John Carlson became one of the most promising young tight ends in the game in his first two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. A shoulder injury derailed that, and now he is headed back home to get his career back on track.
Carlson signed a five-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday, bringing him to the team he grew up cheering for as a kid in Litchfield, which is about 90 minutes west of the Twin Cities.
"I'm excited to be here," Carlson said in a conference call. "I've got family ties here and lots of friends here. But it wasn't the only factor. I wouldn't have come back here if I didn't think the Vikings had a great thing going here."
Carlson caught 106 passes for 1,201 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Seahawks. But after a quiet season in 2010 — 31 catches, 318 yards, one TD — Carlson suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in training camp last August that required season-ending surgery.
The Vikings gave him a thorough medical evaluation before signing him and felt comfortable enough to offer him $11 million in guaranteed money. General manager Rick Spielman said the team's medical staff gave Carlson a clean bill of health.
"We didn't have any concern with him at all," Spielman said.
Carlson was in Kansas City ready to visit the Chiefs when the Vikings called. The deal and the chance to come home and help the Vikings rebuild from a 3-13 season proved to be all the persuasion he needed.
"Rick came forward with a commitment no other team had shown and a level of interest that was unparalleled," Carlson said. "It was an offer I couldn't turn down."
Carlson will share tight end duties with fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings second-round pick last year. Rudolph had 26 catches for 249 yards and three TDs in 15 games as a rookie last season, but he developed good chemistry with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave figures to feature Rudolph and Carlson in two tight end sets, and with Jim Kleinsasser's retirement and Visanthe Shiancoe's anticipated departure in free agency, there will be plenty of passes to go around.
"We want to try to get as many playmaking type skill position guys as we can around our young quarterback and John definitely fits that bill," Spielman said.
Shiancoe will turn 32 in June, and the Vikings are looking to get younger at virtually every position.
"Good memories in minn.," Shiancoe tweeted on Wednesday morning, "especially ‘09!"
The Carlson signing was the first significant move the Vikings have made during a dizzying start to free agency across the league. Spielman, who was promoted to GM after the season, has made it a priority to revamp the roster, but has targeted the draft more than free agency.
The Vikings let veterans Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera and Cedric Griffin go just before the market opened to clear some cap room, but are taking a more patient approach to rebuilding.
"I don't think we're a player or two away to go out and say you're going to spend the money that's being spent on all of those players who have gotten contracts early," Spielman said, referring to big-money deals being given to the likes of Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Carl Nicks.
They also signed third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels on Tuesday and backup nose tackle Letroy Guion to a three-year deal on Wednesday, but so far have not addressed needs at receiver, offensive line, linebacker and in the secondary. Spielman said the Vikings continue to talk with the agents for linebackers Erin and E.J. Henderson about returning and haven't closed the door on adding another veteran or two before the draft.
"We're going to be very patient with it and see where the market is with some of these guys," Spielman said. "Now the big frenzy is over. There are still some players out there that we think can come in and compete and help us win ball games."
Carlson signing is his homecoming
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