A long-time starter for an NFC North team could be on the move soon. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Alabama tight end Irv Smith, Jr. in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft last month, raising questions about the status of veteran Kyle Rudolph.
Rudolph, who is owed just over $7.6 million in 2019, has no remaining dead money on his contract and could therefore be cut without penalty should the Vikings choose to part ways. To this point, however, the team has seemingly expressed interest in signing him to a new contract extension, unloading some of this year’s cap money into the future by virtue of a signing bonus.
However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that talks have stalled on Friday, raising the possibility of Rudolph leaving Minnesota via trade.
A solid all-around tight end, Rudolph has consistently caught around two-thirds of his targets in the passing game while pitching in around 500 receiving yards per season. He also is a plus blocker, providing additional value to teams that may be interested in acquiring him. However, any trade would likely come with a similar contract extension, as it is unlikely that other NFL teams would be interested in that same cap hit of more than $7.5 million.
Rudolph has often been a thorn in the Packers’ side over the years. In 14 games against Green Bay over his eight-year career, Rudolph has better per-game receiving numbers in several notable categories compared to his career averages: 42 yards per game instead of 34, 11.1 yards per reception versus 9.8. Only his touchdown rate — 0.21 scores per game compared to 0.37 overall — is notably lower.
Last year alone, Rudolph had a pair of seven-catch games against Green Bay, with more than 60 yards in each contest. His best game against the Packers actually came in a loss, however, when he hauled in 6 receptions for 106 yards and a score in a 30-13 loss at TCF Bank Stadium in 2015.
If the Vikings do move on from Rudolph, it would pose some questions for the 2019 team at the tight end position. Famously, tight ends rarely make a significant receiving impact as rookies, and the other tight ends on the roster not named Rudolph or Smith have a combined 23 NFL receptions. A free agent signing may be a necessity in that case, as names like Dion Sims, Lance Kendricks, and Levine Toilolo remain on the market.