The Vikings will face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at the Metrodome, meaning wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be returning to town for a brief stay.
The last time we saw Houshmandzadeh, my colleague, Chip Scoggins, was following a car carrying the wide receiver East on 394 into downtown Minneapolis in an attempt to find out what was going on in the Vikings' pursuit of the then hot-ticket free agent. (I think Chip was doing the speed limit but I wasn't there so I'm not absolutely positive.)
Houshmandzadeh, who spent his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, had hit the open market last winter and began making free-agent visits. This included a stop in Seattle and then a trip to Winter Park to meet with the Vikings. The Vikings clearly wanted Houshmandzadeh and coach Brad Childress and other executives made their best pitch on a Saturday, first at the team's facility in Eden Prairie and then over what certainly had to be an expensive dinner in a private room at Manny's Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis.
The Vikings obviously felt it was money well spent considering Houshmandzadeh had caught 90, 112 and 92 passes in his last three seasons with the Bengals. Cincinnati also remained in the hunt for Houshmandzadeh's services.
The Vikings had added an impact receiver in Bernard Berrian as a free agent in 2008 and now felt they had a real shot at Houshmandzadeh.
By now, Vikings fans know how this played out. Houshmandzadeh, 32, returned to his hotel in Minneapolis on a Sunday night to think about his decision after another long day of meetings at Winter Park. However, he didn't remain in town for long and instead decided to travel home to the West Coast that evening. Houshmandzadeh then signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Seattle that included $15 million in guarantees in early March.
There certainly were some who likely felt as if Houshmandzadeh had used the Vikings for leverage in his negotiations with the Seahawks. If that's what he did, then he did the Vikings a huge favor.
That because if the Vikings had landed Houshmandzadeh you would have to think they would have taken a right tackle with their first-round pick and passed on wide receiver Percy Harvin. Remember, Harvin did not come without a risk in the eyes of many and if Houshmandzadeh had been on the Vikings' depth chart the decision-makers at 9520 Viking Drive very well might have passed on adding another receiver.
So is coach Brad Childress happy Houshmandzadeh selected Seattle? “Notwithstanding, I don’t really have any comments on T.J. Houshmandzadeh," he said Monday. "So I really wouldn’t qualify it that way. Our receivers are doing a nice job. I’m happy with the guys that we have on our roster right now.”
Well he should be. And Harvin has to be near the top of the list of guys Childress is happy with, right behind Sidney Rice.
Houshmandzadeh had his best game of the season on Sunday in the Seahawks' 31-20 loss at Arizona, catching nine passes for 165 yards. This season he has 50 receptions for 582 yards with three touchdowns for Seattle (3-6). Houshmandzadeh has made the most news by expressing displeasure about how he has been used. (The Bengals are 7-2 and atop the AFC North.)
Meanwhile, by all accounts, Harvin has proven to be a terrific teammate and has contributed in a variety of ways with explosive plays. He has 31 catches for 422 yards and three touchdowns, nine rushing attempts for 46 yards and leads the NFL with an average of 30.7 yards on 29 kickoff returns with two touchdowns.
There also is another element of the Houshmandzadeh story that could easily be forgotten at this point. According to reports, Houshmandzadeh had reservations about joining the Vikings because it was indicated to him that Tarvaris Jackson would be the team's starting quarterback. Of course, that isn't the case and it appears as if Houshmandzadeh gave up the opportunity to play with Brett Favre and be part of a team that is 8-1 right now.
For this, we're guessing the Vikings are very thankful.