Does it Make Sense to Bring Kyle Rudolph Back?

Kyle Rudolph is one of the best TEs in franchise history.

He was chosen in the second round of the 2011 draft. He went on to score 48 TDs in a purple uniform as he piled up 453 catches and 4488 receiving yards. Take a look at where the puts him in franchise history. He’s 6th for TDs, 6th for receptions, and 10th for yards. Steve Jordan is the lone TE to rank higher in yards and catches. Otherwise, it’s names like Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed ranking higher in these statistics (with Adam Thielen & Justin Jefferson climbing the list).

Recently, Rudolph articulated his desire to come back to Minnesota (tip of the cap to Janik from VT):

For me, there’s still one thing left to do here and that’s win a championship in Minnesota. So obviously I would love the opportunity to have another crack at it. I have talked about being very calculated in my next decision in terms of where I wanna go. I have never won a Super Bowl. I’d love to hoist a Lombardi at some point in my career before it’s all set and done and I do believe that this Vikings team has a chance to do that. Certainly I would be open to that.

Kyle Rudolph also expresses his love for Minnesota:

I said it when we left here that Minnesota is always home. That’s never been brought to my attention more than when we came back from New Jersey after last season. If it’s at a grocery store, or at a Timberwolves game…at WWE Smackdown this past Friday [when] ‘Come home, Kyle’ chants erupted. … The amount of people that come up and say ‘We wish you were still here.’ Even before I was released in New York ‘You have to come back here.’ Just the amount of love that myself and my family have gotten from people around the state. It really opened our eyes how admired we are by Vikings fans

There’s some need at TE. Currently, the depth consists of unproven vets and some late-round guys. Irv Smith Jr. is the TE1, but there must be some concern since he missed the entire 2021 season due to injury. Tyler Conklin did well last year, but he’s now with the Jets. All of this adds up to a pretty thin TE room.

Last year, Rudolph finished as the 35th TE in the PFF rankings. 70 were considered, so the veteran finds himself in the exact middle. He can still be a contributor on third downs and in the red zone. However, it’s fair to wonder if he provides enough value in these areas. Adam Thielen is sensational in this regard. Justin Jefferson, moreover, is likely still improving in all areas of the game (he’s only 23).

Now, there’s no such thing as having too many guys who excel at scoring TDs. The debate may be about whether the need is high enough to justify a roster spot. Kyle Rudolph likely won’t be a special teams contributor. He’s also never been a great blocker. Last year, he had a 59.5 run blocking score, so he’s far from Jim Kleinsasser.

Ideally, a veteran TE can be great at moving the chains and blocking. At this stage in the offseason, though, it’s unlikely Minnesota will find that player (they’re in high demand). It’s possible the team looks to bring Rudolph back to help solidify their depth even though it’s not an ideal fit. Over the Cap suggests his 2021 cap hit came in just under $4.6 million. In all likelihood, Minnesota would only be interested if the cap hit was a fair bit lower for 2022.

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