With no games for another six months or so, all the focus of NFL fans is currently affixed to two areas: the draft and free agency. Every General Manager and front office in the league is busy researching which players will help make their teams better without breaking the salary cap bank. Do you make a big splash with a high-end free agent to push you over the top or do you find affordable diamonds in the rough at the combine? At this point in the NFL season, it's all about focusing on which people you can bring in to get the greatest return on investment.
But what about the opposite end of the spectrum? The players that are already getting paid big money but aren't delivering the results on the field? Sporting News took a look at all 32 teams and chose the one contract that they deemed the worst on the roster. For the Vikings, they actually selected someone coming off a career high in yardage: tight end Kyle Rudolph. Their reasoning:
The Vikings took a risk by signing Rudolph early to an extension that made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. It did not pay off; Rudolph has missed multiple games and has yet to record a 500-yard season. He still has over $5.6 million in vested guarantees to go.
Rudolph had a productive season by his standards in 2015, mostly because he played all 16 games for only the second time in his five-year career. He had 49 receptions for a career-high 495 yards along with 5 touchdowns. However, those numbers don't seem to justify a player that represents a $7.3 million cap hit for the 2016 season.
Of course, this isn't all on Rudy. When you're in an offense that ranked near the bottom of almost every passing category, it's hard to amass a ton of stats. Just ask Mike Wallace, who may be an even better candidate for this dubious distinction after his underwhelming 2015 season. The passing game as a whole needs to improve before Rudolph can put up numbers that make fantasy football owners smile. That said, Rudolph's improvement is tied to the future improvement of the offense. It's fair to say that Vikings fans are still waiting for that "breakout" season from Rudolph after he showed so much promise in the 2012 season. When he's healthy, Rudolph is simply too talented to not break 500 yards.
The Vikings don't have many options for Rudolph's contract for at least another year or two, which is probably why he was picked by Sporting News over Wallace. Thankfully Rudolph is still only 26 years old and should have plenty of good football left in him. Hopefully both the team and player can find a way to keep Rudolph off this list the next time around.