EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Sitting in jail for 15 days in April, wide receiver Jerome Simpson's faith never wavered. He always believed he would be able to resume his NFL career.
The former Cincinnati Bengals starter had pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge. His first professional contract had expired, and he was a free agent with a criminal record. Cincinnati, long known as a team willing to look past legal issues, wasn't re-signing their second-round pick from the 2008 draft.
Surely, without legal entanglements, teams would have been calling for Simpson, who is coming off his best NFL season with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns. But Simpson was still without a team more than a month after free agency began.
Then the Minnesota Vikings came calling. Minnesota remembered its predraft visits with the receiver, when he was a highly regarded prospect out of small-school Coastal Carolina. On April 21, the Vikings brought Simpson to Minnesota, interested in signing him to help...