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Vikings reach agreement with free agent receiver Berrian

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Free-agent receiver Bernard Berrian left the Chicago Bears for the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, agreeing to a six-year, $42 million contract that includes $16 million in guaranteed money.

Berrian arrived in the Twin Cities on Friday night for dinner with coach Brad Childress and other members of the organization before spending the day at Winter Park while agent Drew Rosenhaus hashed out a deal with the Vikings. Oakland was interested and so was Chicago, but Minnesota made sure Berrian didn't leave.

"The Bears are a tremendous organization, but the Vikings did a tremendous job of promoting their organization and what Bernard's role would be," Rosenhaus said in a brief phone interview.

Berrian had a career-high 71 catches for 951 yards and five touchdowns in his fourth season in the NFL, but he wanted to solidify himself as a true go-to receiver. The Vikings can sure guarantee him that, whether or not he'll perform at the elite level he's now being paid at.

They led the league in rushing last year, with NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson bursting out of the backfield, but the passing game has been broken for the past three seasons. Part of that problem has been a fluctuation at quarterback, where Tarvaris Jackson became the starter in an erratic second year in the league.

Minnesota, though, has not had a 700-yard receiver since 2004.

"If you get both those parts added in there, it's hard to stop. Which one are you going to choose? Pick your poison is basically what's going on," Berrian said.

Though Bobby Wade, Berrian's former teammate in Chicago, had a decent season and rookie Sidney Rice showed flashes of ability, Vikings receivers were best remembered in 2007 for running downfield with Peterson and preventing the secondary from touching him on some of those memorable long touchdowns.

"I'm not the greatest blocker. I'm not going to lie, but that's what practice is for," Berrian said. "I'm going to go out there, and I'm going to work at it. I'm definitely willing to throw my body out there. I'm definitely going to go out there and give my full effort. I'm not going to give a lackluster effort."

Jackson got better down the stretch, but he was prone to costly turnovers. Though the team plans to add another veteran backup to give Jackson more competition, the position is still Jackson's job to lose. That's at least more stability than the Bears had during Berrian's time with them.

"It was definitely hard, not knowing. Because the gameplan changes with each quarterback," Berrian said. "It changes a lot."

Berrian, who was a third-round draft pick by Chicago out of Fresno State, said he sees "only upside" to Jackson.

"He's only going to get better with experience," Berrian said. "I think that's where we're all going to help out each other. He's going to make me better. I'm going to make him better. The running game is going to make us better. The passing game is going to make us better. We're all going to work together, so we can be that entire team unit."

Childress was pleased to pluck a player away from a division opponent.

"We have the running game where we want, and you don't want to be one-dimensional in this league because they can gang up on you whether you're only passing it or running it, so this will help us average that out," he said.

The Vikings, who have made the playoffs once in the last seven seasons, came on strong in November but lost their last two games and finished 8-8. As Childress enters his third year, they clearly mean business about getting better.

On Friday, they signed fullback Thomas Tapeh to a five-year, $6 million deal including $1.2 million guaranteed, and safety Madieu Williams to a six-year, $33 million contract including slightly less than $13 million guaranteed.

They missed out on defensive end Justin Smith, who signed with San Francisco on Saturday. Scheduled for a visit on Monday is former 49ers running back and kick returner Maurice Hicks.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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