Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is entering elite company among the franchise’s pass-catchers.
He is currently fifth in receiving touchdowns in franchise history (47) and — if he matches his 2019 numbers — could finish this next season third all-time by scoring six touchdowns to pass up No. 4 Sammy White (51) and tie No. 3 Anthony Carter (53).
Rudolph also has an untouchable stat last season that proved he was one of the most reliable receiving tight ends in the NFL.
He was targeted 48 times in 2019, catching 39 passes for 367 yards and six TDs — all without a single drop. He caught a career-high 81.3 percent of his targets.
Rudolph has been the best tight end in the NFC North for the better half of the last decade, but entering his 10th NFL season at 30 years old, could Rudolph’s days with the Vikings be numbered?
He currently is the fifth highest-paid tight end in the NFL after ranking 35th in receiving yards per game (23.0) and tied for fourth in TDs (6) last season, bringing into question the value he offers the team.
Rudolph’s Decline in Yardage; Ascension as a Mentor
Although Rudolph saw the least amount of targets in his six seasons starting all 16 games, he continued to leverage his 6-foot-6 frame in the red zone and came through with a pair of clutch touchdowns last season against the Dallas Cowboys and his walk-off TD in the NFC Wild Card game against the New Orleans Saints.
But Rudolph’s target share in the Vikings offense has diminished.
From his 132-target, 83-reception and 840 receiving yards in 2016, to a pair of 80-plus target seasons in 2017 and 2018, Rudolph is now coming off one of the least productive seasons in his career. This is largely due to the addition of Irv Smith Jr., who broke the Vikings rookie tight end single-season reception record (36) and single-game receiving yards record with a pair of 60-yard games in 2019.
The Vikings offense lined up in two-tight end sets at the highest rate in the NFL last season at 55 percent, a figure that likely won’t change much as former offensive advisor Gary Kubiak takes over as the offensive coordinator this season.
Rudolph will continue to mentor Smith, who’s smaller and more athletic midfield target that can also line up in the slot, but Rudolph should retain his spot as the Vikings most secure red-zone target, and the Vikings should consider Rudolph’s contributions to the team.
The veteran tight end has fumbled just once during his entire career and, when he scores, the Vikings have won 74 percent of their games since 2015, according to The Viking Age’s Dustin Baker.
Rudolph Put His Minnesota Home on the Market
Rudolph’s Wayzata, Minn., estate was recently featured on Realtor.com for a $3,395,000 price tag. He is under contract through 2023 and may just be testing the market. Several factors that could be at play: shortening the commute to the Vikings training facility in Eagan, downsizing from his 8,052 square foot home or even a change of scenery.
If the Vikings were to release Rudolph after this season, it would shore up $5.1 million in cap space as the franchise continues to build more room for upcoming talent. He may be pressured into restructuring his contract after averaging two catches for 23 yards a game a season ago.
While there is plenty to read into with him selling his house, only time will tell whether it is prospecting his departure or simply planning for his future with the Vikings.