Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bernard Berrian Experiment Comes to an End

Flashback to March 2008. Randy Moss and Bernard Berrian were considered the top two wide receivers available in free agency. Moss was going to be 31 years old, but coming off a season in which he caught 23 touchdowns, breaking Jerry Rice's record.* Moss' season totals (98 receptions, 1,498 yards, 23 TDs) were fantastic, and he looked capable of being at the top of his game for at least another two seasons, if not more. Of course, there were the whispers that Moss would be a problem in other places, wouldn't work hard if the team wasn't good, and for those reasons the Patriots were always assumed to be the favorites to re-sign Moss. They did, for 3 years and $27MM on March 3.

*Rice had 22 touchdowns in 12 games during the strike shortened 1987 season. That's insane.

Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the Vikings chose to target Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss. Berrian was 27 at the time, three years younger than Moss, which meant a long-term commitment made more sense strictly from an age perspective. In 2007, Berrian caught 71 passes for 951 yards and 5 touchdowns. Solid numbers, certainly, but in his first three seasons combined Berrian had caught just 79 passes total. The Vikings rewarded Berrian's great 2007 season by giving him a six-year $42MM contract on March 1. Yes, they chose to pay $7MM a year for a receiver that didn't eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in any of his first four seasons WITH RANDY MOSS STILL A FREE AGENT. Sure, the Bears quarterbacks were pretty bad, but great receivers tend to get 1,000 yards regardless of who's throwing them the football.

Berrian ultimately made $23MM over his first three seasons in Minnesota, and while he did have a career high 964 yards receiving in 2008, he produced basically nothing over the last three seasons. After renegotiating his contract this year down to just $1.9MM, that means the Vikings paid Berrian $24.9MM for slightly over three seasons. Making matters worse, Berrian's struggles early last season led the Vikings to trade a third-round pick (which became Ryan Mallett) to New England for none other than... Randy Moss. The Vikings paid Moss about $2MM for 3 weeks of play before waiving him.

The Patriots paid Moss about $20MM for just over 2 years of production from him. The Vikings paid Moss and Berrian a combined $27MM for about 3.5 years of production. The Patriots paid just under $10MM a year, but in 36 games Moss produced 161 catches, 2,413 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Vikings paid a little over $7.5MM a year, but got a combined 151 catches, 2,079 yards and 13 touchdowns in 55 games.

Strictly from a cost-effective standpoint, it gets worse. The Patriots got 4.5 catches, 67 yards and 1.33 touchdowns per game, while paying $1.8MM for that production. The Vikings got 2.7 catches, 37.8 yards and 0.2 touchdowns per game while paying about $500K per game for that. Of course, the Vikings also gave up a third round pick. That could have become a cheap, key core player for the future if drafted correctly, even if the team wouldn't have used the pick to select Ryan Mallett like the Patriots did.

That means by signing Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss in 2008 not only did they choose the less effective player, they also sacrificed a future draft pick to try to make up for the mistake, only to waive him four games later. Poor decision making can prove costly, and it's a shame that the Vikings didn't choose the more productive player in 2008. They would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, especially themselves.



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