The Minnesota Vikings are a speedy third-option wide receiver from having one of the NFL’s most lethal pass-catcher corps in the league.
And the Vikings are looking to fill that void in free agency this season.
Former ESPN analyst Josina Anderson reported that former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook has “entered preliminary conversations” with Minnesota.
Westbrook, a former Heisman Trophy finalist and 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner, has received interest from several teams. Several Kansas City Chiefs players reached out to Westbrook to gauge his interest in joining Kansas City, while the Cincinnati Bengals have also been in talks with Westbrook, Anderson reported.
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Vikings Connected to Westbrook
Westbrook, 27, suffered a season-ending knee injury last season and hasn’t had an opportunity to realize his potential with abysmal quarterback play in Jacksonville. The former fourth-round pick is likely to garner a one-year prove-it deal that could make him an affordable yet experienced third wide receiver in the Vikings offense.
At Oklahoma, Westbrook caught 80 passes for 1,524 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns his senior year, landing himself on the Heisman finalist list before ultimately losing out to quarterback Lamar Jackson. Westbrook’s tallied 160 receptions for 1,720 yards and nine touchdowns through four seasons with the Jaguars.
A shifty wide receiver who possesses sub-4.4 40-yard speed, Westbrook garnering interest around the league is no surprise as the NFL seems to be shifting to greater value on smaller and quick wide receivers.
The Vikings hired former Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell this offseason, who worked with Westbrook throughout his career with the Jaguars.
Westbrook Could Fill Several Vikings’ Needs
Along with his potential as a third wide receiver in Minnesota, Westbrook could also be a punt and kick returner. He averaged 22.3 yards per kick return and 11.0 yards per punt return in 2020 before his injury in Week 2.
The Vikings drafted Iowa rookie wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette as a possible kick returner and Iowa State running back Kene Nwangwu. The punt returner role remains uncontested with only Chad Beebe and 2020 fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn with NFL experience returning punts.
Westbrook would enter a deep field of competition for the third wide receiver spot, competing with Smith, Osborn, Beebe, Bisi Johnson, Dan Chisena and recent arrivals in undrafted rookies Blake Proehl, Myron Mitchell and Whop Philyor.
He’d be likely favorite to emerge from the group and would provide veteran experience for the other receivers the Vikings are more invested once 53-man roster cuts arrive in September.