DETROIT – The Vikings signaled a change of the guard at receiver during Sunday’s 27-9 win in Detroit. Former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell was a healthy scratch for the first time since his 2016 rookie season as Vikings coach Mike Zimmer chose to activate undrafted rookie Chad Beebe instead.
“It was strictly matchups,” Zimmer said. “Beebe had a good game against them the first time we played them, so we thought we’d get some matchups situations there.”
Beebe, who had three catches for 21 yards against the Lions on Nov. 4, was not targeted Sunday by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Treadwell declined an interview request after the game, citing the team.
“Brass said I have to wait until Monday,” Treadwell said.
What’s clear is Treadwell, the third-year wide receiver, is becoming even less involved under interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
Treadwell did not catch a pass for the first time this season during Stefanski’s debut last week against the Dolphins. But Treadwell still played 22 snaps before he took a seat this week against the Lions.
If his season is done, Treadwell finishes with 34 catches for 295 yards and a touchdown — all career highs. He had played nearly 57 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps before Sunday.
In a bigger picture, Treadwell’s time in Minnesota could be coming to an end.
Drafted 23rd overall, Treadwell has the 2019 season left on his rookie contract. But the Vikings can cut him this spring to free up just north of $650,000 in salary cap room. Moving on would still leave more than $2.5 million against next year’s cap because of Treadwell’s partly guaranteed salary and prorated signing bonus charge.
It’s a decision the Vikings could make if they value the cap room and roster spot over Treadwell.
Beebe returned from a four-game absence because of a hamstring injury suffered in practice. He saw some work as a punt returner Sunday for the injured Marcus Sherels, who exited the game due to a foot injury.
Otherwise, Beebe did not touch the ball.
“You want to be out there,” Beebe said. “Sitting out as a rookie isn’t always the best situation, either. I just tried to get back as soon as possible.”
Between Beebe, receiver Adam Thielen and rookie Brandon Zylstra, three of the Vikings’ five receivers on Sunday were undrafted. Zylstra got the first crack at punt returner for Sherels, fielding one return for 8 yards.
Zylstra was rocked by Lions safety Tracy Walker on his first attempt, leading to a fumble and catch interference penalty on Walker.
It set up the offense at its own 30-yard line for what would be the Hail Mary drive before halftime.
“I was really just trying to make a play. I thought even if we front-side blocked him for a second, I had room to make a play,” Zylstra said. “I’m just trying to contribute any way I can to this team.”