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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Looking ahead: Ellison’s recovery, contract impact Vikings’ outlook at tight end

By Andrew Krammer

The fourth of a position-by-position look at the Vikings with a focus on free agency, the draft and the 2016 season. We’ve also primed the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

Tight ends

2015 playing time

Kyle Rudolph: 17 games, 82.6 percent

Rhett Ellison: 15 games, 44 percent

MyCole Pruitt: 17 games, 22 percent

Upcoming free agents

Rhett Ellison: unrestricted free agent

Noteworthy number

• 1,522 — The Vikings leaned heavily on tight ends during the 2015 season, perhaps more than originally planned. The 1,522 snaps divvied up between Rudolph, Ellison and Pruitt were the most over the last four years as the Vikings often used heavy personnel to pave the way for a run-first unit led by Adrian Peterson. With an offensive line down two starters all season, Norv Turner turned to multiple-TE sets as a way to counter their issues up front in both run and pass scenarios. A healthy Rudolph made this possible, but even he admitted an adjustment period to a role emphasizing more blocking than receiving. An improved offensive line could send Rudolph down the field more in 2016.

Current 2016 salary cap, position rank

Rudolph: $7.3 million, 6th

Pruitt: $582,647, 66th

Quotable

“Obviously, I want to be out there running around catching balls, but what good does it do if I’m running down the field and we’re not getting the ball out? There’s a lot of different responsibilities I have. Our staff’s great about reminding me, helping me like ‘Look, you’re not not doing anything. You are making a difference in a game and you’re helping us win.’” — Kyle Rudolph during the 2015 season on his varied role.

Potential free agent market

Includes pending free agents Antonio Gates, Marcedes Lewis, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis, Benjamin Watson, Dwayne Allen, Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Miller, Larry Donnell, Josh Hill, Tony Moeaki, Rhett Ellison, Logan Paulsen and Tim Wright.

Draft

Outside of a five-year contract for John Carlson in 2012 free agency, the Vikings have stuck to the draft for landing tight ends. Obviously, depth has been added through all means, including Brandon Bostick as a street free agent last season, but their core has come through the draft. Rudolph (2011), Ellison (2012) and Pruitt (2015) were all selected by the Vikings within the last five years. Ellison figured to be a priority re-sign before his devastating injury, and it’ll be interesting to see how they go from here. Should they look to add another long-term player, the draft has been their main tool.

Bottom line

Rhett Ellison’s torn patellar tendon in the Jan. 3 season finale at Lambeau Field will provide a tough road ahead for Ellison, and a potentially difficult free agency decision for the Vikings. Ellison has played in 59 of 66 games since he was drafted in 2012, and served a linchpin role last season as the Vikings’ primary blocking tight end. The recovery from a torn patellar tendon is thought to be more difficult than returning from a torn ACL, marking Ellison’s future uncertain as his contract expires in March. Even if Ellison stays, the Vikings will likely need additional help, at least as insurance, with Rudolph and Pruitt the only two healthy options under contract in 2016. They have the go-to receiver at the position in Rudolph, and his role could pivot back toward receiver depending on the Vikings’ repair job along the offensive line. Pruitt, the fifth-round pick last year, showed promise in limited action, though it remains to be seen if he could take Ellison’s varied role. All under the watch of new position coach Pat Shurmur, with former TEs coach Kevin Stefanski shifting to running backs.

The post Looking ahead: Ellison’s recovery, contract impact Vikings’ outlook at tight end appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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