Vikings sign Albert Wilson after Ihmir Smith-Marsette lost for spring drills with leg injury
The Vikings on Wednesday announced the signing of Wilson, who agreed to terms on Tuesday, and they waived running back A.J. Rose Jr. to create room on the roster.
With the Vikings getting low on receivers, they turned to veteran Albert Wilson.
The Vikings on Wednesday announced the signing of Wilson, who agreed to terms on Tuesday, and they waived running back A.J. Rose Jr. to create room on the roster. Head coach Kevin O’Connell then revealed that second-year receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette is done for the rest of offseason drills after suffering a lower leg injury in a recent workout.
“His spring is pretty much over just based upon the timing of things,’’ O’Connell said after a practice during the final week of organized team activities. “But we expect him to make a full recovery and be ready to roll for training camp. It’s really just a precautionary thing, making sure we handled it now so he can get off to a good start, have a good four, five weeks in the summer to prep for training camp and be ready to roll.”
The Vikings conclude spring drills with a mandatory minicamp next Tuesday through Thursday. Training camp will get underway in late July.
Smith-Marsette isn’t the only banged up Minnesota receiver. K.J. Osborn has sat out several recent workouts due to an undisclosed injury. But O’Connell said it’s just “a little something” and “nothing serious” and that he might be back for the minicamp.
Due to the injuries, the Vikings brought in Wilson and Dede Westbrook, who played with the team last year, for a workout on Tuesday. A source told the Pioneer Press that the Vikings offered Westbrook a contract but he declined because he wanted to look at other options. They then turned to Wilson, an eight-year veteran who signed a one-year minimum contract for $1.12 million with no money guaranteed.
“It was real quick,’’ Wilson said of coming to Minnesota and taking part Wednesday in his first practice. “Just two days ago I was back home training and now I’m here. I’m very excited for the opportunity and to be up here and get to work.”
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Wilson, who turns 30 on July 12, has 218 catches for 2,499 yards with Kansas City and Miami. He opted out of the 2020 season with the Dolphins due to the coronavirus pandemic and then had 25 receptions for 213 yards for them last year.
“It took awhile to get back into the rhythm of things, but by the end of the season I was rolling,’’ Wilson said.
Wilson signed with the Chiefs after being undrafted in 2014 out of Georgia State. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 42-yard screen pass from Alex Smith in a 16-10 loss at Minnesota in October 2015.
“It was exciting,’’ he said. “My first one. I’m always going to remember it.”
O’Connell called Wilson “a veteran player with a skill set we like.” He wants to look at Wilson as a punt returner even though he has not had a single return in an NFL regular-season game. He did average 8.3 yards per return at Georgia State in 2013.
Westbrook perhaps was more appealing to the Vikings due to his ability to return punts. Westbrook last season was Minnesota’s primary returner, bringing back 22 for an 8.3-yard average. He also caught 10 passes for 68 yards.
The Vikings brought Westbrook in for a workout because the new coaching staff, with O’Connell having replaced the fired Mike Zimmer, wanted to get a look at him. Westbrook had 66 catches for Jacksonville in both 2018 and 2019 before suffering a torn ACL and being limited to two Jaguars games in 2020.
With Westbrook likely to sign elsewhere, it remains to be seen who the Vikings will have return punts in 2022. Osborn was the only other player to have any punt returns last season, bringing back four for a 5.8-yard average, but it’s uncertain if they would want him to be the primary returner in addition to being the No. 3 receiver. The Vikings also have been grooming Smith-Marsette as a possibility for the role.
“As far as punt return goes, that’s such an important role,’’ O’Connell said. “Obviously, K.J, Ihmir, those guys have the skill set to do it, I think Albert does as well. I think some of our guys on defense do as well.”
While the Vikings have had some depth issues in the spring at receiver, that hasn’t been the case at running back. Rose was deemed expendable after spending most of last season on Minnesota’s practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of Kentucky. He had a 100-yard rushing game in the preseason but didn’t get into a regular-season game.
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