McCardell, who spent 10 years with the Jacksonville Jaguars as both a player and a coach, coaxed former Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook into visiting the Vikings.
Westbrook had a flight to work out for the Seattle Seahawks scheduled for Sunday — a ticket he ultimately canceled after agreeing to a one-year contract with Minnesota on Saturday, per the Pioneer Press.
“(McCardell’s) my guy,” Westbrook told the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson after arriving in the Twin Cities on Friday. “I was kind of set on Seattle, and he was like, ‘Darn, you’re not even going to come (to Minnesota) and give me a chance? I coached you for the past four years, and you’re just going to fly out to Seattle and not give Minnesota a shot?’ ”
Westbrook now slots as the leading candidate for the Vikings’ third wide receiver spot behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
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A ‘Perfect Fit’ With Vikings
Westbrook, who had preliminary talks with the Vikings earlier this offseason, was entertaining talks with the Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers throughout the offseason.
However, he found himself to be a perfect fit in Minnesota.
“I love everything about the Vikings. I like their offensive scheme, I like the things that they’re doing as far as gidget-gadgets that they have going on,” he told the Pioneer Press on Friday. “Just their whole offensive scheme, and I think I can fit in perfectly.”
Westbrook, a 2017 fourth-round pick, was a Heisman Trophy finalist in his senior year of college — catching 80 passes for 1,4524 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
He’s tallied 160 receptions for 1,720 yards and nine touchdowns in his four NFL seasons. Westbrook’s 2020 season was cut short after he tore his ACL in Week 2.
“I haven’t played ball since October,” he said, per Tomasson. “I’m just wishing anywhere to play football. I miss the game. I love the game. I miss the thrill, the fans, and I just want to be out there in any position being able to help my team succeed and win and go to the Super Bowl.”
McCardell’s twisting of Westbrook’s arm proved to be the difference-maker in landing the veteran wide receiver after the duo spent four seasons together in Jacksonville.
“Keenan’s like a father figure to me,” Westbrook said, per Tomasson. “I respect him and everything that he’s ever taught me and done for me.”
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Westbrook’s Returning Prowess
A shifty wide receiver who possesses sub-4.4 40-yard speed, Westbrook figures to be a reliable fifth option in the offense with both Irv Smith Jr. and Dalvin Cook figuring into the passing game.
Westbrook also said he’d be willing to return punts for the Vikings after averaging 9.8 yards per return in his career. Chad Beebe and K.J. Osborn averaged 4.7 and 3.9 yards per punt return last year, respectively.