Releasing Carlson frees up $2 million in cap space for the Vikings, with $3 million remaining on the books in dead money.
Cutting ties with Carlson doesn’t only free up cap space for the Vikings, it also opens up an opportunity for another tight end. Third year player Chase Ford could be poised to burst right through that door.
Ford came to the Vikings late in 2012 as a practice squad player after one year with the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him as a UDFA out of Miami. Ford was at one time thought of as another Jeremy Shockey, but disappointing college performances dropped him entirely out of the draft.
The 6-6 tight end came back to Minnesota in 2013 on a two year deal, but was a bench warmer for most of the season, only getting a chance to play late when Kyle Rudolph went on IR with a broken foot.
With Rudolph out, Ford made a significant impression as the Vikings’ #2 pass catching tight end behind the now-released Carlson. Ford caught at least one ball in 6 out of the final 8 games.
His role expanded even more when Carlson himself went on IR with a concussion. Ford notched his first multi-reception game week 15, catching 2 for 55 yards against the Eagles including a 37-yarder. He surpassed his modest career-high in receptions the final week against Detroit, snagging 5 for 43 yards.
The stats were underwhelming but the physical impression made by Ford was considerable. He looks the part of a big, strong tight end who can work in traffic in the middle of the field, yet has the tools necessary to hit the occasional big play down the seam.
He’s also pretty strong and ferocious, as we learned on this crazy play where he carried Adrian Peterson into the end zone.
The key for Ford will be to develop his talents and become a more well-rounded tight end. We know he has the physical ability and can make catches. He has to be willing to work on his blocking if he wants to grow into the role of a complementary weapon alongside Rudolph.
The #2 pass catching tight end job appears to be Ford’s to win or lose as of now. The Vikings are not expected to target a tight end in the draft. Plucking one in free agency remains an option, but I say why not let Chase Ford go into camp as Rudolph’s under-study.
I think Ford showed enough last year to deserve a chance.