When the Minnesota Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. with their second pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, many assumed the writing was on the wall for the future of their longtime tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph, an eight-year veteran and NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist, was entering the last year of his contract and talks of a new deal had seemingly stalled.
But on Monday night, while the Warriors and Raptors were doing battle in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Rudolph posted a tweet that there was “unfinished business” for him in Minnesota:
Moments later, Adam Schefter confirmed that the Vikings had indeed agreed to a four-year, $36 million extension that is slated to keep Rudolph in Minnesota.
Vikings are giving veteran TE Kyle Rudolph a four-year, $36 million extension that locks him into Minnesota, per source. Rudolph not going anywhere, except back to the Vikings.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 11, 2019
At first glance, the $9 million annual value of the contract may cause a little sticker shock. Rudolph will turn 34 during the 2023 season, the year through which the extension goes. [Note: the original version of this article mistakenly had 2024 as the year.] Only Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed currently have a higher annual value among NFL tight ends. However, as with all other positions, Rudolph will likely be leapfrogged by a handful of tight ends with each passing season as the NFL salary cap increases annually. The structure of the contract will likely make a big difference as well. As of this posting, we don’t know the yearly breakdown of Rudolph’s new deal or how much of it is guaranteed. What we do know is that the new contract will provide some much-needed cap relief for the Vikings in 2019. Per Darren Wolfson:
No surprise: once Rudolph puts pen to paper, the #Vikings will create 2019 cap space.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) June 11, 2019
Rudolph will no doubt get a good chunk of that $36 million guaranteed, but I would imagine there is a good chance that the contract will be back-loaded with less team risk over the last year or two of the deal. When we have more details of the deal, we’ll be sure to share it here.
With the Rudolph restructure and no ironclad third option at wide receiver for the Vikings at the moment, I’d expect to see a lot more 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) from them in 2019. With so many teams spreading out with three and four wide receiver sets—and defenses using interchangeable safeties and linebackers to combat it—I kind of like the idea of zagging when everyone else zigs. Gary Kubiak’s offenses traditionally use a lot of multiple tight end sets.
If Kyle Rudolph has taught us anything through his first eight years in the NFL, it’s that you shouldn’t doubt him. Guys like MyCole Pruitt and Bucky Hodges were supposed to usurp Rudolph’s position with their flashy athleticism; they’re already long gone. This offseason, trade rumors swirled and many assumed he was as good as gone within the next year. Yet Rudolph is still here with a great chance to finish his career with the team that drafted him in 2011.