Vikings might be solving their punt return problem with free-agent WR

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Dede Westbrook
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Dede Westbrook /
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Free-agent wide receiver Dede Westbrook will reportedly work out for the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday to see if he can earn a spot on the team’s roster.

Gaining any positive yards from a punt return basically wasn’t an option for the Minnesota Vikings last season. Minnesota averaged 4.3 yards per punt return in 2020 and that mark was the absolute worst in the NFL.

The Vikings didn’t do much to improve this aspect of their team this offseason, but a solution could be coming shortly in the form of free-agent wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

Westbrook, who has 47 career punt returns since he entered the league in 2017, will reportedly work out with Minnesota on Saturday according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, and if everything goes well, he will sign a contract with the Vikings.

What could Dede Westbrook add to the Minnesota Vikings?

After they selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Westbrook spent the last four years as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With over 60 catches, 600 yards, and three touchdowns in his second and third seasons with the Jaguars, the young receiver was developing into a solid offensive weapon for the Jaguars. But in 2020, he was only able to appear in two games for Jacksonville after he tore his ACL early in the season.

During his four years with the Jaguars, Westbrook averaged 9.8 yards per punt return and he even took a punt to the house for six.

Just adding him to be the team’s new punt returner would be a huge help for Minnesota in 2021. If he is able to use his 4.3 speed to make a few plays on offense next season as well, then the Vikings aren’t going to be disappointed about that either.

Joining Minnesota’s roster would reunite Westbrook with current Vikings wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell, who held the same position on Jacksonville’s staff from 2017 to 2020. His familiarity with McCardell would likely help make his adjustment to Minnesota’s offensive philosophy a little easier.

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Fingers crossed that things go well for Westbrook during his workout on Saturday and he’s able to agree to a deal with the Vikings. Minnesota can’t really afford to have another season with a terrible punt return unit and Chad Beebe or Bisi Johnson being the team’s third wide receiver.