Since the end of the draft a little over two weeks ago, the largest story in all of Vikings-land has been the ‘will he’ or ‘won’t he’ situation considering one of the main faces of the current Minnesota Vikings, Kyle Rudolph. It’s been widely reported that the Vikings have attempted to restructure Rudolph’s 2019 salary either through a restructure or an extension, both of which would drop his 2019 cap hit from the over $7 million. This’d give the Vikings some flexibility in terms of both signing their draft picks and potentially having some space to pick up a veteran during the season should someone get injured.
Rudolph has apparently spurned any salary reduction and after those talks broke down last week (as well as the fact that the Vikings spent a second-round pick on Irv Smith Jr. an “elite” tight end from Alabama), the speculation was that the Vikings would trade Rudolph to clear that $7.625 million cap hit this season while probably also getting a mid-round draft pick in the process.
That speculation has been refuted by multiple people on the team including Rudolph himself as well as Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Even after the selection of Irv Smith Jr., Rudolph’s agent pre-emptively stated that they (as in him and Rudolph) weren’t worried about him being traded as the Vikings have drafted a lot of tight ends in the past five or even ten seasons while also saying that ‘they’ (Rudolph and him) want an extension with the Vikings (as Rudolph is entering the final year of his contract. That’s true, but they weren’t second round picks or considered to be as capable as Smith Jr. looked in college.
The tight end position, though, is one of the harder positions to acclimate to in the NFL and considering the fact that Rudolph and Smith Jr. play two different styles of tight end, it does feel like they both could play and thrive together this season. At least that’s the hope. Let’s take a look at the recent statements from Rudolph and Zimmer, as well as the news from today that the team signed their number one pick in C/G Garrett Bradbury, thanks to a contract restructure by linebacker Eric Kendricks/Not Kyle Rudolph.
During his golf tournament this week, Zimmer answered questions about the status of Rudolph. He said:
“I’ve had conversations with Kyle. Quite honestly, I really love all my players. We expect Kyle to be here. Sometimes business gets in the way, but we’re not here to talk about that today.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Kyle Rudolph happened to be at the first annual Zimmer Golf Tournament, and also spoke on his future with the team by saying:
“I would certainly hope they don’t just keep me here because I’m a good guy and do good things in the community. I would like to think that they keep me because I’m a good football player.”
“I can’t focus on [being traded] a whole lot. I’m at voluntary workouts every day like I’ve always been. I’m not going to change my approach to this football team and what this organization means to me.”
He also stated:
“It’s very evident that if we want to get to where we want to be, we have to get better on the offensive side of the football, As a leader of this offense, a guy that’s been around here a long time, that’s me getting better individually, so that’s my focus right now, and until I hear otherwise, that’s all I can worry about.”
The most recent episode of my rant-tastic show on Periscope (“The Smoke Break”) was solely about the idea of trading Rudolph and the fact that I am very against that move. However, the fact that players (that also happen to be team leaders) like Everson Griffen and now Eric Kendricks have taken pay cuts to keep the team as intact as possible shows that they’re committed to making a run for the Super Bowl this season and that they’re committed to winning now with their teammates.
So, I can understand that by being inflexible Rudolph is seemingly being “selfish”, at least according to some people I’ve seen online. However, the NFL’s contracts are notoriously terrible and Rudolph is smart enough to know that had he signed an extension it’d be back-loaded and he’d be cut before the real money kicks in. So, blame the NFL and the Players Union (they should’ve gone on strike more than once), not Rudolph. Let’s also take a quick look at what other tight ends make around the NFL and where Rudolph’s deal ranks in that regard, courtesy of Ian Parrague of purplePTSD.com:
1. Packers TE Jimmy Graham: $10 million
2. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce: $9.4 million
3. Redskins TE Jordan Reed: $9.4 million
4. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski: $9 million
5. Panthers TE Greg Olsen: $8.6 million
6. Eagles TE Zach Ertz: $8.5 million
7. Titans TE Delanie Walker: $8.5 million
8. Bears TE Trey Burton: $8 million
9. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph: $7.3 million
10. Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate: $6.8 million
As you can see, Rudolph will be the ninth highest paid tight end in the NFL this season (assuming nothing changes with his contract). I thought I’d put that out there for those that think he’s overpaid.
Speaking of Kendricks, the Star Tribune explains how he restructured his contract and how it helped the team sign their number one pick:
“Linebacker Eric Kendricks had $2.15 million of his $4.15 million base salary converted into a signing bonus, a league source told the Star Tribune, freeing up approximately $1.7 million in salary cap space for this season.
It was enough to sign Bradbury, the 18th overall pick, to a four-year deal with a fifth-year team option. His contract is expected to be worth nearly $13 million with a $7.4 million signing bonus and count $2.34 million against the 2019 salary cap.”
The Strib article also continues:
“The Vikings still don’t have a lot of salary cap space, having entered Tuesday with $660,000 in cap room, according to the NFLPA. Rudolph said Monday he’d like a resolution “sooner rather than later” to his contract situation, which is set to pay him $7.625 million, none guaranteed, in the final season.
Kendricks’ bonus hit will be spread out over the five years remaining on his contract, which should leave him with a cap hit of $4.88 million this year.”
It’s hard to really know what the truth is when you’re dealing with football players and coaches because they’re trained to give out as little information as possible and they very well could be attempting to drive up the asking price should they trade Rudolph. There are a few teams that are interested in his services, namely the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, especially now that the Patriots are seemingly out of the running as they signed Ben Watson.
However, a Watson/Rudolph combo seems like a match made in heaven. Although I do like the idea of Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. playing next to one another and exploiting the middle of the field as a possession/physical tight end and one that can get behind the linebackers and pick up chunk yardage almost as a WR3 (as new offensive… Let’s just call him coordinator Gary Kubiak LOVES hybrid players), especially consider Kubiak’s propensity to run two tight end sets.
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