Could Kyle Rudolph…Be Back in Purple?

Oct 20, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings don’t outwardly need additional tight ends on the current depth chart, but that didn’t stop head coach Kevin O’Connell from meeting with former Viking Kyle Rudolph this week.

Rudolph played for the Vikings from 2011 to 2020 and recently spent time with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Could Kyle Rudolph…Be Back in Purple?

Now a 33-year-old free agent, Rudolph curiously had lunch with O’Connell Tuesday, evidenced by Rudolph’s Instagram. The tight end and his son joined the Vikings skipper for a chat.

Could Kyle Rudolph
Nov 17, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) looks on before the start of a game against the Denver Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports.

Rudolph posted a picture of himself and his son, Henry, Tuesday and captioned, “I think 4 year olds can take free agency visits right!? Henry liked what he saw from the team today, had a great conversation with KOC over lunch and we will evaluate his options as summer progresses.”

Here’s the full post:

Of course, the lunch date could just be pleasantries for Rudolph with his old team. But here’s the weird part — Rudolph has never played on a Vikings team coached by O’Connell or generally managed by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He’s a product of the Leslie Frazier and Mike Zimmer brands of Vikings.

Dec 5, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph (80) drops the football against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.

Either Rudolph is in Eagan for fun and camaraderie, he plans to perhaps play for the 2023 Vikings, or he’ll sign with the club for a day and retire. Conventional logic, however, would suggest he’d meet with Adofo-Mensah or the team’s ownership if the lunch were retirement-focused.

One year ago, Rudolph was intrigued by returning to the Vikings amid free agency, telling KFAN, “Certainly for me, there’s still one thing left to do here, and that’s win a championship in Minnesota. Obviously, I would love to have another opportunity to get a crack at it. I talked about being calculated in my next decision.”

Longtime Vikings TE Returns
Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

“I’ve never won a Super Bowl. I’d love to hoist a Lombardi at some point in my career. I do believe this Vikings team has a chance to do that, and certainly, I would be open to that,” he added.

Rudolph provided commentary for USFL games along with folks like Colt McCoy, Cameron Jordan, and Jason Garrett this spring.

In New York, after he left the Vikings, Rudolph was underutilized, receiving just 39 targets in 2021 with an offense that would later undergo structural change. The Giants canned head coach Joe Judge after the 2021 season, opting for the services of Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills when Josh Allen rose to power. Those same Giants knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs five months ago.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph catches the winning touchdown over New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams in overtime on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. © Elizabeth Flores, Tribune News Service, Elmira Star-Gazette via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

In Tampa Bay, Rudolph was hardly showcased. Playing in nine games while starting none, the Notre Dame alumnus was targeted just five times all season in a year that turned out to be Tom Brady’s last hurrah — and perhaps Rudolph’s if he doesn’t sign in Minnesota or elsewhere.

Rudolph grabbed 453 receptions for 4,488 yards and 49 touchdowns for the Vikings in 10 seasons, nominating him as one of the Vikings best draft picks of the decade. Rudolph also caught the pass that walked off the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 postseason. He ranks 44th all-time in receiving yards by an NFL tight end and 14th all-time in receiving touchdowns by a tight end.

The Notre Dame alumnus is also the Vikings second-leading TE in team history per receiving yards behind Steve Jordan.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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