After working out former Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook on Saturday, the Vikings added him to their group of pass-catchers for the 2021 season Sunday.
The team signed Westbrook to a one-year deal, according to a league source, bringing him in as a veteran complement to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson as they try to identify their No. 3 receiver. The 27-year-old Westbrook, who caught 66 passes in both 2018 and 2019 before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament last October, will play a fifth season for new Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell, who has coached him for his entire NFL career thus far.
It was Westbrook's connection with McCardell that ultimately made the Vikings a logical landing spot. He was reportedly set to visit the Seahawks on Sunday.
Even as they head into the season with one of the NFL's most dynamic receiving tandems in Jefferson and Thielen, the Vikings seemed to lack for depth behind the duo. They added Iowa receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the fifth round of the draft and still have Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson, but they sought the 6-foot, 178-pound Westbrook as a more established target for Kirk Cousins.
Though Thielen and Jefferson spend plenty of time in the slot, Westbrook spent most of his time there in Jacksonville. If he is fully recovered from his knee surgery, the 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner at Oklahoma projects as a logical slot option in three-receiver sets if Jefferson is split wide and Thielen lines up at flanker. Westbrook's average depth of target was 8.0 yards in 2018 and 6.3 yards in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference. He could assert himself as a reliable option for Cousins on third downs.
He could also help the Vikings solve their punt returner problem. Draft picks Smith-Marsette and Kene Nwangwu returned kicks in college, but the Vikings averaged just 4.3 yards on the 16 punts they returned last year. Westbrook averaged 14 yards per return in 2018, including a 74-yard touchdown against Washington that season.