Vikings Urged to Sign Pro Bowl WR With Ties to Minnesota

Keenan McCardell

Getty Kevin O'Connell and Justin Jefferson

The Minnesota Vikings must plan for life after Adam Thielen, which may be coming as soon as this offseason if he cannot reach a compromise in restructuring his contract.

Regardless if Thielen stays or goes, the Vikings need a true No. 2 wide receiver that can take the top off the defense, command double coverage and make opposing defenses pick their poison. Justin Jefferson was held below 50 yards seven times this season. Defenses were not punished for focusing three defenders on him as they should have.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) identified an ideal candidate to fill that role for the Vikings, urging Minnesota to sign DJ Chark — who is well-connected to the Vikings locker room and could sign for the cheap this offseason.

PFF Urges Vikings to Sign DJ Chark, Who is Well-Connected to Minnesota

PFF’s Brad Spielberger listed an offensive free agent that every NFL team should pursue this offseason, with Chark being Minnesota’s biggest add to its offense.

From Spielberger:

Minnesota has a very solid trio of wide receivers in place, but Adam Thielen is starting to show signs of aging and K.J. Osborn is entering the final year of his contract in 2023, so Chark represents a solid depth option who perhaps earns himself a bigger role in 2024 and beyond. Chark was also teammates at LSU in 2017 with Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson.

Chark signed a one-year flier for 2020 with the Detroit Lions after an up-and-down rookie contract spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he may not have done enough to earn himself the substantial multi-year deal he’s looking for. Minnesota tried to bring a speed element on the outside when they signed Dede Westbrook in 2021, and Chark represents a major upgrade.

Chark’s 14.1-yard average depth of target and 14.5 yards per reception over the past four seasons are both top-20 marks among wide receivers. He would add another element to the Vikings’ high-flying passing attack.

On top of Chark’s connection to Jefferson, Vikings wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell helped Chark become just one of two Jaguars wide receivers to earn a Pro Bowl nod since 2001 — the other being Allen Robinson. He worked with Chark for three seasons, helping the 26-year-old receiver make the 2019 Pro Bowl.

Chark struggled with injury in his final two years in Jacksonville, leading to his current stint with the Detroit Lions. Chark was considered one of Jared Goff‘s favorite targets in the offseason, however, he was hampered by an ankle injury early in the season.

Chark went on the injured reserve list in Week 7 to rehab the same ankle he had operated on in 2020. He returned to the lineup full-time in Week 12 and was a lethal threat that elevated the Lions offense late in the season. He went for 90 or more yards in three of Detroit’s final seven games opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Chark finished the season with 30 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns — although his biggest catch with Detroit came on fourth down to end the Green Bay Packers‘ season.

Chark’s elite mid-4.3 40-speed along with his ability to make contested catches would add another dimension to the Vikings offense. And he could sign a team-friendly deal to reunite with McCardell.

DJ Chark Could Sign for Half the Cost of Adam Thielen

Chark took a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal with the Lions. While he certainly proved his worth late in the season, Detroit may not need his services with Jameson Williams coming along late in the season. It’s uncertain he’ll get a multi-year deal like he would want.

In Minnesota, Chark could potentially see a two-year deal. Spotrac evaluated Chark at a $9.5 million yearly cap hit after his 2022 season, which could be a bargain considering Chark’s Pro Bowl potential.

That cap hit would be half the price of Thielen’s current contract, and potentially more importantly, allow the Vikings to focus their draft on improving the defense.

Read More