The Minnesota Vikings spent a large chunk of change this offseason in order to acquire tight end John Carlson.
Although the tight end position wasn’t a glaring need, the Vikings were hoping that Carlson could team with 2011 second-rounder Kyle Rudolph to form a dynamic dual-threat in the passing game. They were so confident that Carlson would become a top target for young quarterback Christian Ponder that they handed him a five-year, $25-million deal as incentive to come to Minnesota.
Unfortunately, the Vikings’ investment has yielded almost zero return as Carlson has struggled with injuries all season long. It has gotten to the point that the concussion-prone Carlson could be expendable moving forward.
In between a shoulder injury and his fourth career concussion, Carlson has managed only three receptions for eight yards. After suffering his latest concussion against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, he’s expected to be sidelined when the Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Considering his consistent presence on the injury report and lack of production, Carlson has found himself in a position where his stay in Minnesota could be over before it really gets going.
Of the $25 million on his contract, Carlson is only guaranteed $9.1 million. That includes a $5 million signing bonus and his $2.9 million 2012 base salary. The other $1.2 million – his 2013 base salary – in that equation is guaranteed for injury only if he’s on the roster at the start of the 2013 league year. That means that the Vikings could sever ties with Carlson by next year and save themselves $1.2 million if they no longer see him as a part of their future plan.
The other factor playing into Carlson’s future with the Vikings is the emergence of rookie fourth-rounder Rhett Ellison. Drafted to replace Jim Kleinsasser as Minnesota’s utility back, Ellison has proven to be a valuable asset early on and is quickly carving out a role in the Vikings’ offensive attack. If he continues to develop at this pace, Carlson could soon become expendable.
For how much money they’re paying him, Carlson has been a huge bust for the Vikings and the lone blemish on Rick Spielman’s short resume as Minnesota’s General Manager. If his ineffectiveness persists, Carlson could be headed for free agency sooner rather than later.