The Vikings have had a hole at the wide receiver three position for quite some time.
This week, the team has made an effort to fill the void. Minnesota had a tryout with free agent wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The team is going to sign him today, according to a report.
It’s not official yet, but all signs are pointing to Westbrook landing in Minnesota — at least for this season.
If that does happen, here are four things to consider when it comes to the free agent wide receiver:
He's been serviceable in Jacksonville
Sep 24, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Tae Hayes (30) is called for pass interference in the end zone on a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
In 2018, Westbrook had 717 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions in 16 games. He had 660 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 15 games in 2019. In 2020, he only played in two games due to injury. But if 2019 and 2018 are any indication, Westbrook can be a decent third option on an NFL team in 2021.
He can return punts, too
Jacksonville Jaguars' Dede Westbrook runs past Washington Redskins tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (87) and linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (51) for a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Minnesota's punt return unit struggled in a lot of different ways in 2020. The Vikings had a muffed punt and fumbles amid returns. K.J. Osborn, drafted in the fifth round as a potential mainstay punt returner, had just 3.9 yards per punt return. The Vikings have to be better at returning punts in 2021. Westbrook could potentially help out with that. He's had three different seasons where he's averaged more than 10 yards per return. He even ran a punt back for a touchdown in 2018. On paper, he seems like the best punt returning option the Vikings have on the roster right now, assuming he signs with them.
He's coming off an ACL tear
Aug 17, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) runs with the ball after the catch during training camp at Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Westbrook's 2020 was derailed by a season-ending ACL tear. I shouldn't have to tell too many NFL fans that an ACL tear is pretty serious. It's been nine months since he tore his ACL, and signs point to him being good to go: Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press asked Westbrook if he'll be ready for the start of Vikings training camp on Wednesday and he said "most definitely.''
The wide receiver room just got deeper
Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) in the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota had a drop off on the depth chart after Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. If Westbrook signs, that drop off gets a lot less steep. Minnesota can use Westbrook as the third wideout option. Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe are both decent depth options in case Westbrook goes down, but relying on Beebe and Johnson to fill out the third wideout role together was risky. Minnesota's three best wide receivers — Jefferson, Thielen and Westbrook — all have the capability of playing in the slot or out wide. That gives the team some options.