Carlson Will Help Vikings Join A Trend

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 15, 2012 – 7:24 pm

The addition of John Carlson hasn’t been the kind of flashy move that inspires fans on the second day of free agency, but it is an acquisition that improves the Vikings offense and is the latest sign that the team is looking to add young, talented pieces to the offensive puzzle around QB Christian Ponder.

The Vikings entered the offseason with significant needs at both DB and WR as well as along the OL, and those needs remain. But with Jim Kleinsasser retiring and Visanthe Shiancoe on the free agent market, TE was also a need for the Vikings. It’s less of a need now, with Carlson improving the depth chart and serving as a nice bookend to fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph.

Speaking of the depth chart, the Vikings still have some work to do at TE. Rudolph is not on the team because of his blocking ability, and Carlson will not make anyone forget about Kleinsasser’s game-changing run-blocking skills. The Vikings will likely search for a burly, hard-nosed TE with a late-round draft choice in April or in undrafted free agency.

As for Carlson and Rudolph, you can bet the Vikings will put both of them to good use in 2012 and beyond. Dual-TE sets are trending upward in the NFL, with New England being the trend-setter after TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez gave opposing defenses headaches all season. While Carlson and Rudolph won’t make that duo blush quite yet, it’s clear Rudolph has the ability to be a top-flight NFL TE and Carlson is already an established pass-catcher at this level after setting Seattle single-season franchise records for receiving yards and receiving TDs by a TE.

On top of having the personnel, the Vikings also have the philosophy to join the dual-TE trend. In his first season as the Vikings offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave was not averse to using multiple-TE formations, as the Vikings ranked tied for 8th in 2-TE sets and 7th in 3-TE sets. I’d expect those numbers to remain the same in 2012 at minimum, but most likely increase. Also keep in mind that quality, reliable pass-catching TEs are a nice security blanket for young, inexperienced QBs.

All-in-all, the addition of Carlson won’t send the Vikings to the Super Bowl next season. No free-agent signing does that. But it does address a team need and it fits the theme of getting younger and putting quality pieces around the young QB.

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