Now that the Vikings have officially ended their time with John Carlson, releasing the tight end on Wednesday after they failed to agree with him on a restructured deal for the second straight year, it's fair to ask where the deal stacks up among the worst free agent signings in Vikings history.
The team got just eight catches out of Carlson in 2012 after signing him to a five-year, $25 million contract, and he never seemed to find a role in the offense after dealing with injuries early last season. It took Kyle Rudolph breaking his foot for Carlson to find a consistent role in the Vikings' offense in 2013; he caught seven passes for 98 yards the week after Rudolph was injured, and had his four biggest games of the year immediately after Rudolph's injury, before concussions ended his season early.
The Vikings had hoped to structure a two-tight end passing game around Rudolph and Carlson after they signed Carlson, and the funny thing is, that offense might have developed around Carlson and Rudolph had both players been with the Vikings next season. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner used two or more tight ends on 466 snaps in Cleveland last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and got an average of 7.84 yards per attempt out of throws to his tight ends last season. Had Carlson agreed to restructure his deal once more and gambled on a bigger role in the Vikings' offense, he could have put himself in a stronger position before 2015.
But Carlson turns 30 in May, and with his history of concussions coming back again, he might have to think about trying to line up one more contract before his career comes to an end. Things didn't work out for him with his home-state team, but he's ready to play in 2014 and could find work with a number of teams in the market for a tight end (like the Green Bay Packers, who are just down the road from the offices of Carlson's agent Joe Flanagan).
He exits Minnesota, though, having completed 40 percent of a contract that never seemed to put him in a good position once he struggled with injuries early last season. The Vikings weren't going to pay Carlson his $5 million salary for 2014, and Wednesday's moved appeared to be the inevitable conclusion to a relationship that never quite clicked.