Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
The Vikings announced on Friday that they had signed former Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright to a contract. This comes on the heels of the announcement that the Vikings former slot receiver Jarius Wright had signed with the Carolina Panthers. With the two players’ similar names, age, experience and positions, they are destined for comparisons. So, let’s get it out of the way now and ask, “Do Two Wrights Make a Wrong?”
Now, before we go too far down the road, we should point out that the reason for Jarius Wright not re-signing with the Vikings is not completely apparent (there were reports that he was open to returning). It has been argued online and, on the radio, that this was a cost cutting measure due to the Vikings needing the cap room in the wake of the Kirk Cousins signing. And that reasoning certainly has merit. Wright had two years left on his Vikings contract and was due to make a base salary of $3.6 million in 2018. And by releasing him, the Vikings got a cap savings of $2.64 million (but also cost them $2.12 million in dead money).
We don’t know the Kendall Wright contract details, but if we look at last year and compare the two we see that Jarius made $2,650,000 in 2017 while Kendall made $2 million in Chicago. Jarius’ three-year deal with the Panthers is worth $7,500,000, including a $2,000,000 signing bonus, $2,000,000 guaranteed and an average annual salary of $2,500,000. He didn’t make out better than his 2018 salary would have been with the Vikings, but he tacked on another season. The Vikings weren’t likely to go that far with him in terms of money and years.
(Furthermore, Kendall is up for a raise in the contract that he signed with the Vikings, but details weren’t available at press time. Although, it is safe to assume he was looking for more money and just how much he got is important.)
Perhaps there is snaps concern with Jarius, whose targets in 2016 dipped to a career low of 14 (with 11 receptions) before rebounding last season to 18 catches on 25 targets for 198 yards and two touchdowns. His value was high on third down receptions, where his success earned him several nicknames (Mr. Third Down, Mr. Clutch and Mr. Efficient) from his teammates. Such a value—third down conversions—cannot be overstated, but when he only gets 25 targets in the season (and that was an increase), it might not be worth the money he was due to make.
Both Wrights have played for six seasons, but Kendall’s overall numbers are higher. Put side-by-side, their career numbers aren’t even close: Jarius has 153 receptions on 230 targets for 10 touchdowns, while Kendall has 339 receptions on 529 targets for 19 touchdowns. Jarius has put up a better catch percentage in most seasons, and we haven’t heard any of clutch-like nicknames being attributed to Kendall. But that remains to be seen.
Both players are 5’10”, but Kendall is listed as 12 pounds heavier, which should serve him well—if it doesn’t slow him down a lot. The weight should serve him better than Jarius, who I always felt had trouble breaking the first tackle down field. In fact, Kendall has 1,316 career YAC compared to 587 for Jarius. Those yards could be attributable to how the respective receivers were used (and how often), but the bottom line is that yards after the catch are important everywhere on the field, and one player has twice that of the other.
It appears safe to assume that Kendall was brought in to replace Jarius, so the comparisons will continue this season. Kendall appears to have been depended upon more than Jarius in their careers—in fact he led the Bears (a team often beset by injuries in their receiving corps) in targets, catches and yards last season. And his best season was for Tennessee in 2013, when he caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards and two scores (he had six touchdown receptions in 2014). But that should change this season for Kendall, as he is coming in as the No. 3 receiver behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and that may be a good thing for him.
If the Vikings use Kendall Wright in the slot as a possession receiver, and he keeps his production up, it will be a very good signing for Minnesota. The battle for the third receiver went to Jarius almost by default last season, as Michael Floyd started too late (due to suspension) to ever really catch on in the offense and Laquon Treadwell has yet to develop into a viable threat. We should expect more targets and receptions out of Kendall than three of those players combined this season.
So, we must answer the question “Do two Wrights make a wrong?” I would have to say no. Depending upon the compensation, the Vikings got a bigger, more productive receiver (who is only two weeks older than his predecessor). The jury is still out on the move, but thus far it looks like a good one.