MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have an obvious priority for the off-season: add wide receivers.
The Vikings created another opening at their thinnest position on Tuesday by releasing veteran Michael Jenkins, clearing $3.25 million of space under the salary cap.
Jenkins played two seasons of the three-year contract he signed with the Vikings after the lockout ended in 2011. He was due a roster bonus of $2.425 million on March 16 and a base salary of $825,000 for 2013, so the move was hardly surprising.
Jenkins was third on the team with 40 receptions, 449 yards and two touchdowns last season, plus a 50-yard catch for a score in the playoff game at Green Bay. He had 38 receptions for 466 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games the year before, missing the last five weeks because of torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee.
With sure hands and a strong grasp of the offence, having played the system under co-ordinator Bill Musgrave when the two were with Atlanta, Jenkins had some value for the Vikings. But he will turn 30 in June, and even before the knee injury he wasn't fast enough to be the reliable field-stretching receiver the Vikings have lacked for a long time on the outside. They restructured his deal last summer to keep him on the roster for 2012, reducing his salary from $2.5 million to $1 million, but in doing so bumped way up the bonus they would've had to pay him later this month.
Drafted in the first round by the Falcons out of Ohio State in 2004, Jenkins has 4,427 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career.
By terminating his contract, the Vikings will have only three wide receivers under contract with NFL experience: Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton. Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu will become unrestricted free agents next week.
Harvin's status is unclear, entering the final year of his rookie deal. But even if he's healthy, happy and part of the future plans, the Vikings have a lot of work to do to give quarterback Christian Ponder more help. Wright showed some promise when Harvin was hurt, but his size constrains him to playing inside in the slot. Greg Childs, drafted in the fourth round last spring out of Arkansas like Wright, tore both of his patellar tendons in training camp and missed the entire season.
Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace are the best wide receivers who'll be available in free agency, but they'll be expensive, and general manager Rick Spielman indicated a disinterest last month in paying a premium on the open market. This year's crop of rookies is considered deep at wide receiver, with Keenan Allen of California and Robert Woods from USC two well-regarded prospects who could be available for the Vikings with one of their top draft picks.
"I'm not a real big believer in spending in free agency," Spielman said. "We're always going to try to build through the draft and continue to do that. Because I think that way you maintain a roster that can be competitive year in and year out. Not only on the field but also from a financial standpoint of staying within the cap and looking at the overall cash."