The Vikings auditioned wide receiver Dede Westbrook earlier this week, and the club was prepared to sign him following his showcase. Per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter), Minnesota extended an offer to Westbrook, but the 28-year-old wideout did not immediately accept it, as he wanted to consider his other options.
As such, the Vikings pivoted to Albert Wilson, who worked out for the club alongside Westbrook and who signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for $1.12MM (the veteran minimum). Wilson now slots in behind Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn on Minnesota’s WR depth chart, and he will attempt to rejuvenate a career that has stalled since he signed a notable free agent contract with the Dolphins during the 2018 offseason.
At the time of Westbrook’s workout with the Vikings, it was reported that he did indeed have interest from other teams, though it is unclear who those teams are. It is understandable that he did not pounce at the opportunity to fight for snaps as Minnesota’s WR4 with recent Day 3 selections like Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Jalen Nailor, but at this point, he may have to settle for a similar opportunity elsewhere and hope that a strong training camp/preseason showing earns him a larger role.
A fourth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2017, Westbrook earned a significant target share across the 2018-19 seasons. He was targeted 101 times and caught 66 passes in both of those campaigns, and while his yards-per-reception rate of 10.4 over that time was nothing special, he appeared to be emerging as something of a reliable pass-catcher who could perhaps become more than that in a more productive offense. He was also a dynamic punt returner in 2018, taking back 19 punts for 266 yards (14.0 yards per return) and a score.
In 2020, the final year of his rookie contract, he slipped down the Jacksonville depth chart and appeared in just two games. That season was also cut short by a Week 7 ACL tear, and he settled for a modest one-year contract with the Vikings last July. He did generate a fair amount of open market interest during the second and third waves of free agency last offseason, but in his first year in Minnesota, he caught just 10 passes for 68 yards. As the Vikes’ primary punt returner, his 8.3 yards-per-return rate was solid enough, but obviously a far cry from his best work with the Jags.
Despite his recent underwhelming history, he is young enough and has enough of a track record to land a new gig. It sounds as if that will be happening at some point within the next few weeks.