KFAN is your Radio Home for Vikings Football. During the 2011 Season, tune in to Vikings programming KFAN 100.3 all week long.
Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - When the 2012 free agency period began, the Minnesota Vikings approach was anything but aggressive. In his first year as general manager, Rick Spielman opted to sit back and take a calculated approach as he saw big name free agents drop off the board signing multi-million dollar deals with teams under the impression that the were one piece away.
It could be that Rick didn't have the leash to go crazy during his first free agency period as the Vikings GM, but it's more likely that he understood that the Vikings are more than one piece away and overpaying one player in free agency could only set a young team back even further. Hence, the calculated approach.
Arguably, and for sure financially, the biggest part of Spielman's calculated approach this offseason was the signing of new Vikings tight end John Carlson.
On the day that he made the decision to join the Vikings, Carlson was actually in Kansas City set to meet with the Chiefs. In sneaky fashion, Spielman placed a phone call that changed Carlson's mind and sent him back on a plane to his home state of Minnesota. Later that week, Carlson signed a 5-year $25 million deal with $11 million guaranteed to join the Vikings.
During his first three seasons in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, Carlson began developing himself as a dangerous threat in the passing game and appeared to be on his way to becoming a top-flight, tight end in the league. His 13 touchdowns and over 1500 yards over those three seasons seemed like they would be a good fit for the Minnesota Vikings, a rebuilding team with a young quarterback.
As it is in most new relationships, both Carlson and the Vikings began touting each others strengths and sharing their excitement for what was surely to come. Carlson was glad to be a part of the "something" that he said he could see the Vikings were building and the Vikings were excited to introduce the league to their new toy, the two-headed, double tight-end attack of John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph.
Unfortunately, since that day, the road has been a little less rosy for Carlson and the Vikings.
The troubles began early when, with only a few days of Training Camp under his belt, Carlson went down with a knee injury that landed him on the shelf for the extent of camp and all of the preseason.
Finally healthy and back on the field to face the Jaguars in week one, Carlson saw limited playing time and was targeted only one time in the passing attack. Week two versus the Colts saw Carlson get more snaps, but was much of the same production-wise with zero targets coming this week.
Due to Carlson's history with injuries, it's a fair question to wonder if Carlson is completely healthy? Is he getting open? Or maybe he's still playing catch up from the time that he missed in the preseason? Whatever the case, so far we haven't seen anything from our biggest free agent signing of the 2012 offseason. So much for that dangerous, double-tight end threat.
So what gives?
"I think physically he's fine now," Leslie Frazier said at Monday's press conference. "As far as [the lack of] production, I don't think it has anything to do with not being up to speed. He's pretty much where we need him to be right now. It's just a matter of finding an opportunity."
Frazier hinted at the fact that Carlson was deliberately a bigger part of the game plan versus the Colts on Sunday as his snaps increased from week to week, but they were still unable to get him the ball.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder shed a little more light on the situation Monday saying, "I've got to get him the ball [more]. There were a couple of plays where he was probably open and I didn't get the ball to him. Again, we're not going to force things and try to get him the ball but he's a great player and I've got to do a better job of getting the ball to him."
With the absence of a deep threat during Jerome Simpson's suspension, Ponder and the Vikings have relied heavily on intermediate passing and routes across the middle of the field. Both of those options would normally seem to fit a pass catching tight end quite well, which makes it even more confusing why Carlson is not seeing the ball.
Carlson snuck out of the locker room Monday afternoon before the media could swarm him, but it's safe to say that he's been a little frustrated by his current role in Bill Musgrave's offensive scheme.
During his press conference earlier on Monday, Coach Frazier assured us that this was not by design and he expects Carlson's role to increase in the weeks to come.
"We do expect him to be a contributor as we go forward," Frazier said. "We do want to expand it as we go. He got more snaps in this ball game than he did in the first ball game and we'll probably do the same and just try to continue to increase. We do want to make him a little more of a focal point. We have some things, they took them away from him but we'll keep exploring. We think he has potential to really be an explosive player for us in the offense."
We'll have to take Frazier for his word on this one, but trying to adjust the offense might be a little tougher this week as one of the league's best defenses heads to Mall of America Field in the form of the San Francisco 49ers.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN