Thursday, February 14, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Bernard Berrian

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. Now it's time to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian.]

As we all know, Brad Childress isn't a big fan of taking a wide receiver in the first round. I have no problems with that, especially after considering how the difference in performance between Sidney Rice and Troy Williamson. That means, however, that if the Vikings want to get an impact wide receiver to pair with Bobby Wade and Rice next year, they're going to have to sign them in free agency. Luckily for the Vikings, there are quite a few talented receivers who are unrestricted free agents this year (and that's not even counting Randy Moss, who is sadly just a pipe dream).

After Moss, the next best receiver on the market seems to be Bernard Berrian, formerly of the Chicago Bears. Berrian was drafted out of Fresno State in 2004 and is entering his fifth year in the NFL. And he’s made an impact for da Bears, despite having to catch passes from the likes of Rex Grossman, Brian Griese and Kyle Orton (a big plus in my book, considering he’d likely be catching passes from Tarvaris Jackson if he signed with the Purple).

And there’s a reason for all of the excitement surrounding Berrian. He’s increased his receptions and yards every year, and, while his touchdowns fell last year (from 6 to 5), that probably had as much to do with da Bears’ offense becoming worse. He’s 6’1 and is a good leaper—with an accurate quarterback (which he might not have in Purple), he’d be perfect for the fade pass, giving the Vikings another big receiver to throw to in the Red Zone. His hands are pretty good as well, as he caught 55% of the passes thrown his way, despite having inaccurate quarterbacks, and aside from his rookie year, he’s never caught fewer than 50% of the passes thrown to him.

He’d also provide the Vikings with an experienced deep threat that could take the pressure off of Sidney Rice. He has 11 catches for over 20 yards in each of the past two years, and has averaged a little under 4 catches over 40 yards per year in his career. He’s also had at least one reception over 50 yards in each of the last three years, and had two catches for 49 yards in his rookie year.

Berrian is fast, tall and experienced. He fell only 52 yards short of 1000 yards receiving last year, despite catching passes from Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. He has good hands. So what’s the problem? Well…

The first problem is that he wants to remain with da Bears, and da Bears want to resign him. That doesn’t guarantee anything, however, mainly because of the second problem, which is that Berrian is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. That’s right—the guy who represented Terrell Owens is the agent for the top free agent wide receiver on the market. That’s a good sign, in that it means that Berrian could end up anywhere. It’s also a bad sign, because it means that he’s chosen a guy like Rosenhaus, who’s perfectly willing to make things insanely difficult if it means getting his client what he wants. That probably bodes well for the Purple, as it makes it less likely that da Bears will slap the Franchise Tag on Berrian, an option that they still have, as Rosenhaus (and Berrian) will fight it.

Is Berrian the Vikings best receiver the Purple could add this year? Yes. Are they going to be able to sign him? Probably not. He’s much more likely to stay in Chicago than go anywhere else, especially because da Bears can franchise him. Is he worth dreaming about? Of course—it’s the off season. Might as well think happy thoughts..

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