Is Jalen Reagor the Next Cris Carter?
September 4 is a big day in Vikings sports lore, as it was on this day 32 years ago that Minnesota put in a waiver claim to pick up a promising but enigmatic young wide receiver whom the Philadelphia Eagles had deemed a less than satisfactory fit. Buddy Ryan had guided the Philly squad to an 11-5 finish and a wild card appearance (and loss) the previous season, and apparently felt highly confident in his Keith Byers-led receiving corps when he decided that Cris Carter was more trouble than he was worth.
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The Eagles released Carter, and he quickly snapped up by the Vikings. Minnesota gave away the administrative cost (a whopping $100) for the right to sign Carter. The Eagles, of course, gave away a future Hall-of-Famer, and the Vikings gained twelve seasons of highlight reel performances, including 8 consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (1993-200) and 110 touchdowns from one of the all-time great receivers in NFL history.
We forget that, for two seasons, Cris Carter and United States Senate hopeful Herschel Walker shared time in the Vikings offensive huddle—each a potential answer to the barroom argument: what was the biggest transactional heist in NFL history? Was it the Vikings’ hundred-dollar steal? Or the fleecing the Vikes endured when the Dallas Cowboys unloaded Walker for five players and six draft picks, including two future Hall of Famers, en route to three Super Bowl championships?
But I digress. It’s still the preseason – not a time to dwell on the failures of the past, but a time for unbridled, giddy optimism. Let’s focus on Minnesota’s best-case scenarios and leave Herschel *%$#* Walker out of it, shall we? And, while we’re talking optimism, let’s think about what happened earlier this week–something even more innocuous than that hundred-dollar check the team wrote 32 years ago may have seemed at the time.
On Wednesday, those same Philadelphia Eagles decided it was time to cut bait on another gifted young receiver who seemed to have worn out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles sent Jalen Reagor to our Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick in 2023 and a fourth rounder in 2024 that de-escalates to a fifth rounder unless Reagor meets certain statistical standards.
Reagor is a former first-round pick—the Eagles famously selected him at #21, immediately before the Vikings selected their all-world Superstar Justin Jefferson at #22. Since then, he’s had two forgettable seasons on the fringes of Philadelphia’s offense. Sound familiar?
Back in 1990, Carter was coming off of a good-but-not-great three-year stay on the Eagles roster. He netted 605 yards but showed a preview of his future greatness by converting 11 of his 45 receptions into touchdowns. Still, he was a mess off the field, and failed (in Buddy Ryan’s eyes, at least) to be the kind of player an organization invests time and effort into developing further. Carter took the Philly-Minny commuter flight and paired up with a gifted, but aging, Anthony Carter at wideout.
Cris Carter was a part-timer that first season, starting five games, netting 413 yards and scoring three touchdowns. In his second season in Minnesota, he began to blossom into the superstar he would be for a decade. And he enjoyed some of his best years playing alongside another all-time great in Randy Moss, beginning in 1998. What if the three had overlapped, even if just for some of Anthony Carter’s final laps? What a treat might that have been?
Remember, folks, we’re playing the outrageous optimism game here. Might Adam Thielen be just the veteran voice than young Reagor needs to hear? The been-there, done-that presence that can lead by example in just the way that Anthony Carter once did for a young Cris Carter? Is it possible that Justin Jefferson’s effervescent personality and other-worldly skillset is the inspirational / aspirational presence that the talented Reagor needs to see, and compete with, each bringing the other to greater heights in the coming years in much the way that Randy Moss did for the then-established Cris Carter?
Could it be, ladies and gentlemen, that Jalen Reagor is the next Cris Carter?
He’s a player who came with a pedigree that earned him a first-round draft selection. The Eagles though even more of him than the Vikings did of Jefferson at the time. There’s talent there. Who’s to say how it could blossom? Give him a year or two, the way we did with Carter, and let’s hope for the best. It could happen.
It’s opening week. Why not dream a little?