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Kyle Rudolph Wants to Stay With the Vikings

Kyle Rudolph will be a free agent after the 2014 season, should the Vikings offer him a contract extension?

Kyle Rudolph "The Red-Zone Reindeer" scores against Chicago in 2013.
Kyle Rudolph "The Red-Zone Reindeer" scores against Chicago in 2013.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

There are only three of ten 2011 draft picks who are still with the team, and only two of them are currently starters for the Vikings: Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco.  Both of them have expiring rookie contracts after the 2014 season and they will become free agents.  So, what should the Vikings do with Kyle Rudolph?  In 2011, he signed a 4-year rookie deal worth $3.9 Million over 4 years (base salary of $0.47 Million per year) with workout bonuses in the last 2 years of the deal.  He counts for $1.4 Million dollars against the cap in 2014, which is a pretty good bargain for a starting player of Rudolph's ability.

After one of the OTAs last week, Kyle Rudolph spoke to the media about the possibility of a contract extension saying:

"Obviously, my financial situation is completely in their hands right now.  I've got one year left on my deal here and I'm extremely excited for the changes that have been made around here.  All I can worry about is going out and being successful. The contract will take care of itself. ... I'd be more than happy to stay here for a long time."

Apparently there have been no contract talks to date, but what kind of contract extension should a player like Kyle Rudolph expect, either from the Vikings or from some other team in the NFL?  Well, let's break it down!

If we look at his raw statistical production, he has a tough case to make to be paid as one of the top tight ends in the country, but that's not to say that he's been particularly bad.  Here's a look at some of his receiving stats pulled from Pro Football Focus from the past three years (his NFL rank that season is in parenthesis).

Kyle Rudolph




Catch %



Run Block

Pass Block



33 (36)

26 (35)

78.8 (8)

249 (38)

3 (23)





86 (12)

53 (15)

61.6 (54)

493 (25)

9 (2)





44 (33)

30 (34)

68.2 (32)

313 (35)

3 (27)



The stats tell an interesting story that generally matches what I remember on the field over the past three years.  He was primarily a backup to Visanthe Shiancoe his rookie year in 2011, but still saw a healthy number of targets and displayed relatively sticky hands from a combination of a declining Donovan McNabb and a rookie Christian Ponder at quarterback.  His top 10 catch rate was impressive, but he didn't really jump out in the stat sheet other than a healthy number of touchdowns per target.  We viewed him as a big red-zone threat with great hands heading into 2012.  And he largely delivered on that promise in his sophomore year, although his catch rate took a bit of a nosedive.  Still, he was tied for 2nd with the most touchdowns by a tight end, and was in the top half of the league in targets and receptions.  His passes were mostly of the dump-off and red-zone variety, so his yardage totals were a little on the low side, but some of that can arguably be attributed to poor quarterback play.  Still, he had a great first year as the primary starter in 2012.  And then 2013 happened; he went down with an injury and only played half of the season.   But if that half season's worth of stats were doubled as a projection for a full 16-game season, then he would have been targeted 88 times (nearly the same as 2012) with 60 passes for 626 yards and 6 TDs, which would have shown progress.  His catch rate was an improvement over 2012 as well, and despite only playing half of a season one could easily argue that his 2013 season was equal to if not better than his 2012 season.  His projected 2013 stat line would have been good enough to rank 14th in yards and tied for 8th in touchdowns.

In short, Kyle Rudolph has been an above average starting quality tight end in his first three years in the league, but has not been a consistent top 10 talent.  As you can also see above, according to Pro Football Focus grading, as a pass blocker he's been very good, consistently ranking in the top 10, but has appeared to steadily decline as a run blocker (which was kind of surprising to me) and with the exception of his rookie year has been in the bottom half of the league the past two years in terms of his grade rank.  All of this is to say that based on his on-field production and player grades, Rudolph is certainly deserving of a contract extension, but probably not one that pays him like a top 10 talent in the league.

So, in order to determine just what kind of contract he deserves, here is a list of the top 15 base salaries for tight ends along with their corresponding cap hits (rank in parenthesis), taken from


NFL Team

2014 Base Salary

2014 Salary Cap Total

1. Jimmy Graham


$7.035 Million

$7.035 Million (6)

2. Marcedes Lewis


$6.7 Million

$8.25 Million (2)

3. Greg Olsen


$5.25 Million

$7.8 Million (3)

4. Jason Witten


$5 Million

$8.41 Million (1)

5. Antonio Gates


$5 Million

$7.36 Million (4)

6. Martellus Bennett


$4.8 Million

$6.025 Million (9)

7. Vernon Davis


$4.7 Million

$7.14 Million (5)

8. Brent Celek


$4 Million

$4.075 Million (13)

9. James Casey


$3.985 Million

$3.985 Million (15)

10. Rob Gronkowski


$3.75 Million

$5.4 Million (10)

11. Jermaine Gresham


$3.41 Million

$4.832 Million (11)

12t. Jacob Tamme


$3 Million

$3.5 Million (17)

12t. Delanie Walker


$3 Million

$4 Million (14)

12t. Jared Cook


$3 Million

$7 Million (7)

15. Anthony Fasano


$2.95 Million

$4.28 Million (12)

You can see that the vast majority of the tight ends on this list have a base salary that falls in a range of $3-5 Million, although their cap hits with included bonuses increase that range to 4-7.  The elite players at the top end of the list fall in the $6-7 Million range of base salary, and $7-8 Million in cap hit.  Furthermore, here are some of the recently signed free agent contracts and extensions from the last 2 years:

2013 Off-Season

1.       Martellus Bennett - 4 years, $21 Million

2.       Anthony Fasano - 4 years, 16 Million

3.       Fred Davis - 1 year, $2.5 Million

4.       Jared Cook - 5 years, $35.1 Million

5.       Delanie Walker - 4 years, $17.5 Million

2014 Off-Season

1.       Jimmy Graham - 1 year, $7.035 Million (Franchise Tag)

2.       Dennis Pitta - 5 year, $32 Million

3.       Scott Chandler - 2 year, $4.75 Million

4.       Brandon Pettigrew - 4 year, $16 Million

5.       Brandon Myers - 2 year, $4.25 Million

Keep in mind; the ten tight ends listed here are who I would consider to be the top free agent tight ends of the past two years.  On a per-year average, they have garnered roughly $4.51 Million per year in per-year average salary.  Is Kyle Rudolph a top 5 free agent for the 2015 offseason?  It's hard to tell actually, because here is a rough list of the available free agent tight ends for the 2015 offseason:

1.       Jimmy Graham

2.       Jermaine Gresham

3.       Jacob Tamme

4.       Joel Dreesen

5.       Jordan Cameron

6.       Kyle Rudolph

7.       Charles Clay

8.       Tony Moeaki

9.       Lance Kendricks

10.   Owen Daniels

11.   Julius Thomas

12.   Ed Dickson

This is quite a long list, and Kyle Rudolph will have a lot of competition in the open market, if he doesn't get re-signed during the season.  The Vikings haven't shown a tendancy to sign their own free agents mid-year, so I would not expect Kyle Rudolph to get an extension in the middle of the 2014 season, but I would expect him to be a priority candidate for an extension prior to the start of free agency in 2015.  If I had to project what kind of contract Rudolph would deserve, I would peg it right on average over the past 2 years.  In other words, if I were the Vikings I would be prepared to offer Kyle Rudolph the following contract:

4 years, $18 Million in base salary, with a signing bonus of $2 Million and other incentives, giving him a cap hit of roughly $5.5 Million per year.

That would pay him as an above average starting caliber tight end, which is exactly what I think he is.  This is of course assuming that Kyle Rudolph maintains the type of production in 2014 that we've seen from him over the past three years, and that he is able to demonstrate that he can stay healthy and on the field all year.  This will be no easy task, but I think he's more than capable of proving his worth to the Vikings organization.