Taking Stock of the Kyle Rudolph Cut

Kyle Rudolph, my wife’s favorite Vikings player, has been cut. It was a predictable outcome. Pretty much every article about Minnesota’s cut candidates featured Rudolph, and his unwillingness to adjust his deal made the move seem inevitable. Where do our Vikings stand after this move?

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings Great

It’s fair to say that Rudolph will be remembered as a Vikings great. In his Player’s Tribune piece, Rudolph discusses his time with Minnesota: “So while I understand that a lot of the news today is going to focus on me and the team parting ways, I’d personally rather focus on the flip side of that: the fact that me and the Vikings stayed together for 10 whole seasons….. an insane run in today’s NFL.” The fact that he had a well-written, lengthy article prepared for publication as the news of his cut emerged suggests Rudolph knew that he was going to be cut for a little while.

He was a 2nd round pick in 2011, which officially began his ten-year career with the Vikings. He finishes his time in Minnesota with 453 catches, 4488 receiving yards, and 48 touchdowns. Statistically, his best season came in 2016 when he had 83 catches, 840 yards, and seven touchdowns.

More importantly, Rudolph was consistently involved in the community. There is a reason why he was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of Year Award three times. Rudolph seemed to always be giving his time, influence, and finances to make Minnesota a better place to live.

Rudolph was responsible for some of the most memorable moments for our Vikings over the past decade. His speed may have declined, but he has always been a clutch player, one who could step up in big moments. His OT touchdown catch against the Saints a couple years ago was special.

The Dollars and Cents

By cutting Rudolph, the Vikings save a little more than $5 million. The Covid Cap makes every penny increasingly valuable, so this money is extremely important.

Minnesota is now roughly $5 million over next season’s projected cap, per Over the Cap (Rudolph leaves behind more than $4 million in dead money). In other words, there is still work to be done. Who will be next?

The Vikings will certainly be cutting more players in the coming days. In my opinion, though, Minnesota will look to restructure rather than outright cut, thereby kicking the can down the road.

It makes very little sense to cut a player if the consequence is needing to go sign someone else to come play for a similar number and similar production. Riley Reiff, for instance, is likely going to be extended so Minnesota can lower his 2021 cap number. The same can be said for Shamar Stephen.

Cutting Rudolph makes sense because there are upside players already on the roster – Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin – who can replace him for cheap. Minnesota doesn’t have that same luxury at LT and DT. We also need to remember that Spielman and Zimmer are on the hot seat. If they’re confident a vet can help them win now, they’ll likely do all they can to keep him in a purple uniform.

Looking Ahead

Rudolph discussed the future of our Vikings in his article, praising the young players who are stepping up to lead the franchise: “I think about teammates like Garrett Bradbury, and Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson, and Brian O’Neill: young players who are just getting started in this league — and who are going to be a part of the next great Vikings team, I’m sure of it.”

Indeed, Minnesota has some promising young talent, and there is good reason for optimism. One player he didn’t mention is Irv Smith Jr., a tight end who is also a second round pick. Let’s hope Smith can not only live up to Rudolph’s example (both on and off the field), but also surpass it.

One final thing: in a few years, expect to see a headline that says Kyle Rudolph is signing a one-day deal so he can retire as a Viking.