is Dede Westbrook, a wideout that spent the entirety of his career to date with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I'm told free agent WR Dede Westbrook is planning to sign a 1-year deal with the #Vikings on Sunday, per source.
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) July 24, 2021
Westbrook would reunite with Keenan McCardell, who the Vikings added as a wide receivers coach this offseason. For all of Westbrook’s four-year career, McCardell was in charge of WRs in Jacksonville. The relationship will purportedly continue with the Vikings, if only for one year.
Westbrook missed most of 2020 with a torn ACL.
For fans of the Vikings, the Westbrook acquisition is a culmination of a robust offseason. Interest existed for Westbrook dating back months while Minnesota was adding defensive personnel in frenzied fashion. Here’s the receipt from May.
Over the weekend some #Chiefs players reached out to free agent WR Dede Westbrook to engage his interest in coming to Kansas City. Meanwhile, both the #Vikings & the #Bengals have had preliminary conversations with Westbrook as well. Westbrook was a 2016 Biletnikoff award winner.
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) May 10, 2021
And here’s the unscientific poll via Vikings fans of the primary free-agent wishlist from June:
If the new player bonanza continues for the Vikings, which free agent would you most enjoy seeing join the team next?
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) June 15, 2021
Westbrook has tabulated 1,720 receiving yards for nine touchdowns on 160 receptions in 40 career games. Too, the quarterbacks tossing him the ball, for the most part, are considered less than stellar. Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Mike Glennon are among those names with better-than-average passers, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew, also spending time with Westbrook.
In 2017, during an almost-storybook season much like the Vikings, Westbrook and the Jaguars reached a conference championship, losing in heartbreaking manner to the New England Patriots. It was Westbrook’s first professional season, snagging 339 receiving yards in seven games.
Minnesota has not showcased three wideouts in the same season with 500+ yards since 2009 when Brett Favre created the stat for Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, and Bernard Berrian. Visanthe Shiancoe even got in on the fun as a tight end with 566 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Ever since, the Vikings have dropped serviceable men at the WR3 spot with the likes of Chad Beebe, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Aldrick Robinson, etc. Westbrook is a paradigm shift for Zimmer because, when healthy, the University of Oklahoma alumnus is a shoo-in for 500-700 receiving yards. The Vikings mainly emphasize their fullbacks, halfbacks, and tight ends catching balls instead of true-blue WR3s under Zimmer. On paper, that changes now.
An unsung result of this tentative transaction? The Larry Fitzgerald pipe dream likely dies for good. For nearly five years, Vikings faithful envisioned Fitzgerald ending his career in his hometown. The addition of Westbrook pours cold water on that fantasy.
When the deal finalizes, Minnesota will have about $12 million dollars available in cap space. That’s enough to explore another EDGE rusher like Justin Houston or Olivier Vernon — or extend the long-term contracts of Harrison Smith or Brian O’Neill.