The move comes after the Vikings failed to agree with the 29-year-old tight end on a second straight restructured deal.
Carlson, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Vikings in 2012, was scheduled to make $5 million next season. The Vikings will save $2 million in cap room by releasing Carlson after the remaining $3 million on his signing bonus is escalated onto their 2014 salary cap.
Carlson, who signed with the Vikings after missing all of 2011 with the Seattle Seahawks, caught just eight passes in an injury-plagued first year with the Vikings. The Litchfield, Minn., native carved out a respectable role in the Vikings' offense last season after tight end Kyle Rudolph broke his foot, and caught 32 passes for 344 yards. But his season ended prematurely because of concussion issues that have dogged him throughout his career.
Carlson had said he plans to play in 2014, and he had hoped to return to the Vikings, whom he saved $1.45 million in cap space by restructuring his deal before last season. But undrafted free agent Chase Ford played well enough at the end of the season that Carlson likely became expendable behind Rudolph, who could be in line for a contract extension before next season.