Unresolved contract situations are old hat in the NFL, but this seems more complicated than it needs to be:
#Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph confirms @ProFootballTalk report that he's been offered a five-year contract extension. "That’s what they’re working at.’’ Is it close? “Like I said, they’re working. We’re in a tough situation. Everybody knows that.''
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) May 22, 2019
Kyle Rudolph confirmed a report from Pro Football Talk that he received a five-year contract extension from the Vikings. But not only has Rudolph not signed a deal to this point, the extension doesn’t sound imminent. In theory, this shouldn’t be “tough” for either side. Rudolph has played eight seasons for the Vikings, gone to two Pro Bowls, and has averaged 63 catches, 625 yards, and six touchdowns since the start of the 2015 season. And yet, his future in Minnesota is far from secure.
The Vikings drafted Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of April’s draft, which instantly led to Rudolph’s name landing on the trade block. And it’s not as if those whispers didn’t make sense: Rudolph is entering the final year of his contract and the Vikings are up tight against the salary cap ($1.129M in cap space with plenty of other needs to fill). If they were to release Rudolph, they can make room for Irv Smith Jr. and increase their cap space up to $8.1M in the process. If you believe in Smith and know how to use that additional cap space elsewhere, that’s not a terrible option, right? Obviously, with a five-year extension on the table, the Vikings seemingly prefer to keep Rudolph around, but they could also structure that deal in way that provides more cap space this offseason anyway – killing two birds with one stone.
In any case, we’re heading into June and Rudolph hasn’t been dealt and is still on the Vikings’ books for this coming year – and this coming year, alone.
But let’s make it interesting: What happens with Rudolph in Minnesota could ultimately impact the Bears in Chicago both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, his departure might weaken a division rival with playoff implications. Obviously, trading Rudolph could net the Vikings draft picks that could be valuable for a team tied up by the salary cap. But more directly … if the Vikings were to release Rudolph, it would be fair to wonder if he would fit into the Bears’ plans.
Outside of place-kicker, the only other position the Bears have brought in waves of talent for competition has been at tight end. Heck, they even moved an offensive tackle into that group in an attempt to give it a boost. Bradley Sowell joins undrafted free agents Ian Bunting (California), Jesper Horsted (Princeton), Dax Raymond (Utah State), Ellis Richardson (Georgia Southern) in the battle for a spot behind Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, and Ben Braunecker. Clearly, the Bears feel like that position group could use some work.
As an experienced two-way tight end who is a proven red zone threat who could provide veteran leadership to a team hungry for a title, Rudolph would check some boxes for the Bears.
Bears GM Ryan Pace hasn’t been shy about unexpectedly plucking players from division rivals. Remember, they snagged Josh Sitton in 2016 when the Packers let him go and quickly inserted him as the starting left guard. The Bears still have $17 million left in salary cap space, so they could conceivably offer a competitive contract if they believed he was a fit for the 2019 club. And while that all sounds intriguing, there is still a while to go before we cross that bridge. Until the time is right, we’ll just keep tabs on Rudolph from a distance.