Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Can Vikings find No. 1 receiver in free agency?

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Super Bowl, Vikings draft Updated: February 2, 2012 - 3:12 PM

The Giants are living in some kind of dream world right now.

It's a place where one can give up 400 points, be outscored during the regular season and still end up in the Super Bowl with another Tom Coughlin-coached team that's peaking at exactly the right time (BTW, can we officially stop putting this poor man on the hot seat every time the Giants lose a game?)

It's also a world where an undrafted receiver (Victor Cruz) spends his rookie season as an invisible practice squad player before catching 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns as a 25-year-old second-year pro.

Now that's a place the receiver-challenged Vikings would love to visit.

It's doubtful the Vikings have a practice squad receiver destined for a 1,500-yard season in 2012, so it's a good bet they'll look elsewhere.

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon with the No. 3 pick in the draft is one way to go. But with so many needs, it's hard to imagine the Vikings selecting a receiver in the top three.

Free agency is another avenue the team will explore long before the draft. Here are some of the top receivers who may end up as unrestricted free agents on March 13. They're in the last year of their contracts, but could still end up being tagged as their team's franchise players:

Wes Welker, Patriots: Caught a league-high 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. But turns 31 in May.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Had 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns. Big receiver who will be 28 next year.

Marques Colston, Saints: An even bigger receiver who turns 29 in June. Caught 80 passes for 1,143 yards and eight TDs.

Vincent Jackson, Chargers. He's 29 and is even bigger than Colston. Had 60 catches for 1,106 yards (18.4 average) and nine touchdowns.

 Early Doucet, Cardinals. Had 54 catches and five touchdowns.

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys. Will be 27 in May. Had 54 catches, a 15.9-yard average and 11 touchdowns.

Pierre Garcon, Colts. Had 70 catches and six TDs.

Reggie Wayne, Colts. Had 75 catches, a 12.8-yard average and four TDs. Also 33 years old.

DeSean Jackson, Eagles. Obviously, a cream-of-the-crop free agent if he ends up on the market. Incredibly talented and only 25. But let's just say he can be a moody little fella.

Brandon Lloyd, Rams. Caught 70 passes for 966 yards (13.8) and five TDs. He'll be 31 in July.

Stevie Johson, Bills. Turns 26 in July. An interesting prospect who had 76 catches for 1,004 yards (13.2) and seven TDs.

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2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
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