On the eve of NFL training camp, the Minnesota Vikings re-acquired the talents of Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph. The ‘will they, won’t they’ saga surrounding the deal had lingered throughout major media outlets for months, as Rudolph’s status as a locker room leader and high-production target was pitted against the worthiness of bringing him aboard the Viking ship on a long-term, lucrative contract which will no doubt eat away at what is an already low amount of cap space, potentially hindering the franchise in the process.
Despite the fact that the likelihood of a deal being made was declining as each day passed, the Vikings signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal.
So, with the 2019 NFL campaign right around the corner, did the Vikes make the right choice in re-signing Kyle Rudolph to a long-term extension?
Pro Bowl Production & Veteran Leadership
There’s no doubting Rudolph’s talent. The Notre Dame alum has orchestrated an unbelievable eight-year career since entering the league in 2011. Not only does he rank fifth all-time in franchise history with 41 career receiving touchdowns, Rudolph has also accumulated 3787 yards, whilst he boasts a career catch percentage of 66.6%, making him one of the most reliable talents on the Vikings’ offence.
Furthermore, he’s still amassing high-calibre statistics, given the fact that he caught 78.0% of passes thrown his way (a career best), whilst he also added 634 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns to his résumé for the season.
On top of his proven track record, the Vikings have secured another credible attacking threat, something they would’ve lacked given the fact that they only possess two other truly reliable targets in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Another plausible reasoning behind bringing Rudolph back is that he can help aid the team off the field, as well as on it. At present, he remains the second longest tenured servant of the franchise remaining in the locker room, behind none other than Everson Griffen. His contributions within that room will also be integral to the development of Irv Smith, who was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft and appears to be one prospect that the organisation are truly wowed by. That said, tight ends often struggle to gain traction in their rookie season in the league, therefore Rudolph can continue to carry the load by himself if need be.
Financial Breakdown Of The Contract
At first glance, the $36M fee seems exceptionally hefty. This is something agents like to portray, as it helps to set a precedent for their next client. However, when you truly delve into the details of the deal, both player and franchise should be content.
As reported by Ian Rapoport, Rudolph is due $9M in fully guaranteed money, which is paid out this season. By guaranteeing Rudolph that figure this season, it allows them to easily cut him in 2020, should they feel his play has declined. Aside from the fully guaranteed money, his year two salary is guaranteed, but it’s for injury only. The term “total guarantees” is deceptive because it includes the insurance a player is given by his contract that if he suffers a serious injury and cannot perform in the injury guaranteed years, he still gets his money. However, if he is healthy then Rudolph can still be released, and that money not be paid out.
To conclude, the extension is essentially a one-year deal for $9.25M with TEAM options for the remaining 3 years following the 2019 season. Whilst the specific cap hits have yet to be released, Field Yates of ESPN noted that with the extension Rudolph’s 2019 cap hit drops to $3.45M from his previously scheduled $7.625M. Ultimately, I find it highly probable that Rudolph will remain with the Vikings for two more years, until his cap hit is too large to justify his presence.
Reaction To The Deal
Rudolph addressed the media after Mini-Camp practice earlier this week upon the closing of the deal, stating that: “The only thing that matters at the end of the day is that I’m here. My family wants to be here… I’m fired up to have the opportunity to have the groundwork laid to keep me here for the foreseeable future.” He added, “I’m excited that this is behind us, and now I can just focus on football. That’s my goal, and I want to be one of the first to bring home a championship”.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins also expressed his excitement toward the announcement of the deal, as he took to Twitter with the following message. “Glad to have this guy back. Looking forward to seeing how many more TD’s we can add to that number in the future.”
Joy was also shared amongst SKOLnation, as many fans were excited to have their beloved “Rudy” return for another season…or four.
A Deal That Gives With One Hand..And Takes With The Other
With the financial precedent continually being raised within the NFL regarding high-profile athletes and their contracts, no deal is seen as a great deal, due in large part to the drastic effect of the fee on a franchise’s salary cap. This is a sentiment shared in regards to Rudolph’s new deal, which is fairly hefty considering the potential for decline in his playing ability as he heads into his thirties.
On the other hand however, Rudolph’s knowledge of the game is something that simply can’t be bought. Moreover, he can put it to good use by being the model athlete for Smith JR. to strive towards. Besides that, Rudolph’s addition to the attacking arsenal at Kirk Cousins’ disposal is an absolute MUST, given the QB’s struggles of yesteryear.
Image Credits – profootballfocus.com.
Statistics – profootballreference.com