Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison may be one of the most respected players in the team’s locker room. He is not a very vocal guy and can often be found sitting quietly at his locker. What makes him so respected is he is the one that does all the dirty work out on the field so his teammates can shine.
He is not going to complain if he does not grab any recognition or doesn’t get the football as much as his teammates. He is simply a blue-collar player that goes out and does what is asked of him. Teams need those types of players in order to be successful and the question now becomes whether or not Ellison will be with the Vikings again next season.
The answer is a presumptive yes.
He is an unrestricted free agent, but while the Vikings would love to re-sign him there are a couple things to keep in mind. First is that the Vikings drafted MyCole Pruitt a year ago and the two players are very similar. Both are versatile players that can line up as either a fullback or a tight end and both are good at blocking – although Ellison is a more polished blocker at this point in his career – but Pruitt is probably the better receiver out of the two.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Ellison tore his right patellar tendon in the Vikings’ final regular-season game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 3. It required surgery and will take approximately six months to fully heal. That means he will be coming back around the time that training camp starts back up, and it’s always a question if he will be the same player once he returns.
Ellison is usually one of the players blocking down in the trenches and there are often players going down around other players’ knees in that area of the field. So it wouldn’t be surprising if Ellison were a little hesitant when he first came back.
Either way, though, it is likely that the Vikings are going to try to work out some sort of deal with their tight end. This year will mark his fifth season in the NFL, so he is still a relatively young player at 27.
As previously mentioned, Ellison has primarily been used as a blocker since entering the league in 2012. He played in 15 games last season and was on the field for 304 running plays, compared to just 175 passing plays. Of those 175 passing plays he was targeted just 18 times as a receiver. He recorded 11 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown.
It is difficult to look at other players in order to see what kind of contract Ellison could expect to see because there are not many that were used the way he was. Most of the tight ends in the NFL were on the field for an equal amount of run and pass plays, and if anything the snap counts will usually favor the passing plays.
Contract considerations: One player that you could begin to compare contracts with is the Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham. Like Ellison, Gresham was used more in the running game than he was in the passing game. However, his 626 total snaps are quite a bit more than Ellison’s 479 total snaps, but they still had similar stats as receivers. Gresham recorded 18 receptions for 223 yards and one touchdown, but those were also all career lows for him.
Gresham signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals last offseason worth $2.5 million with $1.5 million guaranteed. The Vikings could offer Ellison a one-year deal this offseason in order to see how his knee responds and to see how the offense continues to develop with both him and Pruitt.
Another player that could be referenced for comparisons is Oakland Raiders tight end Lee Smith. He was also on the field for a more balanced amount between the running and passing game than Ellison was, but his role still favored the running game and his 534 total snap count is similar to Ellison’s.
Ellison even had better stats as a receiver than Smith did, as Smith recorded 12 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Smith signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders last offseason worth $9.1 million (averaged out to $3.03 million per year) with $3.1 million guaranteed. Smith has just one more year experience in the NFL than Ellison does and he is also viewed as a blocking tight end. The biggest difference, however, is that he is used more as a pass blocker than Ellison is.
Ellison is coming off his rookie contract where he made $2,400,584 over four years (averaging out to $600,146 per year) with $300,584 guaranteed.
The Vikings sound as if they likely to try and re-sign him this offseason and it will be for more than what he was making on his previous contract. The biggest question is for how many years.