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Minnesota Vikings sign Dede Westbrook, examining potential 2021 impact

DeDe Westbrook, Minnesota Vikings
Aug 17, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) looks on during training camp at Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings training camp is approaching and with the team still in need of pass-catching weapons, the team is closing in on a deal with Dede Westbrook.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson first reported the news, sharing that the former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver is planning to sign a one-year contract with Minnesota on Sunday.

Let’s examine the potential impact Westbrook can make in 2021.

Dede Westbrook brings upside, familiarity

Westbrook will reunite with his previous wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, a Jaguars’ legend. In terms of Westbrook’s role, he will compete for the No.3 receiver role behind stars Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.

While the Vikings don’t rely heavily on three-receiver sets in Klint Kubiak’s scheme, having a reliable option never hurts. With Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette being the best in-house options, Westbrook’s addition will at the very least challenge everyone to perform at their best.

While Irv Smith Jr. is expected to fill Kyle Rudolph’s place in the offense, having a reliable third option at wide receiver is beneficial. Kirk Cousins spread the ball around to several receivers in Washington, but he has heavily relied on just a few options in Minnesota. Perhaps having a legitimate third wide receiver like Westbrook can help prevent Cousins from being too focused on his primary targets.

Westbrook was buried on the depth chart in 2020, but shined a year prior. Similar numbers with the Vikings would look great compared to Beebe and Johnson’s production from a year ago.

Name:Targets:Catches:Rec. Yards:TDs
Dede Westbrook (2019)101666603
Chad Beebe stats (2020)30202012
Olabisi Johnson stats19141890
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Impact on special teams

DeDe Westbrook
Aug 17, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) runs with the ball after the catch during training camp at Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Westbrook could also compete for a role as a return specialist, which might be valuable for a team that hasn’t scored a touchdown on a punt or kick return since 2016.

The NFL veteran joins the fray of competitors looking to make the Vikings’ return woes a thing of the past. Westbrook will challenge incoming draftees Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Kene Nwangwu as well as K.J. Osborn for return duties.

Westbrook tore his ACL in Week 7 of last season, which likely contributed to a slow-developing market for his services. With the Vikings bringing him in for a workout, their doctors were able to get a first-hand look at how his recovery process is coming along. Westbrook averaged 14 yards per punt return in 2018, which would have made him one of the NFL’s best returners if he qualified for the number of returns.

Though he’s mainly expected to fill the WR3 role, if he can help the Vikings’ young returners gain punt return yardage, Westbrook will be a big help. Just 27 years old, Westbrook has plenty of tread left on his tires.