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Vikings’ tight end Kyle Rudolph recently signed a four-year contract extension worth 36 million dollars, giving him a fully guaranteed 2019 salary of $9M. Is he really worth anywhere near that kind of money?
Kyle Rudolph is easy to like. He stands six foot six, has big, reliable receiving hands, and nearly won the NFL’s Man-of-the-Year award for his off-the-field charity work in 2018.
Minnesota has been good to and for Kyle Rudolph, and he clearly loves the place, tweeting in the off-season that he was “humbled beyond words” that he and his family called Minnesota their home.
That’s nice. Like I said, it’s easy to like Rudolph, But this is football.
I hope I don’t qualify as a “hater” if I say that there is a limited amount of cash to go around for this team and nine million dollars a year is a lot of money to give to one tight end.
A quick look over the NFL’s tight end salaries of this season may show strong math in justifying Rudolph’s current contract–and some stringent argument against it. Rudolph has the numbers of incredibly overpaid players like Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed, but yet couldn’t do the laundry of ends like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
- Jimmy Graham (Green Bay): $10M (2018 stats: 55/636/2 TD)
- Travis Kelce (Kansas City): $9.3M (103/1336/10)
- Jordan Reed (Washington)$9.3M (54/558/2)
- Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota): $9M (64/634/4)
- Greg Olsen (Carolina): $8.5M (27/291/4)
- Zach Ertz (Philadelphia): $8.5M (116/1163/8)
Guts And Glory
Hold up. Let’s speak more figuratively about “money”.
To date, the best tight ends in the NFL–guys like the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce–have made careers of making plays for their teams in the most crucial times. Look no further than Gronk’s diving catch late in last year’s Super Bowl to set up New England’s go-ahead touchdown. With two guys climbing over him, Gronkowski was targeted–and came through.
This kind of a play from a guy whose body was so battered he called it quits from football just months later.
So, meaning no disrespect to Rudolph, is it fair to examine some of the most important Viking games in the Mike Zimmer era and how this tight end has performed?
In 2015, in Zimmer’s first playoff appearance as coach of Minnesota, Rudolph had one catch against Seattle in a game that ended 10-9.
In 2017, Rudolph had one catch in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was in the first drive and made the game 7-0 in favor of Minnesota.
For the rest of the game, Rudolph had no more catches, even as the Vikings were forced to pass throughout and eventually lost 38-7.
In week 17 of 2018, against the Chicago Bears, a home game in which a victory would have sent the Vikings to the playoffs, Rudy had 4 catches for 19 yards, a less than five yard average. The Vikings were embarrassed 24-10, and their season was over.
To date, Kyle Rudolph now has three catches in the first two games of the 2019 season. The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce has given Patrick Mahommes 10 catches for 187 yards in the same time frame. Philly’s Zach Ertz; 13 for 126.
What is even more compelling in this is the result of the game the Vikings just played in Lambeau Field, where Rudolph’s quarterback needed all the help he could get to win.
Rudolph gave him nine yards.
Kyle Rudolph is a superb teammate and a man to be admired. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he would do anything in his power to bring a championship to his beloved Minnesota. But significant NFL salaries should translate to crucial game performances, shouldn’t they?
Kyle Rudolph is a great guy. A great big guy. I’d just like to see him be bigger in big games.
For 9 million dollars a year, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.