Kyle Rudolph‘s 10-year run with the Vikings will conclude. The Vikings are releasing their longest-tenured player, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The team confirmed the move.
The veteran tight end’s current Vikings contract runs through 2023. Moving on from Rudolph now will save the Vikings barely $5MM in cap space. Rudolph, 31, was set to count $9.4MM against Minnesota’s 2021 cap. A post-June 1 cut designation would bump up the 2021 savings to nearly $8MM.
This marks another departure from the core responsible for a few late-2010s playoff berths. Rudolph will follow Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Linval Joseph out of Minnesota. After Griffen’s 2020 exit, Rudolph — a 2011 second-round pick — became the Vikings’ longest-tenured player.
The Vikings came into Tuesday nearly $10MM over the cap. While this release will help Minnesota somewhat, the team will still need to do more to free up offseason funding. Despite the Vikings declining to trade Rudolph at last year’s deadline and during the 2019 draft, it is not surprising to see the team move on months later. The team drafted Irv Smith Jr. in the 2019 second round, and the younger player should be expected to receive a bigger role beginning next season.
Rudolph signed a second extension to stay in Minnesota in 2019, with the Vikings pulling the trigger on that contract after drafting Smith. But Rudolph’s numbers were down over the past two seasons; he failed to top 400 yards in either slate. However, the Notre Dame product scored six touchdowns in 2019 and then came through with a walk-off TD that sealed the Vikings’ wild-card upset over the Saints. He scored just one touchdown last season, however, while Smith (five TDs) ate into his receiving role.
The 6-foot-6 pass catcher ranks fifth in both receptions (453) and touchdown catches (48) in franchise history. The latter number is tops among Vikings tight ends by a considerable margin.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.