Are the Vikings Talking to DeSean Jackson?


Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) returns a punt against the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 48-30. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The DeSean Jackson story has taken several turns over the past few days. Monday morning there was yet another twist in this tale, as Ed Werder reported that two teams “not yet identified publicly as having interest in Jackson” are in deep negotiations with the former Eagles wide receiver.

Jackson, who was cut late last week in the immediate wake of reports about alleged gang affiliations, has been connected to multiple teams. That list is led by the Redskins, who will reportedly visit Jackson on Monday.

The Patriots, Raiders, Chiefs, Jets, Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers, Bills and Buccaneers have also been mentioned in connection with Jackson.

One team not yet mentioned at all as having interest in Jackson would be the Minnesota Vikings. Could the Vikings be one of the two mystery teams in “deep negotiation” with Jackson?

It seems unlikely, at least on the surface, that the Vikings would be pursuing Jackson. The receiver’s asking price will likely be fairly high, and though the Vikings have the cap room to offer him a decent first year deal with the possibility of more money coming down the road, would they really risk that kind of financial commitment to a player with Jackson’s character red flags?

But what about those character red flags? How legit are the reports of Jackson’s alleged gang ties?

The fact on Jackson is that, though he is perceived as a hot-head and possibly even a headache, his legal record is clean. Nothing Jackson has done off the field has risen to the level of a true red flag, unless you’re overly sensitive to a guy flashing supposed “gang signs” in pictures.

To me, the recent bad reports on Jackson smack of the same kind of shenanigans that were pulled ahead of the Vikings’ decision to trade Percy Harvin. Leak bad reports to the press as part of a smear campaign against the player, to help sell the move with the fanbase.

It’s likely that Chip Kelly’s dictatorial delusions, plus concerns about Jackson’s high cap number, had more to do with the release than any fears about Jackson’s outside activities.

So once you wipe aside the possibly overblown character concerns, you’re left with pure player evaluation. On that count, there can be little doubt of Jackson’s value. He is a unique and dangerous offensive weapon, whether you use him in space or down the field.

The downfield aspect of Jackson’s game is what might make him intriguing to the Vikings. Cordarrelle Patterson showed last year that he can be an X-factor player, but he has yet to prove himself as a true downfield threat.

Greg Jennings can certainly hit the deep strike occasionally, but he is not a genuine big play threat on a consistent basis. Jerome Simpson has some value as a downfield player but he is limited, and there is a possibility that he will have to serve a suspension in 2014 after his DUI bust.

The Vikings may not have an immediate need at wide receiver, but you throw that out when looking at a player of Jackson’s caliber.

And if you’re still concerned about Jackson’s potential to be disruptive and a bad locker room influence? Remember that the Vikings do have some fairly solid veteran leadership on the offensive side, with Matt Cassel at QB, Adrian Peterson at RB and Greg Jennings at WR.

You also have very experienced, established people on the coaching staff, including Mike Zimmer who has a reputation for taking “difficult” players under his wing and making it work.

When you take everything into consideration, maybe it doesn’t seem such a wild notion that the Vikings would pursue Jackson. It all comes down to the money question.

Are the Vikings willing to spend to bring in Jackson? Would Jackson be willing to work for less money on a one year prove-it deal, or a long-term contract that limits the Vikings’ cap hit in the first year? Is this a gamble worth taking?

We’ll see what transpires.

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