Upgrading Pass Catchers
There wasn't a great chance to improve the WR position via free agency this year: the good WRs mostly stayed with their teams, or were older than the rebuilding Vikings would want, or wouldn't want to come to Minnesota anyway, or were overpriced. The Vikes are in dire need of a deep threat, but who could or should they have signed so far?
But there are other ways to upgrade pass catchers, and signing TE John Carlson is one way to do that.
In 2011 Christian Ponder showed at least one thing to be excited about: mobility. The Vikes can run some successful bootlegs with RBs, TEs, or glorified pass catching RB Percy Harvin* in the flat. The more options the Vikes have for the sorts of plays where the QB is rolling out and looking to receivers in the short and medium range, the better.
Kyle Rudolph showed some ability to go downfield and also to leap up and grab a ball in coverage. John Carlson can hardly be thought to be replacing him: the Vikes are and will likely be weak at WR, so multi-TE sets are likely.
It is a good signing, a small part of building a well-rounded roster.
*I stand by this. If your best wide receiver BY FAR catches 87 passes, he should manage more than 967 yards receiving. In his three seasons he's averaged 12.0 yards per reception for a team that needed somebody to get downfield and make plays (context: Visanthe Shiancoe has a career 11.0 average). Harvin is an excellent pass-catching RB, able to get open close to the line of scrimmage and superb at running after the catch. The Vikes seem to know how to utilize his skills (he did, after all, have 87 catches and 52 runs last season). He's a versatile player that does good things for an offense. But he's not a downfield receiving threat: if he were, the Vikes wouldn't be as desperate for a WR upgrade as they are.
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