This is kind of a secret.
Are you ready?
Here it is: The Minnesota Vikings have a wide receiver problem.
There. It has been said. Pandora’s box has been opened.
Now, it’s on the Vikings to do something about it.
Percy Harvin is a phenomenal talent. He’s one of the game’s most electric wide receivers.
Assuming he’s back, Minnesota at least has a legitimate threat at the position, which is something that couldn’t be said in Harvin’s absence over the final seven games and in the postseason.
Harvin cannot do it alone next season. He needs legitimate help (Jarius Wright doesn’t count, yet).
If Minnesota is serious about evolving its offense, developing Christian Ponder and easing the burden on Adrian Peterson, then it will do everything in its power to acquire the services of a stellar wide receiver to place next to Harvin.
There are a few to pick from this offseason.
Greg Jennings is expected to part ways with the Green Bay Packers. Heck, he’s already placed his home on the market in De Pere, Wis. His bags are as good as packed. He was named to the 2010 and 2011 Pro Bowl and has been part of stellar offenses in Green Bay.
Mike Wallace held out of much of training camp over a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to accepting the one-year tender (he could become victim of the franchise tag this offseason). He was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl, is a legitimate deep threat and just 26 years old. In four seasons he has averaged about 1,010 yards receiving with eight touchdown receptions.
Victor Cruz finished in the top 15 for receptions (86), receiving yards (1,092) and was top 10 in touchdown receptions (10) this season. He’s only 26 years old and has plenty of strong years ahead of him.
But Minnesota shouldn’t be targeting any of those three in free agency.
Cruz and Jennings excel in the slot, where Harvin is at his best. No need to get excess in that spot.
Jennings is an injury concern whose play was very inconsistent when healthy this season. He hasn’t ever played with an average quarterback—some guys named Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have always been his quarterback.
Wallace appears to be a bit of a head case, which Minnesota may already have in Harvin. Don’t need two of those, if it can be avoided.
The receiver and free agent Minnesota should target is Dwayne Bowe.
He’s not the sexiest player on the market, but he fits what Minnesota needs better than other receivers.
The Vikings already have a shorter, quicker receiver who likes to work the middle of the field in Harvin. He's the No. 1 guy.
What they need is a deep-threat receiver who’s comfortable working from the split end position. It also wouldn’t hurt if that player could be a red-zone threat, too.
Bowe can do all of that.
He won’t burn many defenders (he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the 2007 NFL combine), but he makes plays beyond the first down markers (something Minnesota lacks).
At 6’2” and 221 pounds he’s bigger than any of the previously mentioned receivers. He’s a jump-ball receiver in the red zone—a skill set Minnesota desperately needs.
The former LSU Tiger also has experience thriving with average quarterback play.
Wallace had Ben Roethlisberger as his gunslinger, Cruz had Eli Manning and Jennings had two future Hall of Fame players. All those quarterbacks possess Super Bowl rings.
Bowe posted 1,000 yard seasons with Tyler Thigpen (2008) and a trio of Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton (2011). The 2010 campaign was Bowe’s third 1,000-yard season in his six-year career, but Cassel was named to the Pro Bowl that season.
My point is this: Minnesota has an average quarterback. Ponder could develop into a stellar player, but he is nothing more than average at this stage in his career.
No player on this list has had success similar to Bowe's with the level of quarterback play Minnesota will likely have in 2013.
Bowe is likely the most affordable player in this group, too.
He's not coming off the best season of his career, with a career-low three touchdown receptions. His 59 receptions and 801 receiving yards were both the second lowest totals of his career. He also missed the final three games with broken ribs (he's only missed eight games in six seasons).
The talent is still there. Things were so chaotic in Kansas City this past season, especially at the quarterback spot, that it would have been tough for any wide receiver to thrive there.
Bowe will turn 29 in September and still has at least three highly productive seasons in him.
Minnesota’s a team that demonstrated it could win now while planning for the future. Signing Bowe fits in with that mentality.