EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings have signed Jerome Simpson, the former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver recently convicted on a felony drug charge.
The contract was completed Thursday, hours before the Vikings began the NFL draft.
Simpson was sentenced earlier this month to 15 days in jail, three years of probation and 200 hours of community service plus a $7,500 fine and court costs. He previously pleaded guilty a prohibited act relating to controlled substances. Authorities said they tracked a shipment of 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana to his Kentucky home in September and that they found another pound of the drug inside the house.
ESPN has reported that Simpson will be suspended for three games under the league's substance abuse policy.
The second-round 2008 draft pick out of Coastal Carolina played sparingly his first three years in the NFL but had a breakout season in 2011, playing in all 16 games while catching 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns, including that head-over-heels flip into the end zone during a game last December. He vaulted over an Arizona Cardinals linebacker just in front of the goal line and landed on his feet, etching a permanent place on the sport's all-time highlight clips.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman insisted the team went all out on the background check on Simpson and finished confident he's a player they can trust.
"Every person we talked to stood by the kid's character. Not standing by the mistake he made, but by what this kid's character is and we saw that when we brought him in here on a visit," Spielman said.
But given his athleticism and the paucity of game-changing receivers on the roster, Simpson's potential outweighed any of the off-the-field risks for the Vikings. He had three 100-yard games last year, the same as Minnesota's entire team. Percy Harvin had two, and Michael Jenkins had one.
Harvin is uniquely talented, one of the team's toughest players who fought through injury and illness and finished with 967 yards and six touchdowns, plus another three scores - two runs and one kickoff return. He even had 345 yards rushing. But he's not enough, and not the prototypical outside deep threat that any team needs to balance the offense.
In addition to Harvin, Jenkins and Simpson the only other wide receiver with significant NFL experience is Devin Aromashodu. Kris Adams, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Stephen Burton, Kerry Taylor and Bryan Walters were the others on the roster as the Vikings entered the draft.