The Minnesota Vikings finally took a dip into the free agent pool on Wednesday afternoon, signing former Seattle Seahawks' tight end John Carlson to a five-year, $25 million contract, $11 million of which is guaranteed money. Carlson, who was born in St. Cloud and grew up in Litchfield, was the Seahawks' second-round selection (38th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.
He missed the 2011 season with a torn labrum that he suffered in the pre-season, but in his first three seasons in Seattle he caught 137 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, including back-to-back 50+ catch seasons in his first two seasons in the Pacific Northwest.
While everyone understands that the Vikings need to add more weapons on offense, many. . .including yours truly. . .probably thought that the team would attempt to go after a wide receiver. That's a path they still might take, but Carlson isn't as crazy a signing as it would appear at first blush. In fact, it makes a lot of sense, given the offense that Minnesota offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave appears to want to run.
The Minnesota Vikings run a lot of two-tight end formations, and because of the lack of a deep threat on the outside, the Vikings are apparently going to attempt to copy the New England Patriots' model of building a passing attack around two big, mobile tight ends. Now, Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, last year's second-round pick by Minnesota, aren't in the class of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at this point ... but if Christian Ponder can get a little bit of protection and a full off-season of work with the offense, they can certainly make strides in that direction.
There certainly won't be a lot of defenders that will be able to match up with that duo physically: Carlson stands 6-foot-5 and weighs about 250 pounds with Rudolph being an inch taller and ten pounds heavier. They both have pretty decent speed and agility for men their size, and both of them have shown very nice hands. With Rudolph and Carlson in the middle of the field and Percy Harvin lining up all over the place and being allowed to make things happen in the open field -- kind of a Wes Welker kind of role --the Vikings are at least going to attempt to find offensive success by emulating the Patriots.
Because, hey, if you're going to steal, you could just as well steal from the best, am I right? The Vikings will, undoubtedly, still be looking for weapons to surround Ponder with on offense, but the signing of John Carlson appears to be a pretty solid start.