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.
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.
Rudolph caught all nine of his targets for 122 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 27-9 win over Detroit.
Rudolph was able to pluck the ball at its high point and come down with a 44-yard Hail Mary to end the first half. He got his second touchdown of the afternoon on a four-yard catch with 13:25 remaining. Owners who looked the red-zone reindeer's way even though he had just two touchdowns all season coming in -- and none since Week 3 -- were rewarded with an early Christmas present from the tight end. Rudolph will look to carry over the momentum from this performance to the Week 17 regular-season finale against Chicago.
Rudolph recorded three receptions for 23 yards across 51 offensive snaps in Sunday's win over the Dolphins.
Rudolph continues to see limited targets this season as he now has just eight receptions for 68 yards over the past three games. It could be more of the same for the veteran next week against the Lions, who have only allowed five touchdowns from tight ends all season.
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