On the most recent episode of ‘Morning Joes’, the Joes (me being one of them, the Johnson one) discussed a recent article on purplePTSD.com from VikingsSpin’s Jason Wisniewski. Jason wrote about the Vikings needing to “move on” from tight end Kyle Rudolph. Both of the Joe’s agreed, for once, that the Vikings should stick with Rudolph because they have no clear replacement for him on the roster, and replacing him would require too high of a draft pick (the potential replacements that Jason named were first or second rounders, and because of the needs at other positions, namely the offensive line), that may be a bridge too far at this point in the Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer experiment. However, it sounds like the Vikings are at least looking to do another thing that Jason mentioned, which is restructure Rudolph’s contract (as well as the contract for defensive end Everson Griffen).
The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling was on KFAN yesterday and his comments were picked up by VikingsTerritory.com’s/About the Labor’s Sean Borman and Tweeted thusly:
Despite what Mike Zimmer said at his Combine press conference, Ben Goessling (on KFAN) has heard rumblings of an Everson Griffen restructure negotiation, with cutting him being an option if he doesn’t agree to a deal.
Same was said for Kyle Rudolph.
— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) March 1, 2019
Everson Griffen had a rough 2018. After apparently threatening the employee(s) in the lobby of a downtown Minneapolis hotel (with a mass shooting), it was reported that Griffen was taking time away from the team to focus on his mental health. Apparently Griffen had been struggling with his mental health for a while and because of that, the team did the right thing and covered his pay (and kept him on the active roster) during his time away. As mental health is another form of injury, one that is harder to find and fix (as it’s based on self-reporting instead of X-rays and/or MRI’s), it might look bad if the team cuts Griffen. His dip in production both before and after his breakdown is understandable but in the years/seasons before that he was on track to break team and NFL records (if not for injury).
Rudolph, also, is only a couple of seasons removed from being in the top five in touchdown receptions (2017). On top of that, you could argue that both Griffen and Rudolph are still in their athletic primes. Kyle Rudolph will turn 30 this year, whereas Griffen is “only” 31 years old (I say that as a 34-year-old who looks like he’s 54 and thinks like/has the sense of humor of someone who is 14 years old). In terms of contracts, Spotrac.com says the following about Everson Griffen’s deal with the team:
Everson Griffen signed a 4-year, $58,000,000 contract with the Minnesota Vikings, including a $2,000,000 signing bonus, $34,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $14,500,000. In 2019, Griffen will earn a base salary of $10,900,000, a roster bonus of $343,750 and a workout bonus of $100,000, while carrying a cap hit of $11,743,750 and a dead cap value of $1,200,000.
Next up is Kyle Rudolph:
Kyle Rudolph signed a 5-year, $36,500,000 contract with the Minnesota Vikings, including a $6,500,000 signing bonus, $18,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $7,300,000. In 2019, Rudolph will earn a base salary of $7,275,000, a roster bonus of $250,000 and a workout bonus of $100,000, while carrying a cap hit of $7,625,000.
It’s been widely reported that the Vikings had around $10.5 million in cap space for the upcoming season… at the end of the 2018/19 season. That number has since dwindled, as Spotrac.com (also) shows:
While the Vikings did receive an additional three draft picks last week thanks to the loss of some free agents last off-season, those picks come in the sixth and seventh round. Luckily the Vikings have had a lot of luck in the later rounds in terms of developing players. However, if the Vikings want to win now (which every move implies that they do), they’ll need to invest high draft picks into the (few) holes they have, namely in terms of drafting a plug-and-play offensive lineman/guard(s). They’ll have to make sure to draft the right player(s) as the cap space shows they’re not really going to be able to be very competitive in terms of bringing in free agents this off-season.
It has been said that the salary cap may increase by… Well, let’s just show you what Spotrac.com said:
It is being estimated that the new salary cap will land somewhere between $187 million to $191.1 million, up from the $177.2 million from the 2018 NFL season. Meaning that the Vikings will have an additional $9.8 million to $13.1 million to work with.
However, the new salary cap was released today and “only” went up by $11 million, which is between the above-mentioned range. That amount hasn’t been updated on Spotrac.com as of the writing of this piece (unless the Vikings were already over the cap by about $5 to $6 million dollars and the increase pulled them out before their overdraft fee of $34 dollars kicked in a problem I clearly understand).
The question as to whether or not Rudolph and Griffen will restructure is still up in the air. You would have to think that they’d be open to it, even if the concept of contract restructuring is really frustrating, especially when it was just announced that Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million dollar contract in Major League Baseball. The contracts in the NFL are already the worst out of all the major sports in terms of the amount(s) and also whether or not they’re even really contracts (guaranteed vs. non-guaranteed and players just getting cut before the team as to honor a signing bonus, etc.).
Both Griffen and Rudolph have been with the Vikings their entire careers and each were captains for the 2018 season as well. Combine both of those things with the fact that they have families that presumably include children who presumably go to school in the Twin Cities area (Rudolph most recently had a set of twins in 2016). I could look into it more but I’m pretty sure if I Googled the phrase “Where do Kyle Rudolph’s kids go to school?” I could end up on Dateline NBC.
Regardless, these leaders are coming off of their worst seasons in the past few years. Unlike Griffen, Rudolph wasn’t out with (any sort of) injury last season but was rather a victim of circumstance and scheme. Moving forward with the Kubiak and Stefanski combo could mean the offense may continue feeding the ball out to the receivers more than the tight end (which would be odd because Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was known for getting the ball to his tight ends during his time in Washington, D.C). If 2019/20 ends like last season, Rudolph should take a pay cut as he isn’t a great pass blocker (putting it nicely) so outside of being a decoy there’s not much he can contribute otherwise.
Griffen, on the other hand, could very well return to form this upcoming season. While he didn’t bounce back during his time after he returned last season, it’s understandable that he wasn’t in game shape when he returned. He spent his time away doing non-football things like going to treatment and acclimating to new medication (that can cause things like weight gain and even other mental illness issues like tremendous anxiety). If things go according to plan, he’ll be able to train this off-season and come back next year as the Griffen we all knew before his incident. Hopefully he will agree to a pay cut, as he’s a great leader. Also, a pay cut could mean the Vikings keep his neighbor, Sheldon Richardson, which would give us a full season with a front four that we all expected last season (with a healthy Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter).
Only time will tell, so stay tuned to VikingsTerritory.com/purplePTSD.com and our latest site for our over TEN Vikings/NFL related podcasts/live shows and YouTube/Periscope shows, purpleTERRITORYradio.com!