Former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has signed a two-year deal worth up to $14 million with the New York Giants, his agency Athletes First announced on Thursday afternoon.
Rudolph was the top tight end left on the market after players like Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Rob Gronkowski, and Jared Cook had signed elsewhere. After a decade in Minnesota, the fan favorite gets a nice contract to continue his career in the nation’s biggest media market.
It’s unclear what this move means for the future of Evan Engram, the Giants TE who was a first-round pick in 2017 and is coming off of a 654-yard season. Engram could potentially be traded, but the Giants may have visions of using both players together like the Vikings have done with Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. in recent seasons. The Giants also have tight ends Levine Toilolo and Kaden Smith on the roster.
Rudolph, who turns 32 in November, was the Vikings’ longest-tenured player before his recent release for salary cap purposes. He was a two-time Pro Bowler who racked up nearly 4,500 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns in 140 career games as a Viking. Known for his size and incredible hands, Rudolph was part of some huge moments in Minnesota, including catching the overtime game-winner in the 2019 NFC wild-card game against the Saints.
Once one of the game’s most productive receiving threats at tight end, Rudolph grew dissatisfied with his role in the Vikings’ offense over the past two seasons. After drafting Smith and switching to a run-heavy offense, Rudolph’s targets dropped significantly and his responsibilities as a blocker grew. This offseason, he noted that he felt like the Vikings weren’t using him to his full potential.
Parting ways made sense for both sides. The Vikings have Smith and Tyler Conklin ready to go as their two tight ends in 2021 and beyond, and they saved cap room by cutting Rudolph. Just this morning, he was designated as a post-June 1 cut, meaning his contract will come off the Vikings’ books on June 2nd and give them $7.9 million in cap space to sign their draft class and have additional flexibility.
For Rudolph, it gave him the chance to test the open market and end up somewhere where he could be utilized more heavily in the passing game. Even if Engram sticks around in New York, Rudolph should be a good red zone target for Daniel Jones and the Giants.
He’ll also become an important part of that locker room. Rudolph was a universally-respected veteran leader in Minnesota who also earned three Walter Payton Man of the Year Awards for his work with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
After the Vikings announced his release at the beginning of March, Rudolph penned a lengthy, emotional goodbye to the team and the state of Minnesota.
Rudolph will remain teammates with defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, who also signed a deal with the Giants this week. It’s kind of like the Vikings traded Rudolph and Odenigbo for defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason.
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