Kyle Rudolph Chases ‘Perfect Opportunity’ in NFC, Nixing Vikings Reunion: Report

Kyle Rudolph Vikings

Getty Kyle Rudolph addressed the Vikings' decision to send Kirk Cousins into a contract year for the 2023 season.

The speculation is over.

Despite Kyle Rudolph going on KFAN radio and expressing his interest in returning to the Minnesota Vikings and a reunion reported to be “not off the table,” there will be no homecoming for the longtime fan favorite this season.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on July 20 that Rudolph is instead signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady has a new tight end: The #Bucs are signing veteran Kyle Rudolph to a one-year deal, per source. A two-time Pro Bowl pick, Rudolph spent 10 years in Minnesota before playing for the #Giants in 2021. Now, he figures as a big piece of the post-Gronk plan in Tampa,” Pelissero tweeted.

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Rudolph Saw Super Bowl Potential in Vikings

Spending the summer in Minnesota, where his family has settled for the past decade, Rudolph said he was highly praised throughout his homecoming over the past months.

“I said it when I left here, ‘that Minnesota’s always home.’ It’s kind of been brought to my attention more when we came back from New Jersey after last season. Whether it’s at the grocery store in Wayzata or at a Timberwolves game… [or] WWE Smackdown this Friday. ‘Come Home Kyle’ chants erupted in the middle of one of the matches,” Rudolph said on KFAN on June 21. “Being around town after being gone and the amount of people saying, ‘we wished you were still here…’ just the amount of love myself and my family have gotten from people around the state it’s really opened our eyes to how admired we are by Vikings fans and how much love they’ve showed us for the last decade of our lives here.”

Entering his 12th NFL season and soon-to-be 33, Rudolph doesn’t have much more to chase.

He’s the Vikings’ record holder for most tight-end touchdowns (48) and is roughly 1,800 receiving yards off from overtaking Steve Jordan. He added that he’d like to continue to chip away at Jordan’s record and become the undisputed greatest tight end in franchise history but is after more at this stage in his career — a championship.

And while Rudolph said that not winning a championship in Minnesota was one of his only regrets, he opted to chase his title ambitions with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers after waiting for most of the offseason for what he called the “perfect opportunity.”

“Certainly for me, there’s still one thing left to do here and that’s win a championship in Minnesota. Obviously, I would love to have another opportunity to get a crack at it. I talked about being calculated in my next decision. I’ve never won a Super Bowl. I’d love to hoist a Lombardi at some point in my career. I do believe this Vikings team has a chance to do that, and certainly, I would be open to that.”

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Insider Concerned About Irv Smith Jr.

Appearing on the SKOR North podcast just hours before Rudolph’s signing, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson predicted the veteran tight end to sign with Tampa Bay.

Wolfson also expressed some concern about third-year, breakout candidate Irv Smith Jr., who is coming back from meniscus surgery after missing the entire 2021 season. Wolfson said that because Minnesota never hung up the phone in its pursuit of Rudolph leaves him to believe there is either some question marks regarding Smith or the rest of the tight end group’s receiving ability.

“It makes me wonder what exactly is going on with Irv Smith Jr.,” Wolfson said, “Is the knee still an issue? He denied it, but we get lied to all the time. What sort of shape is he in? How is the knee? They have a bunch of blocking tight ends but outside of Irv, they don’t have a pass-catching tight end that you really trust.”

Smith has been a participant throughout OTAs, but it remains to be seen if he’ll start the season on a pitch count.

Ben Ellefson, Johnny Mundt and Zach Davidson have combined for 11 catches in their entire careers as the remaining tight ends on the depth chart.

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