Could 2020 be the last time the tight end suits up for the Minnesota Vikings?
Around this time a year ago, the Minnesota Vikings decided to sign longtime tight end Kyle Rudolph to a four-year, $36 million extension. This came after months of trade rumors and debates about whether or not the Vikings should part ways with Rudolph after selecting Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
So now, the Minnesota tight end is under contract with the team until 2024. However, this doesn’t mean Rudolph will remain with the Vikings for the entirety of his deal.
After the upcoming season, Minnesota could cut or trade Rudolph without making a significant impact on their salary cap. With the Vikings beginning the transition to a younger roster, could their veteran tight end be shown the door in 2021?
Will the upcoming season be the tight end’s last with the Minnesota Vikings?
Last year, Rudolph was at the center of numerous rumors that involved Minnesota sending him packing to another team. But instead of trading him, the Vikings decided to sign him to an extension that now gives him the fourth-highest average salary of any tight end in the NFL.
Is Rudolph currently the fourth-best tight end in the league though? Not quite and he might not even be among the 10 best from the position group heading into the 2020 season.
Last year, Rudolph finished with 39 catches for 367 yards and six touchdowns despite appearing and starting in all 16 of the Vikings games. While his touchdown total is comparable to some of the top tight ends in the NFL, Rudolph seems to be making a lot of money for a guy who averaged about two catches and 23 receiving yards per game in 2019.
His chance to improve his numbers next season isn’t about to get any better either. Smith is entering his second year with Minnesota after an impressive rookie campaign and the team just added another weapon in the passing game during this year’s NFL Draft when they selected former LSU wide receiver, Justin Jefferson.
Combine this with the fact that Rudolph isn’t getting any younger (30) and letting him go after the upcoming season would result in the Vikings freeing up $5.1 million in cap space, another underwhelming performance in 2020 could result in this year being the last time the tight end will put on the purple and gold uniform.