Speedy Free Agent Receiver Linked to Vikings

Lions wide receiver DJ Chark catches a touchdown pass against Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at Ford Field. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings kicked off their offseason by hiring Brian Flores after parting ways with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. A few days later, GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah started his quest to build the best possible roster for the 2023 season by re-signing the deals of two free-agent players.

Defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and offensive tackle Blake Brandel were re-signed on Friday. The Vikings used the exclusive rights tender and will have both on the roster for one more season for the cheap veteran minimum of $940,000. Adofo-Mensah will make many more moves to get up to 90 players, the maximum of players on a team in the offseason.

Speedy Free Agent Receiver Linked to Vikings

Free agency will begin with the legal tampering window on March 13. That’s the big free agency day. Free agents can officially sign on March 15 after the new league year starts.

Speedy Free Agent Receiver Linked to Vikings
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One position the Vikings must address is wide receiver. Of course, Justin Jefferson is outstanding and one of the best players in the league.

Veteran Adam Thielen was part of the Vikings’ one-two punch for years, at first with Stefon Diggs and then with Justin Jefferson. However, Thielen’s performance significantly dropped in the last few years.

He is no longer a number one receiver, and some even think he’s no longer a number two. His statistics are still pretty good. The 32-year-old caught 70 passes for 716 yards and six scores. Noteworthy is that he played every game of a season for the first time in four years when he played all 16 contests in 2018.

Thielen hasn’t recorded 1,000 yards since that same year, and his age is notably catching up with them. He never relied on his athleticism and was a master of the fundamentals instead, but he regularly struggled to get separation even when the defenses put their focus on Jefferson and Thielen was in single coverage. The receiver certainly won’t get any younger.

His teammate, K.J. Osborn, recorded 655 and 650 yards in the last two seasons and scored 12 total touchdowns. Osborn is a solid third receiver, but neither of the two is a real threat to take over when the opposing defense focuses on Jefferson. They can do it occasionally but not consistently, which is a huge problem for the Vikings. The purple team must address the position and add another weapon to the offense.

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One potential acquisition is DJ Chark. The former Lions and Jaguars wideout came into the league in the second round of the 2018 draft. He struggled with some injuries, but when he was on the field, he was an effective player, and his skillset is a perfect fit for the Vikings.

PFF’s Brad Spielberger predicted the Vikings to be Chark’s next employer:

Chark is not quite the route-running technician that Thielen has been over his career, but you can always use 4.34-second 40-yard dash speed with a 6-foot-4 frame. Thielen started to show some signs of aging, as well, in 2022, struggling at times to create short-area separation — which had always been a strong suit for him.

With Chark, the Vikings get a downfield threat who can take the top off opposing defenses, clearing room for his former LSU teammate in Justin Jefferson and also taking a playmaker away from the division rival Detroit Lions. Tight end T.J. Hockenson will also have more room to operate over the middle.

Chark’s speed could change the Vikings offense. Opponents need to defend the deep threat with safety help, which opens the field for Jefferson and tight end Hockenson. The former LSU receiver recorded 2,544 yards and 18 touchdowns in 54 games over five seasons, despite a struggling rookie campaign.

One Working Theory
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His best season came in 2019 when he broke the 1,000-yard barrier by eight yards and scored eight times. Chark was a Pro Bowler that year. He followed that up with 706 yards in 2020 before ankle injuries slowed him down in the last couple of seasons. The injury history might be a risk, but his skills are undeniable.

Over the past four seasons, Chark’s 33 receptions on passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield rank tied for 14th among wide receivers and his 11 touchdown receptions on such passes tie for eighth. This is despite his hardly playing in 2021 due to injury, though injuries have been a bit of a concern during his career. 

Brad Spielberger, PFF

Whether Thielen stays with the team or not, the Vikings would add a different style to their receiver room by signing Chark. While Jefferson is the total package, Osborn and Thielen are not fast enough to take the top off the defense.

Spielberger forecasted Chark to sign a three-year deal for $11.6 million per season, an expensive investment, but it could fully open up the Vikings’ offense in Kevin O’Connell’s second season.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt