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Vikings and Kyle Rudolph break off contract extension talks

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So what now for the longtime tight end?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings headed into the offseason last December everyone knew that they would be fairly tight up against the salary cap, and they would need to either re-structure some deals with current players or release them.

One of the players that many people thought the Vikings would work a new deal with was veteran tight end and Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph, who is entering the last year of his contract, is scheduled to make over $7.6 million this year, with no dead money against the cap.

Earlier in the off-season, it seemed like a re-structure or extension was almost a foregone conclusion. Rudolph said he was open to it, and it seemed like a logical move for both the player and the team. But as free agency drew closer...nothing happened. Then on the eve of the new league year, it was announced by Rudolph’s agent that there would be no re-structure, and he would remain with the team in 2019.

Now, it appears things have taken another turn:

Rudolph’s name has also been mentioned as possible trade bait, and with an inability to get a new deal done, this seems like more and more of a possibility, as alluded to by Ian Rapoport. The Vikings are less than a million dollars under the salary cap per Spotrac, and still need some wiggle room to sign their top draft pick, Garrett Bradbury. So one way or another, a move regarding Rudolph seems to be coming soon.

One of the teams that Rudolph has been linked to as a possible trade partner has been the New England Patriots, who are sitting almost $15 million dollars under the salary cap. They also have an obscene 14 picks coming up in the 2020 draft, to include three third round picks, two fourth, three sixth, and four picks in the seventh round. Rudolph for a third? Yeah, I’d do that deal. Rudolph for a four and a six? Yeah, I’d probably do that deal, too.

Or the Vikings could just flat out release him, which would free up $7.6 million in cap space. If I’m the Patriots, why give up a draft pick right now if you think that could happen? Wait until they know for sure whether or not he’ll be released, and make your move when his status has been resolved. A trade will still be there once his contract status is settled, unless of course there’s another team in the mix.

Still, a trade isn’t a foregone conclusion. If the Vikings decide to keep Rudolph, who I think would work well with TE Irv Smith in this new offense, they could look to re-do a couple deals of other vets to give them cap relief. Just by converting part of the base salary of either Linval Joseph or Xavier Rhodes into a signing bonus, for example, the Vikings could clear enough space to ink Bradbury. Rhodes is scheduled to make $13.3 million in base salary, while Joseph is scheduled to make $10.6 million.

So another move is coming by the Vikings, be it trade or a vet re-structure. Whether it involves Kyle Rudolph remains to be seen, but it appears as if this is coming to a resolution that doesn’t involve him playing with the Vikings, or at his 2019 salary...or both.