Kyle Rudolph Sends the Minnesota Vikings a Stern Message About His Contract

The NFL offseason is going to be an interesting one. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league is expecting the salary cap to shrink. This means teams might have to make a budget their money or ask players to take pay cuts. Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph doesn’t seem interested in taking any kind of cuts going forward.

Rudolph had a quiet season for the Vikings, something that he is not happy about. He believes he still can perform at a high level and isn’t pleased with Minnesota at this point in time. He made sure to let the Vikings know that he wouldn’t take anything less than what he deserves going into next season.

Kyle Rudolph isn’t happy with how the Vikings used him

The Vikings offense was one of the better units in the NFL last season, at least stat-wise. They ranked fourth in total yards per game (393.3) and fifth in rushing yards per game (142.7). Their passing game was middle of the pack, and Kyle Rudolph isn’t happy with how he has been used in that facet. In 2020, He posted his lowest receiving yardage and touchdown count since 2013. 

Rudolph caught 28 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown this past year. He revealed on the Unrestricted with Ben Leber podcast that he missed Weeks 13-17 because of a Lisfranc foot sprain. Rudolph was used more as a blocker, specifically in the running game. He knew what his role was going to be early in the season, whether he liked it or not.

“Early on last season, the writing was on the wall. I saw where our offense was going. I had like seven or eight catches in the first six games. It was just absurd. I was literally blocking all the time,” said Rudolph. “I’ve somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I’ve been forced to…I just wanted to run around and catch balls,” said Rudolph per ESPN.

There are three years left on Rudolph’s contract with Minnesota. With the Vikings projected to be almost $13 million over the cap, they could restructure Rudolph’s deal. The Minnesota tight end isn’t going to take anything less than what his contract says he’ll earn in 2021.

Kyle Rudolph won’t accept a pay cut

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Despite a down season that ended with him injured reserve, Rudolph believes he still has what it takes to be a top-tier tight end. He’s proven himself in the passing game and now has improved his run blocking, even if it was by force. If the Vikings want to keep him for the remainder of his contract, they should know he isn’t taking any pay cuts.

“It won’t happen…I think I’m worth every dime of my contract. That doesn’t mean that I’m used to my potential, and I’m used to doing what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” said Rudolph, per ESPN.

Rudolph is due a base salary of $7.65 million next season. This isn’t the first time Minnesota and Rudolph have had to talk about his contract. In 2019, the Vikings restructured Rudolph’s contract, making it a four-year extension.

With the stance Rudolph is taking, what could the Vikings do with his contract? They seem to have a different role for their tight end, which didn’t make him too happy. Minnesota’s situations with their tight end could end up a couple of ways.

What are Minnesota’s options?

The Vikings are one of the many teams that are cap strapped this offseason, and Kyle Rudolph’s unwillingness to take a pay cut could make things difficult for them financially. If Minnesota wants to keep their veteran tight end, they could restructure the remaining years on his deal. His contract carries a cap hit of $9.45 million next season. If they restructure his contract, that number could be cut in half.

If Minnesota needs to save money, and Rudolph stands firm on not taking a pay cut, the team could release him. They would incur $4.45 million in dead money but could save $5.1 million in cap space. They do have Irv Smith Jr. waiting in the wings, who was Minnesota’s third receiving option in 2020. However, Smith isn’t as polished of a blocker as Rudolph. With their run-heavy offense, the Vikings might want to keep him around. 

Kyle Rudolph wants to stay with the Vikings but won’t take a pay cut to do so. Minnesota will have to look over their financial books because of the cap situation. If they do bring him back, Rudolph wants more action in the passing game.

“Like I said, at 31, with how I feel physically, with knowing what I can still do … it’s simply a lack of opportunities. In the past, I was the one getting red zone targets. I can’t sign up for that again,” Rudolph said.