Wiggins benefits from breakout season

Unrestricted free agent tight end Jermaine Wiggins, coming off what was by far the most productive season of a five-year NFL career, has reached a contract agreement to remain with the Minnesota Vikings.

The five-year contract to which Wiggins agreed, and which is expected to be signed in the next few days, is worth $7.3 million and includes a $1 million signing bonus. That is quite a jump for a journeyman veteran who has played for minimum base salaries during much of his league tenure.

Jermaine Wiggins Wiggins

Then again, Wiggins' quantum leap financially was preceded by a breakout season, one in which his 2004 reception total eclipsed his aggregate career totals.

Despite missing two games with a broken hand, Wiggins had 71 catches for 705 yards and four touchdowns. In the four previous seasons, he had 50 receptions, 482 yards and eight touchdowns. Only twice in his first four years did Wiggins post double-digit catches and he never had more than 16 receptions in a season or more than 203 yards.

He produced 33 first downs in 2004, four more than in 2000-2003 combined, and became a very reliable short-yardage receiver. In the Vikings' vertical passing game, where the wide receivers clear out the middle of the field, Wiggins emerged as a presence between the hashmarks, and quarterback Daunte Culpepper became confident throwing to him in some tough spots.

The former University of Georgia star, who played with four different teams in his first four seasons in the league, generated good interest in the first week of free agency. In fact, the Vikings feared losing him and had begun contacting other free agent tight ends, and visited with Freddie Jones of the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday.

Wiggins signed with Minnesota as a free agent last spring, after playing for the New England Patriots (2000 and 2001), New York Jets (2000), Indianapolis Colts(2002) and Carolina Panthers (2002-03). He has appeared in 75 games and started in 33 of them.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.