Breaking Down The Carlson Signing

Once upon a time, I would get ridiculed on an annual basis for drafting Seahawks tight end John Carlson about four rounds too early in my fantasy league.  I would get laughed out of the room, in fact.

“Quit it, you guys,” I would whine.  “He’s got the potential and skill set to be the best tight end in the NFL, mark my words.”

Umm, yeah… he was usually on the waiver wires by week six.

Now, Rick Spielman finds himself on the defensive as a result of a very similar move, except the stakes are much higher.

News is spreading the Vikings have signed Carlson to a five year deal worth $25 million, with $11 million of that being guaranteed.  The move will put former Notre Dame stars Carlson and Kyle Rudolph atop the tight end depth chart in Minnesota for years to come.

A Minnesota native, Carlson was selected 38th overall by the Seahawks in 2008.  He got off to a good start, playing in all 16 games of his rookie season and catching 55 passes for 627 yards and five scores.

In his second season, he started all 16 games and caught 51 passes for 574 yards and seven touchdowns.  In 2010, the poor condition of Seattle’s offensive line meant Carlson spent a lot more time being a blocker in the offense, and his production dipped down to 31 catches, 318 yards, and only one score.

In 2011, Carlson missed the entire season due to a torn labrum.

Now, as you can tell from the opening paragraphs of this article, I think Carlson has the potential to be a star and I went so far as to single him out in my Offseason Preview of the tight ends.  However, I concluded that segment with the following warning:

“I think patience will have to be key here.  The Vikings cannot panic and overpay or reach on a Draft choice to fill their needs at tight end.

Building around Rudolph should involve nabbing a few players that present the team with low cost.  They cannot panic and offer a ton of money to Shiancoe.  They cannot panic and overpay a free agent.  They cannot panic and reach on a guy in the Draft.”

Some might view this signing as Rick Spielman panicking and overpaying, while others might view this signing as Spielman targeting the guy he coveted and making sure he got his guy, but I don’t think anyone envisioned this type of deal for Carlson.  In fact, the rumor mill suggests that Carlson was so blown away by the offer that he cancelled a trip to Kansas City and rerouted himself to Winter Park.

The Vikings obviously have placed an emphasis on finding the players that will best fit Bill Musgrave’s offensive vision, which includes a lot of two tight end sets, as they have invested one high draft pick and plenty of money into the position in the last two offseasons.  So, while the Vikings are very high on second year player Kyle Rudolph, don’t think of Carlson as a true backup player just yet, he will probably see a lot of action.

Carlson is often referred to as a poor blocker, but he was called upon to block quite a bit in Seattle and seemingly improved in this area, and his pass catching skills are fairly elite.  Christian Ponder should benefit from having one more solid pass catcher in his arsenal, and also a fairly dependable blocker when needed.  Also, Carlson is 27 years old, which is a full four years younger than Visanthe Shiancoe.

I don’t agree with those that think the Vikings didn’t have a need at the tight end position.  I don’t agree with those that think Carlson is a terrible player.

As far as whether or not they overpaid to obtain Carlson, however, I am on the fence.  A lot will depend on how the contract is structured and whether or not he can finally live up to the expectations that followed him from Notre Dame.

I will put it this way though:  I’m still not drafting him in my fantasy league this year.