It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason. Things have been so tough, they had to re-work Eric Kendricks’ contract just to sign their first-round pick because they were so strapped for cap space. But finally, the team made a move their fans could applaud.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported Minnesota came to an agreement to extend tight end Kyle Rudolph on a four-year deal worth $36 million.
The deal includes $16.025 million in total guarantees, keeps the two-time Pro Bowl tight end in the only place he has known during his eight-year NFL career, and allows for second-round rookie Irv Smith Jr. to learn how to make it at a tough position while sitting behind a pro’s pro on the depth chart. And while that’s all fine and dandy, perhaps the most important nugget comes from NFL Network teammate Tom Pelissero, who hears the extension creates $4 million in salary cap space for a Vikings team that was really up against it.
And yet, the move feels a bit curious for a cap-strapped club.
The cap-strapped Vikings are paying Kirk Cousins a bonkers contract. But rather than work around the edges and build around him with players on affordable contracts who can grow with the team during some trying cap-related times, Minnesota has backed up the truck to invest $103.5 million worth of contracts to a pair of players who are in their late 20s to deals that will take them into their 30s. Because in addition to the $36 million Rudolph is receiving, let’s not forget about the five-year deal worth $67.5 million for linebacker Anthony Barr. Both are good players, but is “good” enough when better is expected? Well, it certainly wasn’t “good” or “enough” last year when the Vikings went 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs when they lost at home against a Bears team that had nothing to play for in Week 17.
So while there is a chance the Vikings will be on the hook for just the $49 million in total guarantees in the contracts handed out to Rudolph and Barr, spending that type of cash on complimentary pieces when the quarterback is chewing up a whopping 15 percent of the team’s cap space doesn’t look like an optimal use of available funds. Good luck with all that!