Rudolph said his agent is still working with Vikings GM Rick Spielman to find a resolution for the tight end's contract situation, Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Vikings have less than $1 million in cap space and recently used the 50th overall pick in the 2019 draft on tight end Irv Smith Jr. There's been talk of the team using more two-TE formations to accommodate its new addition, but the other options are to trade or release Rudolph, who is scheduled for a non-guaranteed $7.625 million cap hit in the final season of a five-year contract. The 29-year-old presumably was hoping to sign an extension that reduces his 2019 cap charge, while the Vikings likely are angling for an outright pay cut. The team would be taking a major risk if it entrusted Smith with the starting job, as the learning curve at tight end is notoriously difficult for young players. Evan Engram and John Carlson were the only rookie tight ends to reach 600 yards in the past 15 seasons.
Contract negotiations between Rudolph and the Vikings have stalled and were tabled Friday, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune reports. When the Vikings selected Irv Smith in the second round of the draft, there was speculation they might move on from Rudolph. There was then some belief offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski could find a way to use both players effectively, potentially using more two-TE formations to replace three-wide alignments. This report of tabled contract negotiations supports the original claim that the Vikings are prepared to move on from the 29-year-old if need be. It seems Rudolph can either take a discount to stay in Minnesota or roll the dice on being traded or released by the Vikings -- his problem stems from the fact that the team has the least amount of salary-cap space ($765,473) in the league.
Minnesota GM Rick Spielman said the Vikings plans to utilize both Rudolph and 2019 second-round pick Irv Smith in the offense, Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports. However, Spielman wouldn't comment on Rudolph's long-term future and Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports the Vikings are open to trading Rudolph but not actively shopping him. Rudolph and Smith are different types of tight ends and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski frequently uses two-tight end sets. It's possible the two could be utilized with Smith moving around and as a middle-of-the field target with Rudolph adding more blocking and red-zone ability. However, Rudolph's $7.625 million cap hit, coupled with the fact he's in the last year of his contract, would make it appear he's a candidate to be traded or released by the cap-challenged Vikings. At a minimum, Rudolph's fantasy value likely takes a hit if he stays with Minnesota since Smith is likely to take away some targets.
Rudolph's agent denied a report that the Vikings have asked the tight end to accept a pay cut, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Entering the final season of a five-year, $36.5 million extension, Rudolph is scheduled for a $7.625 million cap hit that can be completely wiped off the books if he's released, per overthecap.com. Of course, the aforementioned figure is quite reasonable for a player that started 16 games each of the past four seasons, averaging 63 catches for 625 yards and six touchdowns in that span. It could even be argued that Rudolph is a slight bargain, given the contracts signed by the likes of Trey Burton and Cameron Brate last offseason. The Vikings may end up offering a contract extension to reduce Rudolph's 2019 cap hit without negatively impacting his bottom line.
Rudolph caught four of his five targets for 19 yards during Sunday's loss to the Bears. Like every other Vikings receiver, Rudolph was blanketed against a Bears defense that allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (219.7) in 2018 -- not to mention the sixth-fewest yards (42.7) to tight ends. The eight-year veteran consequently finishes the year with 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns over 16 games, though he would have set three-year lows across the board had he not had a monster 122-yard, two-touchdown game Week 16 that was buoyed by a lucky catch on a Hail Mary. Rudolph remains under contract through the 2019 campaign and should return as a middling fantasy option at tight end.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/15||@Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|
|5||10/06||@New York Giants||19||7.38|
|9||11/03||@Kansas City Chiefs||31||9.56|
|15||12/16||@Los Angeles Chargers||10||5.67|
|16||12/24||Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||98||68||669||6||38||9.84||102|