Tight end Kyle Rudolph would be an excellent replacement for Rob Gronkowski in the New England Patriots‘ offense. But Pats fans hoping for the team to strike a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for the eight-year NFL veteran will probably be disappointed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Appearing on Boston’s WEEI Friday, the ESPN NFL insider explained on the “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” show that the Vikings want more in return for Rudolph than the Patriots are willing to trade.
“I think that [the Patriots] have had conversations with the Vikings and I think the Vikings have wanted too much,” Schefter said. “I think that unless the Vikings’ stance changes, the Patriots aren’t about to give up a premium pick, and I don’t mean a first-round pick, a premium pick for a guy going into the last year of his contract at this time.”
Either side could change its mind, however, depending on how the first half of the regular season develops.
“If Minnesota changes its mind and is like, ‘You know what, we like Irv Smith. He’s looked good in camp,” Schefter continued. “Then they could move on from Kyle Rudolph. But, Minnesota is trying to win this year and Minnesota feels like it has a pretty good team. Today, on June 7, I would say they would not be inclined to move him.”
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Plenty could happen between now and the end of training camp or the preseason. And each team’s respective coaching staffs and front offices might feel much differently after the first eight weeks of the regular season.
By the end of October, the Patriots might decide that they’re fine with the production from Matt LaCosse and Stephen Anderson at tight end. Maybe Austin Seferian-Jenkins will have been welcomed back after his personal leave. Ben Watson will also have served his four-game PED suspension. That could leave New England with solid depth at the position.
There’s also the possibility that Gronkowski, as many associated with the Patriots believe, will miss football and put on the pads again. That could be the ideal solution to replacing his missing production, and perhaps Gronkowski will be fresher and healthier after sitting out the grind of training camp and the first few games of the regular season.
On the Minnesota side, as Schefter asserted, the Vikings are in a position to set a high price for Rudolph. He’s under contract through the 2019 season and though the team might not want to lose him without any return, a likely replacement will be ready with second-round draft pick Irv Smith Jr. The No. 50 pick overall pick compiled 44 receptions, 710 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Alabama. Just 20 years old, the Vikings might want him to get one year of seasoning before Rudolph leaves in free agency.
Last season, Rudolph, 29, caught 64 passes for 634 yards and four touchdowns. His best season was 2016, during which he notched 83 receptions for 840 yards and seven scores. While those numbers are notable and Rudolph can be a weapon in the passing game, he’s not nearly as explosive a threat as Gronkowski. That’s likely a major factor in the Patriots not wanting to trade something as valuable as a high-round draft pick. Especially for a player who’s under contract for only one more season.