Monday, May 25, 2015
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john carlson

With Rick Spielman’s first season as the official General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings nearing it’s end (no, I don’t necessarily mean two weeks from now) I wanted to take a look back at the moves that were made to help boost the Vikings from a three win season to an eight (or nine, or ten) win record the next year.

I want to start with the oft-criticized free agent class that he brought in.  The Vikings have really only had five free agent signings to see action this year, not including their own re-signings, so let’s take a look at what each on brought to the table.

TE JOHN CARLSON:  The $25 million contract signed by John Carlson became the butt of many jokes even before he played in his first game.  His production on the field hasn’t helped matters.  A sprained MCL caused him to miss to two games after missing all of his final season with the Seahawks, and it has been speculated that injuries have plagued his production on the field even when he was present.  His 11 catches for 60 yards on the season will surely end in his worst stats, other than the season he didn’t play, since he joined the league.  He has also yet to find the end zone as a Viking.  His solid blocking skills have gone mostly unnoticed by fans, but there are plenty of decent blocking tight ends in this league getting paid far less than Carlson.

Last week’s three reception performance was Carlson’s best of the year and he needs to continue to improve over the next two weeks if he plans on continuing to earn such lucrative salary.  At age 28, there is still some untapped potential there for a guy that has never come close to matching the expectations that scouts had for him in 2008.

GRADE:  D

FB JEROME FELTON:  Felton got off to a bad start in Minnesota when he was nabbed for a second degree DWI in a McDonald’s drive-thru in June.  After that incident, one that he says he learned a huge lesson from, Felton has been instrumental in Adrian Peterson’s record-setting rushing numbers this season.

Peterson hasn’t had as good of chemistry with as talented of a lead blocker since his rookie season when he ran behind Tony Richardson, one of the greatest fullbacks of the modern era.  Felton hasn’t carried the ball at all himself this season, and only has two catches for 18 yards, but there is no doubt that his blocking has added something that was previously missing to this offense.  Makes one wonder how many yards Peterson hasn’t gotten over the years because of Brad Childress and his stubborn support of Fahu Tahi.

Felton signed a one year deal worth $700,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus.  I would say the Vikings should be willing to offer him about twice that annual salary to return for the next year or five.

GRADE:  A

OL GEOFF SCHWARTZ:  After signing a one year deal that maxes out at $1.5 million, Geoff Schwartz has been eased into a rotation at right guard with Brandon Fusco.  By most accounts, including mine, Schwartz has outplayed Fusco but has yet to overtake the position on a full time basis for some unknown reason.  At a backup lineman’s salary, Schwartz has helped his team more than most backups in this league, and turned out to be a low-risk, medium-reward type of signing, despite nagging injury concerns.

GRADE:  C

LB MARVIN MITCHELL:  Another one year deal worth $700,000 here.  Mitchell was signed shortly after Remi Ayodele was released by the Vikings, despite Mitchell’s presence on the 2009 “BountyGate” Saints team as well.  He acted as a “Plan B” to Jasper Brinkley and provided great competition in the preseason, but Brinkley kept his job and has performed rather well in his first year as a full time starter.

A calf injury interrupted part of Mitchell’s season, as he has appeared in only nine games, but he has made a considerable impact on a special teams coverage unit that is greatly improved over last season.

GRADE:  B

WR JEROME SIMPSON:  The Vikings flirted with signing Packers free agent James Jones but shied away from the receiver because they were worried about his inconsistent hands, and instead opted to sign the suspended Simpson from Cincinnati.

Jones has done nothing but catch touchdowns for the Packers this year, his drop problems apparently solved, while Simpson has been incredibly inconsistent… when he manages to make it onto the field.  A three game suspension and injuries have kept Simpson out of four games this season, and bad drops and inconsistent routes have essentially kept him out of the other 10.

19 catches, 203 yards, and no touchdowns are stats that easily illustrate how wrong things have gone for the Vikings deep threat hopeful in 2012.

Spielman left legitimate receiver threats on the market for other teams to scoop up and instead opted to go short term and cheap with Simpson.  The risk was low, but the return has been even lower.

GRADE:  D

CONCLUSION:  Rick Spielman tortured Vikings fans by staying idle during the opening days of free agency in 2012, and has indicated we can expect more of that in the future, as he intends on playing a game of chance with these low risk and low cost signings available after all the funny money has been spent.

Carlson was his lone departure from that formula, and the jury may still be out on that one, but it isn’t looking good.  Luckily, the contract wasn’t quite as bad as initially reported and the Vikings could cut ties with minimal cap damage should they choose to move on.

Overall, Spielman’s approach to free agency led to adding one fantastic fullback, and a handful of otherwise disposable talents.

Not bad, not horrible, but not great.  That about sums up Spielman’s first free agency period as Vikings General Manager.

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately, but every time I sit down to write during this bye week I come up empty handed, and I just can’t bring myself to write about the Draft yet since the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt.

Leave it to Tom Pelissero, however, to give me something to regurgitate and then opine about.

Pelissero recently got a chance to talk with G.M. Rick Spielman about his decision to woe tight end John Carlson away from Kansas City with big bucks and sign the unheralded veteran despite a recent lack of production and knack for being injured.

“I know what you see out in practice and how he works in practice and the types of catches that he does make in practice,” said Spielman of his veteran tight end.  “That he got hurt and missed all that part of that training camp (with a knee injury) kind of set him back, especially when you’re trying to learn a new scheme. But sometimes, some of these veterans don’t work out as well until maybe their second year.”

“John looked healthy (on Sunday),” Spielman continued. “I know he caught that one (slide) route and you saw that burst that we have seen in the past when he sprinted up afterwards.  The one thing that he’s done that he doesn’t get enough credit for is he’s done an incredible job blocking for us. I think that whole tight end group is the key to the way Adrian (Peterson)’s had so much success on the field as well, along with our offensive line. But just haven’t seemed to be able to get John going (as a receiver).”

“I think John Carlson has a lot of football (left) and is a very good football player for us and will be a good football player in the future,” Spielman reiterated.

Now, I have never been as down on Spielman’s decision to sign Carlson, as he has been a solid tight end in the past.  I’ve always liked Carlson’s abilities, personally, when observing from afar.

What doesn’t sit well with me is that the money spent on Carlson completely ignored his tendency to get injured, and he has already been injured twice as a Viking, and also ignored a clear need at wide receiver.

Sure, when the Vikings signed Carlson they thought they would have Greg Childs at their disposal, but they also didn’t know they would have Jerome Simpson (who is another questionable signing as it is).  Instead, the Vikings decided to get cheap when courting wide outs such as James Jones who has cured his drops, 42 catches, 485 yards, and eight touchdowns this season.

Spielman’s comment about not being able to get Carlson going as a receiver might indicate he thinks the problem lies more with Bill Musgrave’s offense than it does on Carlson himself.  If Musgrave ends up being on his way out of Minnesota after this season, however, then Carlson won’t be the only tight end learning a new scheme in 2013.

The Vikings started the second half with a spunky return from Marcus Sherels and some good energy out of Christian Ponder, but a number of penalties ended up stalling the drive and they had to punt.

The good news was, however, that Jared Allen and his defense was able to take advantage of the Lions being pinned deep and the Lions went three-and-out, punting from their own end zone.

The Vikings started out in Lions territory and Bill Musgrave proceeded to call a very good series of plays, including a reverse to Jarius Wright, that was highlighted by a long gainer to Devin Aromashadu to set the Vikings up inside the ten.

In the red zone, Ponder tripped on his drop back and then a no-gain passing play set up a third and goal from the ten.  The throw made on third down was to Toby Gerhart about six yards shy of the end zone and he was unable to punch it in.  The Vikings again had to settle for a Blair Walsh field goal.

The Lions then came out gunning, with two passes in a row going to Calvin Johnson, and both were caught.  One was for 51 yards and the Vikings defense immediately found themselves defending their own goalline.  After first down featured a botched snap, Stafford floated a beautiful pass over the head of Harrison Smith and into the hands of Brandon Pettigrew for a touchdown.

The Vikings then came out gunning with Christian Ponder spreading the ball around to Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and even John Carlson.  The third quarter ended with the Vikings holding a six point lead and knocking on the door.

Percy Harvin did not practice Friday and will likely miss this weekend’s home game against the Detroit Lions. Harvin, who sprained his ankle last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, has been an integral part of the Vikings offense and it remains to be seen how the Vikings will fare without him.

In an effort to minimize the effect Harvin’s absence will have, the Vikings have activated rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright. Wright, taken in the fourth round of last year’s draft, has yet to see the field during the regular season. The dynamic receiver from Arkansas is deemed to have a skill set similar to Harvin but it is unlikely he will come close to filling his role this Sunday.

Adrian Peterson Returns To Practice

After missing Thursday’s practice with a stomach virus, Adrian Peterson returned to practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday. Peterson will likely be relied on heavily as the Vikings means of offensive production.

Last week, the Vikings mysteriously abandoned running the ball in the second half of the game against the Seahawks while Peterson was averaging an astonishing 10+ yards per carry.

Peterson will have his hands full this weekend against a Detroit Lions front that has been playing better than since they last met in Week 4 at Ford Field where the Vikings managed to escape with a 20-13 victory. In that game, Peterson just barely broke the century mark with 102 yards on the ground.

Interesting note:

Other Vikings Injuries

Letroy Guion returned to practice Friday (turf toe) but is doubtful against the Lions. Fred Evans will start in his absence.

Mistral Raymond is likely to be active this weekend but it is unknown what his contribution will be.

Vikings tight end John Carlson is expected to start Sunday after missing a couple games with a concussion.

Vikings Probable: “FB Jerome Felton (shoulder), LT Matt Kalil (knee), CB Antoine Winfield (knee), TE John Carlson (concussion), P Chris Kluwe (knee), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/illness), S Mistral Raymond (ankle), S Jamarca Sanford (knee) and WR Jerome Simpson (calf).”

 

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Here are the inactives for today’s matchup in Seattle:

VIKINGS:  QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Stephen Burton, WR Jarius Wright, LB Audie Cole, OL Mark Asper, TE John Carlson, and S Mistral Raymond.

SEAHAWKS:  WR Braylon Edwards, S Winston Guy, CB Byron Maxwell, OL Mike Person, G James Carpenter, DT Jason Jones, and DT Jaye Howard.

The Vikings have decided to go with only four wide recievers in Seattle, activating newly signed tight end Allen Reisner over either Burton or Wright, which could easily come back to bite them.  Reisner is apparently needed because former Seahawk John Carlson has been unable to make his return after suffering a concussion.

Raymond, who some speculated might play today, will have to wait at least another week to unseat Jamarca Sanford as a starting safety.

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