Any Vikings free agency master plan that includes signing Dwayne Bowe will probably have to be shredded. That’s because the Kansas City Chiefs are reportedly planning to franchise tag Bowe, keeping him off the market. Before resorting to tagging Bowe, the Chiefs will try to sign him to a long-term contract. In either case Bowe will not be available.
The list of free agent wide receivers, once considered deep, could start to get shallow in a hurry. If the franchise tag report turns out to be accurate, you can cross Bowe off the list. And if the Chargers franchise tag Vincent Jackson, which remains at least a possibility, you can also remove him from contention. That would eliminate the two most attractive free agents. You can also forget about Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson who are both set to be tagged themselves if their teams don’t sign them long-term (neither would be right for the Vikings even if they were on the market). Marques Colston and Brandon Lloyd are out there too but their current teams are expected to retain them.
The ramifications here are obvious for the Vikings. The receiver pool is getting shallow, meaning guys of lesser stature are going to rise in value. Instead of teams bidding up the price on big names like Jackson and Bowe, they’ll be bidding up people like Reggie Wayne, Steve Johnson and Mario Manningham. I know the Vikings badly need a receiver, but is it really worth spending big money for a second-tier free agent just to fill that need? You can justify overspending for a Vincent Jackson or a Dwayne Bowe because those guys are proven difference-makers, but a Robert Meachem?
I’m not saying the Vikings should bow out on finding a free agent receiver entirely. I am saying they should not overpay for a second-level guy just to fill a need. That’s how we ended up with Bernard Berrian, remember? Hopefully there are enough quality guys still left in the pool for the Vikes to score a reasonably priced #1-type. Otherwise I don’t know what to do. Suddenly Justin Blackmon doesn’t look like such a terrible option.