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Updated: March 14th, 2012 6:07pm
Vikings made John Carlson an offer he couldn't refuse to spurn Chiefs

Vikings made John Carlson an offer he couldn't refuse to spurn Chiefs

by Tom Pelissero
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John Carlson was in Kansas City on Tuesday night for a meeting with the Chiefs.

The meeting never happened, because Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman made Carlson offer he couldn't refuse.

"Rick came forward with a commitment that no other team had shown, a level of interest that was unparalleled," Carlson said in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, hours after signing a five-year contract with the Vikings.

"It was the type of thing I couldn't turn down. It's exciting to be a part of what they're building here."

Carlson grew up watching the Vikings in the whistle-stop town of Litchfield, Minn. (population: 6,726), where he was raised and coached by his father, John Sr., in a basketball family but also became an all-state performer in football and tennis before accepting a scholarship to play tight end at Notre Dame.

Now, after four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Carlson is part of a Vikings team Spielman hopes to rebuild around a young offensive nucleus led by quarterback Christian Ponder.

"The one thing we're trying to definitely do is try to get as many playmaking-type, skill-position guys as we can around our young quarterback," Spielman said, "and John definitely fits that bill."

Spielman said he knew Carlson, 27, would be a "very, very hot commodity" in free agency even though the former second-round draft pick (38th overall in 2008) missed all of last season following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder suffered in training camp.

So, Carlson was among the first calls the Vikings made after the market opened at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and they intensified their efforts after they learned Carlson was in Kansas City, with coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave also making sales pitches by phone.

"The commitment was a variety of things," Carlson said. "It was the way that multiple people from the organization came forward expressing interest, kind of telling me this is a place that I could fit offensively, that they could plug me in and be a part of something special."

Carlson arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday morning. By noon, he had passed a physical and agreed to a contract that reportedly is worth $25 million, including $11 million in guarantees.

The shoulder is fully healed, Carlson said, and he expects to be ready when organized team activity practices begin in May. Carlson also left the final game of the Seahawks' previous season, a divisional playoff loss at Chicago, with a concussion but played in all but one game from 2008 to 2010.

"Our medical staff, which does a great job, cleared him of everything for full activity," Spielman said. "So, we didn't have any concern with that at all."

Spielman praised Carlson's flexibility, saying he could see time inline as well as in an H-back role and detached from the formation in combination with Kyle Rudolph, another Notre Dame product the Vikings selected in the second round of last year's draft.

Carlson has 137 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns in 47 NFL games and made clear he believes pass-catching is his strength.

"That's the fun part," Carlson said. "But I'm also excited about doing a good job in the run game and pass protecting as well."

Musgrave's offense uses multiple-tight end sets liberally. The four tight ends who played last season -- Rudolph, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jimmy Kleinsasser and Allen Reisner -- combined for 1,684 snaps, meaning there was an average of 1.62 tight ends on the field for the Vikings' 1,037 offensive plays.

Kleinsasser's retirement and Shiancoe's imminent departure in free agency leave a lot of work to go around, particularly in the blocking phase.

"I want to be as well-rounded as I can be as a player," Carlson said. "But I'm never going to be Jim Kleinsasser in the run game. That's not one of my expectations."

The Vikings clearly have high expectations for Carlson, though -- high enough they were willing to beat the best offer for his services while otherwise waiting out the initial wave of free agency.

"The goal is to hopefully have that offensive side together with our young quarterback over the next four or five years," Spielman said. "I think that that builds continuity that those guys have been together and understanding what each other's doing."

After playing in four offenses for four different coordinators over four years with Seattle, Carlson bought into the idea of continuity as well as the overall vision for an offense that also features halfback Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin.

"I wouldn't have come back here if I didn't think the Vikings had a great thing going and a chance to be really special on the offensive side of the ball," Carlson said. "That's something I want to be a part of."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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