Vikings Are a Great Fit for Speedy Free Agent Receiver

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in 2022.

The Minnesota Vikings entered the offseason with many roster needs and even increased the number by releasing some players. Fans of the purple team had to witness Adam Thielen’s departure from the organization after ten years. He signed with the Carolina Panthers and will face the Vikings for the first time in the 2023 campaign.

The Vikings, meanwhile, need to find a way to fill the void left by Thielen. He won’t be one of the top two receivers on the team for the first time since 2016. Tight end Josh Oliver has been the only external free agent signing on offense so far, and another outside receiver is necessary to really compete in the NFC. There are still some excellent options available on the market.

Vikings Are a Great Fit for Speedy Free Agent Receiver

Vikings Are a Great Fit for Speedy Free Agent Receiver
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Chark is viewed as one of the top wideouts on the market. He played four years in Jacksonville and signed a one-year deal with the Lions last offseason, where he scored against the Vikings. Chark played on 11 games and recorded 30 catches for 502 yards and 3 touchdowns, overall a disappointing stat line, but injuries didn’t help him. The Vikings are a perfect fit for the free agent.

Receivers in free agency have signed for less money than expected. Jakobi Meyers, many projected an annual salary in the neighborhood of $15 million, signed with the Raiders for $11 million per season. Super Bowl champion JuJu Smith-Schuster will get $8.5 million annually from the Patriots.

Teams don’t seem willing to spend the big bucks on a decent WR2. A reason for that could be the great receiving talent in every draft. Because college and professional football are becoming more pass-heavy, more receivers develop into NFL-caliber talents, which shows in the draft.

Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK

Chark’s 4.34 40-yard dash speed could fundamentally change the Vikings’ offense. Opponents must defend the deep threat with safety help, which opens the field for Jefferson and tight end Hockenson. Despite a struggling rookie campaign, the former LSU receiver recorded 2,544 yards and 18 touchdowns in 54 games over five seasons.

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.

Chark’s contract was expected to be around $10 million per season, but the market hasn’t been great for wideouts, and his injuries are concerning. In his five-season career, Chark suffered three ankle sprains and a fractured ankle in 2021.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

He might have to settle for another cheap deal, and Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could get another steal. Chark fits the Vikings’ strategy perfectly. Edge rusher Marcus Davenport is a comparable player. He suffered many injuries in his career and had to settle for a one-year prove-it deal. If healthy, Davenport will be one of the steals of the free agency period.

The Vikings could offer Chark a deal cheaper than expected for one year. If healthy, the team has another weapon in the passing game who can use his speed to take some attention away from Jefferson. Chark is arguably the best chance for the Vikings to get a potential 1000-yard receiver for affordable money into the building, an important thing to consider for the cap-strapped franchise.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The receiving corps of Jefferson, Chark, K.J. Osborn, and the tight end T.J. Hockenson, plus Josh Oliver, could be tough to defend. They can beat teams over the top with Jefferson and Chark but also beat teams with short passes to the tight ends and Osborn. Versatility is important in today’s NFL, and Chark would help the Vikings in that regard.

Another option for the Vikings could be wideout Mecole Hardman, who offers similar speed but not quite the receiver skills. However, his injury history isn’t as bleak. The Vikings could also look for Thielen’s successor in the draft, but the team only has five draft picks. Regardless, Adofo-Mensah will certainly add another wideout to the team in the next six weeks.

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