VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Assessing the free-agent wide receivers

Posted by: under Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFL draft, Packers, Leslie Frazier, Vikings fans, Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt Updated: January 9, 2013 - 9:21 AM

Like it or not, the Vikings are committed to Christian Ponder for 2013. They will hopefully bring in a tested veteran to push Ponder, mentor the young quarterback, and provide insurance, but I highly doubt Joe Flacco, Michael Vick, or Alex Smith will be calling Winter Park home.

Instead, Rick Spielman will likely place their No. 1 priority on shoring up and improving the offensive talent around Ponder, and that starts with assessing and upgrading the wide receiver situation. The "assessing" part of the equation is key, as the first step in the Vikings' offseason plan will be to figure out what to do with the enigmatic Percy Harvin. Let him play out the final year of his deal and hope he plays nice? Trade him? Offer a long-term deal?

Harvin's situation requires its own blog post, but his status will obviously impact how the Vikings build the rest of the wide receiver group. Let's assume, as Leslie Frazier asserted earlier this week, that Harvin will be back in 2013. I'd then like to see the Vikings pay Phil Loadholt, pay Jerome Felton, and open up the purse strings for a talented wideout who is ready to step into the starting lineup opposite. Who will be available and a good fit?

(Note: I'm only including known free agents at this point. I'm not going to predict any potential cap casualties such as, for instance, Anquan Boldin.)

A-Level Talent
There will be five top-tier talents available, but I'm going to cross three off the list right away:

Wes Welker, Patriots: The prolific pass-catcher turns 32 this May, duplicates too much of what the Vikings already possess in Harvin and Jarius Wright, and needs to be in a high-volume passing attack. Pass.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: He has grumbled about not getting the ball this season and about the Steelers not throwing deep often enough. I love the explosiveness, but I can't imagine he would entertain joining an offense that lacks a vertical passing attack and requires him to share with Harvin and Adrian Peterson.

Victor Cruz, Giants (RFA): Keep dreaming.

That brings us to…

Greg Jennings, Packers: Vikings fans know his talents all too well, and we seem to get a kick out of signing former rivals. Jennings turns 30 this coming September, and he has broken down in recent seasons, missing eight games in 2012 and three contests in 2011. I have little doubt that he'd look good in Purple, but the price tag could be troublesome. Vincent Jackson, who is turns 30 this month, signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Buccaneers last March. Jennings boasts a better statistical resume but also brings his injury history, so five years and $55 million could be in the ballpark for what he ultimately receives. Would you pay it? It feels steep and risky to me right now, but ask me again in two months.

Dwyane Bowe, Chiefs: The Andy Reid hiring may mean the Chiefs will be more serious about bringing Bowe back, but if he hits the market and if the Vikings are willing to spend big, he would be my top target. Bowe, who is a year younger than Jennings, carries some baggage, but he is also the big-bodied, No. 1-type receiver who makes sense opposite Harvin. And it doesn't hurt that he is accustomed to catching passes from terrible less-than-perfect quarterbacks. We need play-making wideouts who can consistently win 50-50 battles (and instill confidence in Ponder to throw those type of passes) and Bowe will be the best option on the open market.

Second Tier
Brian Hartline, Dolphins: The market for Hartline will be very interesting to watch. If the Dolphins don't re-sign him early, Hartline could linger on the market and either (1) get a ridiculous desperation offer from a team that misses out on Wallace, Jennings or Bowe or (2) end up with a low-end bargain deal. He underwhelmed for three years before exploding for 1,083 yards this season. Nearly one quarter of that total came in one game (253 yards, Week 4), and he managed only one touchdown all season. I don't want the Vikings to be the ones who gamble on his breakout year being for real.

Danny Amendola, Rams: A slot receiver who was only healthy enough to play 12 games over the past two seasons? Where do I sign up?!? Amendola isn't a good fit for the Vikings right now, but I'm already anticipating someone like the Patriots, Broncos or Saints turning a cheap two-year contract into 200 catches over the next two seasons.

Danario Alexander, Chargers (RFA): The Chargers aren't letting him leave.

Other Guys
Donnie Avery, Colts: I'd take him at the same deal the Colts paid him this season (one-year, $615,000), but he is likely to receive a couple million to be some team's No. 3 wideout. I'd be okay with Avery if the price is decent, but I don't think he's an upgrade over...

Jerome Simpson, Vikings: Yep, we're already to that point in the free agent rankings.

Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys: He starred in the Cowboys' season opener (114 yards, two scores) before fading into the background and losing reps to Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. He's worth a look on a cheap one-year deal to replace Devin Aromashodu.

Domenik Hixon, Giants: He's not sexy, but Hixon is one of the mid/lower-level receivers I'd like the Vikings to take a look at. He can be a veteran leader, runs good routes, has shown sticky hands, chips in on special teams, and should be fairly cheap.

Brandon Gibson, Rams: The 25-year-old wideout started 34 games for the Rams over the last three years, but I'll forgive you if you didn't notice. He set career-highs with 51 catches, 691 yards, and five touchdowns this season and received positive marks from both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. He is another mid/lower-tier guy that I like as long as the price tag is reasonable.

And with that, we've quickly dwindled down to names like Randy Moss, Ramses Barden, Braylon Edwards, Jabar Gaffney, Devery Henderson, and Mohamed Massaquoi - receivers who rabid fans don't dream about in January when trying to dig for difference-making talents. At this point, we're better off turning our attention to the early rounds of the NFL draft, which will be a hot topic for the coming months.

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Team Irvin 7:15 PM
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Chicago 55
Oklahoma City 2:30 PM
Cleveland
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New Orleans
Indiana 5:00 PM
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LA Clippers 5:00 PM
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Milwaukee 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Boston 7:00 PM
Golden State
Washington 7:00 PM
Denver
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
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South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 45 2nd Half 9:53
Georgia Tech 35
Virginia 36 2nd Half 10:24
Virginia Tech 43
Indiana 32 2nd Half
Ohio State 38
Stony Brook 16 1st Half 8:11
Binghamton 15
Cincinnati 12 1st Half 9:52
UCF 18
Maine 19 1st Half 6:20
Hartford 16
Monmouth 26 1st Half 4:13
Manhattan 29
Fairfield 21 1st Half 5:47
Marist 21
Rowan 18 1st Half 2:31
Princeton 41
St Bonaventure 10 1st Half 7:37
Rhode Island 13
Duke 23 1st Half 11:05
St Johns 17
Saint Peters 26 1st Half 3:46
Siena 21
Drake 10 1st Half 7:48
Wichita State 20
Vermont 21 1st Half 5:57
UMass Lowell 15
Seton Hall 2:00 PM
Butler
NJIT 2:05 PM
South Alabama
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Illinois State
Louisville 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh
UMBC 3:30 PM
Albany
Niagara 3:30 PM
Iona
Notre Dame 5:30 PM
NC State
Belmont 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Creighton 6:00 PM
Villanova
Northwestern 6:30 PM
Maryland
Washington 7:30 PM
Utah
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 51 2nd Half 5:51
UMBC 38
Vanderbilt 45 2nd Half 7:18
Alabama 43
Lafayette 35 2nd Half 11:21
Lehigh 41
UCF 16 1st Half 9:08
SMU 12
Utah 17 1st Half 5:20
Washington 24
James Madison 28 1st Half 5:49
Coll of Charleston 18
Delaware 18 1st Half 3:40
Drexel 26
Hofstra 18 1st Half 7:26
William & Mary 22
Hartford 16 1st Half 8:13
Albany 24
Binghamton 16 1st Half 6:54
Stony Brook 22
Towson 27 1st Half 7:14
UNC-Wilmington 16
Wake Forest 26 1st Half 8:33
(17) Florida State 34
Georgia Tech 20 1st Half 4:40
Virginia 24
(22) Georgia 22 1st Half 5:55
(5) Tennessee 14
Drake 23 1st Half 6:03
Evansville 21
Iona 30 1st Half 5:45
Canisius 22
Fairfield 10 1st Half 7:21
Monmouth 17
Northwestern 21 1st Half 7:31
Penn State 26
Wisconsin 26 1st Half 3:59
Michigan State 27
Ohio State 20 1st Half 5:20
Purdue 20
Northern Iowa 19 1st Half 7:56
Indiana State 14
Butler 2 1st Half 18:13
Xavier 2
Creighton 2:00 PM
Marquette
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DePaul
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Elon
(2) Connecticut 2:00 PM
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South Florida
(14) Kentucky 3:00 PM
Missouri
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(13) Arizona State
Vermont 3:30 PM
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Iowa State 3:30 PM
(8) Texas
Southern Ill 3:45 PM
Wichita State
(15) Duke 4:00 PM
(12) North Carolina
Miami-Florida 4:00 PM
(4) Louisville
(21) Minnesota 4:15 PM
(25) Rutgers
California 5:00 PM
UCLA
(11) Stanford 7:00 PM
USC
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