Kyle Rudolph

North Notes: Packers, Rudolph, Steelers

The freedom Aaron Rodgers may or may not have to change plays at the line of scrimmage has become an issue in Green Bay, and first-year Packers HC Matt LaFleur explained the concern he has with enabling his decorated quarterback to have the kind of pre-snap autonomy he did under Mike McCarthy.

One thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said, via Michael Silver of NFL.com, of his conversations with Rodgers. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?

LaFleur would prefer Rodgers only have one play he can check to, while the 15th-year passer would like more leeway. The former Rams and Titans OC cited the pre-snap movement he’s bringing to Green Bay as a reason for the potential constraints Rodgers will face.

We move a lot more. There’s a lot more motion. There are a lot more moving parts,” LaFleur said, via Silver. “And so if you just let the quarterback have that freedom to just get to whatever, I’m afraid it would slow our guys down. Now, he is a special talent and he’s got an incredible mind, so as we move forward throughout this process he’s getting more freedom. It’s just, where is that happy medium?

Let’s look at the latest news out of the North divisions:

  • Although Kyle Rudolph received the outcome he wanted — a four-year, $36MM Vikings extension — he acknowledged the prospect of a Patriots trade. But it’s still unclear if the teams engaged in discussions. “Obviously the speculation is going to be there because of their situation at my position and then our team’s cash/cap situation and my salary,” Rudolph said, via SI.com’s Albert Breer. “So there was kind of just a natural, like, ‘Hey, Kyle’s familiar with the offense, he played for a coach (Charlie Weis, at Notre Dame) that was a coordinator there.” After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson, then cutting ASJ and nixing the Michael Roberts trade with the Lions, the Patriots still face the prospect of not having a proven tight end during Watson’s suspension.
  • The buzz about Donte Moncrief becoming Ben Roethlisberger‘s No. 2 target continues, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required) calling it a “slam dunk” the former Colts and Jaguars wideout will be the Steelers’ WR2. It still figures to be a collaborative effort replacing one of this generation’s best players, Antonio Brown, but it looks like Moncrief’s offseason has him in position to lead that charge.
  • Artie Burns‘ standing in Pittsburgh is certainly not on the same level, and the Steelers face a decision on the underwhelming first-round cornerback. The team has until the third day of training camp to waive Burns and save $800K, but Kaboly notes that if the fourth-year corner has not yet been cut, the Steelers are probably planning to give him another shot. Regardless, Kaboly expects this to be Burns’ final year in Pittsburgh.

Vikings, Kyle Rudolph Agree To Extension

The Vikings are giving veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph a four-year, $36MM extension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Rudolph’s contract made it seem as though the two sides were headed for certain divorce, but the new deal will smooth out the tight end’s cap hit in the interim while presumably giving him guarantees beyond the 2019 season. 

Rudolph’s deal will pay him $9M this year, according to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (on Twitter). His 2019 salary is fully guaranteed, and his 2020 salary is guaranteed for injury. He’ll get $1.625MM added to his $7.625MM base for this year, giving him $9MM guaranteed in ’19 and $16.025MM in total guarantees (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). After 2020, Rudolph will effectively be on a year-to-year deal until its conclusion in 2023.

All along, Rudolph has said that he wanted to stay with the Vikings, though he was unwilling to take a pay cut. After achieving both goals, it’s clear that Rudolph is happy about the new deal.

Just under a decade ago, I received a phone call that would change my life. On that day, all I knew is that I would be playing in the NFL, realizing my childhood dream. What I didn’t know was the role in the state of Minnesota would play in my life,” Rudolph wrote (on Twitter). “Marrying my wife and established our home..in Minnesota. Experiencing the birth of my three beautiful children…in Minnesota. Starting a journey to better the lives of children dealing with a disease that doesn’t discriminate…in Minnesota. Giving everything I can possibly give, professionally and personally, to the greatest sports franchise and its fans…in Minnesota. And I am honored beyond words to say that my home, our home, will always be…in Minnesota!”

Before the pact, the Vikings had just $612K in cap room. Rudolph will now return to the Vikings where he’ll serve as the team’s No. 1 tight end and mentor to rookie Irv Smith Jr.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Lions, Bears

Tight end Kyle Rudolph confirmed that he’s attempting to negotiate a new deal withe Vikings, but also said he’s been told there are “plenty of other teams” that would have interest in acquiring him, as Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com writes. Rudolph, who is scheduled to earn $7.275MM in the final year of his contract, has already stated he won’t accept a pay cut. Minnesota has the second-least cap space in the NFL, and also drafted tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of last month’s draft.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Graham Glasgow could be on the move again. The Lions deployed Glasgow — who played center on nearly every offensive snap in 2018 — at right guard at organized team activities, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Glasgow’s position change will allow Detroit to move 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow from left guard to center, his more natural position. Glasgow, for his part, split time between left guard and center in both 2017 and 2017 before moving to center full-time last season.
  • The Bears are listing former offensive tackle Bradley Sowell as a tight end, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic (Twitter link). as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes (via Twitter), Chicago doesn’t necessarily have an in-line tight end on its roster, and Sowell played that role in 2018. Per Pro Football Focus, Sowell lined up as an tight end for 30 snaps last season, and spent another eight plays in the backfield. Memorably, Sowell caught a touchdown pass on a trick play against the Rams in December.
  • Former AAF quarterback Luis Perez recently worked out for the Lions, tweets Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Perez, who signed with the Rams after going undrafted in 2018 and just spent a month on the Eagles’ roster, tossed five touchdowns against six interceptions for the AAF’s Birmingham Iron. Detroit currently has Tom Savage and Connor Cook behind starter Matthew Stafford.

NFC Notes: Kupp, Rudolph, Lions, Eagles

Rams wideout Cooper Kupp tore his ACL back in mid-November, and the team is eyeing a Week 1 return for the 25-year-old. Kupp participated in individual drills during the Rams’ organized team activities on Monday, and he told reporters that he feels better each week.

“It’s been a long process for sure,” Kupp told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry. “I’ve been doing what I can to get back.

“I can’t predict how I’m going to feel even a week from now. But the way that things are going, I’m happy with the way that things are trending. Each week there’s progress.”

While Kupp wouldn’t give a definitive target date for his return, coach Sean McVay told reporters said the team is hopeful he’ll be ready to go for the season opener.

“He’s like a kid standing on the sidelines that just wants to grab a ball and go play,” McVay said. “He’s one of those guys that’s right on track with where we want him to be.”

The former third-rounder followed a standout rookie campaign with a solid 2018 season. Kupp finished the year with 40 receptions for 566 yards and six scores in eight games.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • While there’s no guarantee that he’ll be with the Vikings come the start of the season, tight end Kyle Rudolph told NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero that he’d be attending his team’s OTAs (Twitter link). We learned last week that the organization had offered the veteran a five-year extension, although there hasn’t been a lot of progress with negotiations. There were rumblings that the team could even look to move on from Rudolph after selecting Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of last month’s draft.
  • A pair of veterans won’t be attending Lions OTAs. Coach Matt Patricia told Justin Rogers of The Detroit News that nose tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Darius Slay wouldn’t be attending the voluntary workouts (Twitter link). “Right now we are – it’s voluntary as that part of the season is concerned,” Patricia said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “Those two guys are not here. You will not see them at the practice today, but we fully expect that this time of the year, guys that are here, guys that are not. That’s totally fine. We’re working with the guys that are out there.” Both Harrison and Slay have two years remaining on their current deals, and both players are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus.
  • Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins isn’t attending his team’s OTAs, tweets NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter points out on Twitter, the absence is notable because Jenkins is “one of the NFL’s most-respected players.” The defensive back is presumably seeking a new contract, although his current deal doesn’t expire until the end of the 2020 season. Jenkins’ $8.75MM average annual salary still ranks in the top-10 at the position. The 31-year-old earned his third Pro Bowl nod last season.
  • Chris Long played alongside a number of talented defensive linemen with the Eagles this past season, leading to him appearing in a modest 59.1% of the team’s defensive plays. The veteran acknowledged that his diminishing role played a part in his decision to retire. “Philadelphia is where I wanted to play a couple more years,” Long told Peter King of Football Morning in America. “I love Philadelphia. But as a player I learned the most important thing to me is Sunday, and having a chance to be a big part of it. It seemed like player-coach was kind of the role that was going to be carved out for me—maybe playing 10, 12, 15 plays a game. I’m a rhythm player. I need to set people up, I need to be in the flow of the game. If I sit on the bench for three series, I can’t get rhythm, and I’ll get cold and maybe I’ll hurt myself. Some people think that’s great—play less and you won’t get hurt. Man, I want to play ball. In Philadelphia, it didn’t seem there was much of a chance to compete there. But they were honest with me the whole time. I appreciate the honesty.”

Vikings Offer Extension To Kyle Rudolph

The Vikings have offered a five-year extension to Kyle Rudolph that would make him one of the highest paid tight ends in terms of new-money average, a source tells PFT’s Mike Florio. However, there has not been much progress in talks. 

The proposed extension would likely reduce Rudolph’s $7.625MM cap number for 2019, but the veteran says there is “no way” he will take a pay cut. At the same time, Rudolph says he wants to stay with the Vikings.

The Vikings apparently want to keep Rudolph, though they have insurance after selecting Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of last month’s draft. Ideally, they’d like to have both of the well-rounded tight ends in the fold.

Last year, Rudolph had 64 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns. Even though many tight end needs around the league have been addressed, Rudolph would still find a strong market if released by Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kyle Rudolph On Pay Cut: “No Way”

Kyle Rudolph might not be a member of the Vikings for much longer. In an interview with Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, Rudolph said there is “no way” he will accept a pay cut on his 2019 salary. 

No I won’t [accept a pay cut],” Rudolph said. “I am too young for that.”

Rudolph, 30 in November, is slated to carry a $7.625MM cap number this year. However, that figure is completely non-guaranteed, so the Vikings can wipe his entire salary off of the books without cap ramifications.

Rudolph also reiterated that he wants to stay put and expressed enthusiasm about the offense under OC Kevin Stefanski and assistant head coach Gary Kubiak. But, given his contract, his refusal to adjust the contract, and the arrival of second-round tight end Irv Smith Jr., it seems likely that Rudolph will be traded or released this offseason.

The tight end had another productive season in 2018, hauling in 64 receptions for 634 yards and four scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings’ Mike Zimmer On Kyle Rudolph

It doesn’t sound like Kyle Rudolph will be with the Vikings for much longer. On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Rudolph’s status and hinted at a parting of ways. 

I’ve had conversations with Kyle and quite honestly I really love all my players,” Zimmer said (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press). “We expect Kyle to be here but sometimes business gets in the way.”

Zimmer’s comment jibes with last week’s report that contract negotiations between the Vikings and the tight end have come to a stop. The Vikings can save upwards of $7MM by moving on from Rudolph and the arival of second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. may give the team enough confidence to drop the veteran.

Rudolph is due $7.275MM in base pay for 2019 while Smith is set to make less than $5.8MM over the life of his four-year rookie deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings, Kyle Rudolph Halt Negotiations

Kyle Rudolph could be on his way out of Minnesota. Extension talks between the tight end and the Vikings broke off on Friday morning, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Vikings drafted Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round, a sign that Rudolph might not factor into the team’s future plans. By moving on from Rudolph, the Vikes can save more than $7MM. Meanwhile, Rapoport hears that there is interest in Rudolph around the NFL.

Speculatively, one has to wonder if the Patriots could be among the interested clubs. A trade to New England would give the Pats an established TE to replace Rob Gronkowski and would give Rudolph his first opportunity to play in Foxborough for the first time since September 14, 2014. In that one-sided Patriots win, Rudolph had a respectable five receptions for 53 yards.

The 29-year-old Rudolph had another productive season in 2018, hauling in 64 receptions for 634 yards and four scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Notes: Rudolph, Cutting, Badet, Kearse

The Vikings made a splash last week in the draft, when they took Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. 50th overall. Smith was considered by many to be the third best tight end in the draft behind the Iowa standouts, and the Vikings are hoping he can turn into a consistent third option behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in the future. But the move could have more immediate implications for one current member of the team, tight end Kyle Rudolph. The selection “appeared to foreshadow that Rudolph’s days in Minnesota could be numbered,” writes Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com.

Additionally, sources told Cronin that the Vikings “fielded interest” before and during the draft about a potential trade for Rudolph. We heard in March that the Vikings had asked Rudolph to take a pay cut, but his representatives then pushed back forcefully on that and denied the report. His reps also said at the time that the team had told them Rudolph would be on the roster in 2019, but that’s looking like far from a sure thing now. Last month Albert Breer of SI.com speculated that the Patriots could be interested in adding Rudolph. With New England looking thin at tight end after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, it wouldn’t be a shocker.

Here’s more from Minnesota:

  • New Vikings long snapper Austin Cutting, a seventh round pick of the team, will report to rookie minicamp but has signed an “injury protection agreement” instead of his rookie contract, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Cutting is an Air Force product, and he’s not signing “out of respect to letting the Air Force eventually give a final decision of if he can play in 2019,” Tomasson writes. Cutting could possibly have to leave the team for two years to fulfill his service requirements, but we won’t know for sure for a little while longer.
  • Receiver Jeff Badet spent last season on the Vikings’ practice squad, and he signed a reserve/futures deal with the team after the season ended. But he almost didn’t end up back with the Vikings, as he was courted by the Jets, according to Tomasson. Minnesota ended up giving the Oklahoma product a $75K bonus to stick around, which swayed him. Badet, an undrafted rookie last year, became the second player to almost defect to the Jets before coming home after Anthony Barr‘s heavily publicized free agency ordeal.
  • The Vikings are looking to convert safety Jayron Kearse to a weakside linebacker this offseason, sources told Tomasson. Kearse was taken by the Vikes in the seventh round back in 2016. A Clemson product, Kearse played linebacker in high school before being switched to safety in college. Kearse played around 20 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps last season and was a key player on special teams, so he’s got a significant role. It’ll be interesting to see how his transition turns out.

Vikings Receiving Calls On Veterans

It could be a busy day in Minnesota. SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets that the organization has received calls on three veterans: tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. Breer notes that while the organization is not “actively shopping” the trio, they’d be open to trades for their expensive veterans.

Breer had mentioned earlier this week that the Vikings could be willing to talk trade. Rudolph is a natural trade candidate, as the tight end is set to earn $7.28MM in the final year of his contract. The organization also selected Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. with their second-round pick, which naturally added some competition to the position. General manager Rick Spielman said the two players can play different roles on offense, with ESPN’s Courtney Cronin suggesting the offense could replicate Philly, where Zach Ertz and Trey Burton coexisted. The 29-year-old Rudolph had another productive season in 2018, hauling in 64 receptions for 634 yards and four scores.

Waynes is also a natural trade candidate, as the cornerback will be playing on a fully-guaranteed fifth-year option salary of $9.07MM. The former first-rounded has spent his entire career in Minnesota, including a 2018 campaign where he finished with 44 tackles, eight passes defended, and one interception.

As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, trading Rhodes could be a bit more complicated. His $10.4MM salary is fully-guaranteed, and a trade would subsequently trigger a $7.2MM cap charge. At this point of the offseason, it could be difficult for an inquiring team to fit the 28-year-old into their books. On the flip side, a trade would help the Vikings financially; the team would save $6.14MM in cap space by trading the defensive back. Rhodes finished last season with 47 tackles, nine passes defended, and one interception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.