Vikings' Eric Kendricks reportedly reworks deal to create space for rookie, which could bode well for Kyle Rudolph
The veteran linebacker agreed to restructure his contract to help the team get in under the salary cap
The cap-strapped Vikings found a bit of relief on Tuesday. As a result, they not only were able to sign their first-round pick, but they might now be able to keep a key veteran around.
According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks has reworked his contract to manufacture $1.72 million in cap savings. The day began with the Vikings owning under $700,000 in available cap space, which was problematic considering Garrett Bradbury's rookie deal includes a $2.33 million cap charge for the upcoming season. After converting roughly half of Kendricks' base salary into a signing bonus, the Vikings were able to get their new starting center under contract, Cronin reported.
That's important. Bradbury, the 18th overall pick, is expected to shore up a leaky offensive line that has too often been an exploitable weakness. Meanwhile, Kendricks has been a key cog in Mike Zimmer's defense for a while now. Over the past four years, he's averaged roughly 68 solo tackles, two sacks and an interception per season.
What's also important is that the Vikings might now be able to keep tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is entering the final year of his contract. given his contract status, the Vikings' cap situation, and the team's decision to select tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of this year's draft. There was also talk of the two sides coming to a new contract agreement that would lower his cap hit this year ($7.6 million), but . Rudolph has said he wants to remain in Minnesota, but has .
As Cronin reported, it certainly seems more likely now that Rudolph will stay, although that could always change. It might just take a halfway decent trade offer for the two sides to split up.
It's both understandable why the Vikings would want to keep Rudolph to pair him with Smith Jr. and why another team might try to trade for him. While he's no Gronk, he is dependable. Over the past four seasons, he's played in all 64 possible games and averaged about 63 catches, 625 yards, and six touchdowns per season. Since he entered the league in 2011, he ranks 10th in catches, 12th in receiving yards, and fourth in touchdown catches among all tight ends.
The Vikings already viewed themselves as Super Bowl contenders before giving Kirk Cousins a monster contract in free agency last year. Signing Cousins didn't just put the Vikings in salary cap hell, it also intensified their Super Bowl aspirations. Rudolph might be expensive for a team without much cap room, but he's also a good player who can help them reach their goal. If the Vikings do keep him to go along with Smith Jr., Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and a dependable defense, the team's fate will come down to the offensive line and Cousins. As it stands, both the skill-position players and the defense appear to be mostly Super Bowl worthy, but that won't matter much if the offensive line fails to protect Cousins and Cousins fails to live up to his contract.
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