We've said numerous times in this space before that Rob Brzezinski is the best salary cap guy in the National Football League. If he's not, he has to be near the top of the list somewhere. The new contract extension signed by tight end Kyle Rudolph on Sunday was another display of his prowess.
On the surface, the contract is a five-year deal that could pay Rudolph as much as $40.5 million. However, when one delves deeper into the contract. . .as ESPN's Ben Goessling has. . .you can see that there isn't a whole lot of risk for the Minnesota Vikings.
. . .they got a deal done that could pay Rudolph up to $40.5 million, but presently carries a practical guarantee of just $7.46 million. He'll receive a $960,000 base salary in 2014, according to a league source, as well as a $6.5 million signing bonus.
There's another $12 million of guaranteed money, but that's currently slated to come to Rudolph in case of injury only, until it becomes fully realized at some point in the future if Rudolph is still on the roster on the third day of a given league year (or years, if the remaining guaranteed money is spread over several different seasons). That's the same mechanism the New Orleans Saints used in Jimmy Graham's deal -- and Rudolph's guaranteed money is only $1.5 million less than Graham's -- but unlike Rudolph, Graham got $13 million guaranteed at the time of signing the deal.
So, as Goessling says, Rudolph won't be getting paid like a top-flight tight end unless he's producing like one. In either scenario. . .whether he's earning that type of money or not. . .it's a good thing for the Vikings.
Rudolph was on pace to have his best season before suffering a season-ending foot injury on a touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys. After his career-best 53-catch, 493-yard, nine-touchdown performance in 2012, he had 30 catches for 313 yards and three more scores before his injury.
The Rudolph deal is another in a series of contracts that has the Vikings giving players deals that appear to be worth a lot of money on the surface, but are actually very team-friendly. Interestingly, a couple of examples come from an article at Grantland about the NFL's worst contracts. While the article cites the deals given to wide receiver Greg Jennings and defensive end Everson Griffen, Goessling points out that neither of those are "bad" for the team.
Jennings' deal has no more guaranteed money after this season, and Griffen's deal has all the guaranteed money coming in the first two years of the contract. Again, if they earn anything beyond the guarantees, that means they're producing, which means the Vikings would be quite happy to pay them that money.
All-in-all, this appears to be another feather in the cap of Rob Brzezinski and the Minnesota Vikings' front office. With tight ends having a reputation for flourishing in Norv Turner's offenses, it's probably a good thing for the Vikings that they got this deal done sooner rather than later.