By Jason Wisniewski
Earlier this off season I wrote about how I thought it was time for the Vikings to move on from Kyle Rudolph. You can visit the link to that article here. At that time it was before Free Agency and the Vikings were scrambling for cap space and I was reviewing the strong 2019 TE draft class and thought it would make sense from a financial standpoint and if the Vikings wanted to find a different type of TE for their offense. However, now that circumstances have changed and I have thought some more things over about the Vikings potential with their 2019 offense, specifically with their TE’s including the athletic rookie they drafted I now oppose moving Rudolph.
Here is why:
1.) The best time to trade Rudolph has come and gone
If the Vikings were going to trade Kyle Rudolph they should have done so during the 2019 NFL Draft where they could have potentially gotten an extra draft pick for this season. Now that time has come and gone and it no longer makes much sense to open up a hole on your roster and weaken your depth when you would have to wait for what would likely be a late Rd 2020 draft pick which cannot help you right now. It won’t help improve the team in 2019 when you are trying to win a Super Bowl. Even if the team doesn’t want to extend Kyle Rudolph beyond 2019 it is likely that the 2021 compensatory pick they would receive from Rudolph leaving in Free Agency next season would be higher than any late Rd pick they could get in a trade right now.
2.) Gary Kubiak & Kevin Stefanski tend to use multiple TE sets more often than John DeFillipo
Gary Kubiak is famous for using multiple TE sets and Kevin Stefanski also favors this approach as evidenced by Rudolph’s late season spike in production when Stefanski took over for DeFillipo for the final 3 games of the season (the Vikings went 2-1 & Rudolph’s production dramatically increased). The offense would benefit from having both Rudolph & 2nd rd rookie Irv Smith JR on the field at the same time. This would cause mismatches against LBers and make the Vikings offense more unpredictable as they would run or pass from these formations with play action becoming a big factor. The Vikings may also use 3 TE sets from time to time as well where they line Smith JR up as a FB/H-Back type and can really create confusion for the opposing defense.
3.) TE depth is important
With the Vikings offense moving towards using multiple TE sets more it will need to make sure the depth is solid at the position. If Rudolph were gone and there was an injury to Irv Smith JR only David Morgan (more of a blocking TE) and Tyler Conklin (largely unproven) would be left and would be nowhere near as effective in passing game as Rudolph & Smith JR. This would weaken the Vikings offense substantially.
4.) Extending Rudolph helps the 2019 salary cap & won’t hurt 2020 or 2021 very much.
Finally if the Vikings extend Kyle Rudolph with a smart contract of say a new $3 million dollar signing bonus and add 2 years onto his current contract they come away with a cap number of around $3.6 million for 2019 which would save around $4 million on this year’s cap giving the Vikings enough to sign their draft picks and re-sign a player like Aldrick Robinson to help their WR depth which is currently unproven. After roster cuts they’d even have a little bit leftover in case of a mid season injury and to potentially rollover towards the 2020 cap. If they give Rudolph around $5.5 million for a 2020 cap number it won’t affect their cap too much after some 2019 leftover cap is rolled over for 2020. I would make Rudolph’s 2021 year essentially non guaranteed with only $1 million of the original $3 million signing bonus to only “dead money” for that year so essentially it’s a 1 year extension for all intents and purposes. To make it more palatable to Rudolph you could guarantee in full both his 2019 & 2020 base salaries so he gets the security he wants. I believe this is a win win for everyone involved.
What do you think the Vikings should do with Kyle Rudolph? Trade him? Keep him for 2019 only? Extend him? Let me know in the comments section! If you would like to follow more of my content please follow Vikings Spin on Twitter, Facebook & YouTube as well as right here on Purple PTSD!