The Vikings thought they had solved their missing deep threat receiver when they brought in former Cincinnati Bengal Jerome Simpson last season. Simpson, who signed a one-year deal, was supposed to compliment Percy Harvin and stretch the field.
Simpson finished the 2011 season with career highs in receptions (50), yards (725) and touchdowns (four). None was more spectacular then his flip-over-the-defender play against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
The Vikings signed the 26-year-old Simpson in 2012 to a one-year, $2 million deal—very cheap considering Simpson was suspended the first three games of the season for violating the League's substance abuse policy.
In addition to missing the first three games, Simpson was relatively ineffective due to nerve injury in his back that also affected his lower leg and foot.
Simpson, who is arguably the fastest player on the Vikings roster, couldn't separate from defenders and had trouble cutting. He finished the 2012 season with 26 catches for 274 yards and no scores.
Simpson would be a low-risk, high-reward player if signed to another short-term deal. And Simpson could be on a short list of unrestricted free agents the Vikings aim to bring back.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder sees the value, potential and explosiveness that Simpson could bring to the Metrodome in 2013. "He's a guy that I hope we keep on the roster and continue to develop and build a relationship on the field and off the field."
And we all know what happens when you're buddies with Christian Ponder. Just ask Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph and his team-leading nine touchdown receptions.
The Vikings are in desperate need of wide receiver help.
There are two UFA receivers for the Vikings this offseason: Simpson and Devin Aromashodu (37 receptions, 650 yards, one touchdown in two seasons with Minnesota). If the Vikings are going to bring one of these players back, Simpson should get the nod as he has proven to be the more effective receiver in the past
Wide recievers who should be on the roster next season are Percy Harvin, Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright. Rookie Greg Childs' status is still up in the air after missing the 2012 season with torn patellar tendons in both his knees. Veteran Michael Jenkins is expected to be released.
Simpson won't fill the gap long term. The Vikings need to bring in a top receiver.
Rick Spielman is trying to have the same management approach as the Green Bay Packers, who havn't selected a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft since selecting Javon Walker out of Florida State with the 20th pick in 2002. Yet, the Packers have one of the NFL's most potent passing attacks with Greg Jennings (Pick 52 in 2006), Jordy Nelson (Pick 36 in 2008), Randall Cobb (Pick 64 in 2012) and James Jones (Pick 78 in 2007).
Recently retired Donald Driver, the franchise's leader in receptions and receiving yards, was a seventh-round pick in 1999.
Spielman is looking to develop talent from within rather than spend big dollars, so don't expect to see Dwayne Bowe, Victor Cruz or Mike Wallace wearing purple next season.
There are a couple decent wide receiver prospects who could make an immediate impact for the Vikings next season: Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter of Tennessee, Keenan Allen of California, or Terrance Williams of Baylor, to name a few. Spielman loves moving around in the draft (see Harrison Smith, Matt Kalil) so don't be surprised if the Vikings move up in the second round to select one of those players.
Jerome Simpson is a band-aid for the deep threat at best. His struggle with injuries and his drug suspension didn't really give him a fighting chance in 2012. The Vikings should try to get Simpson back in 2013 to at least have a veteran presence in the huddle and for a potential big-play target for Ponder to have downfield.