EDEN PRAIRIE (FOX 9) - Kyle Rudolph knows the writing might be on the wall for his future with the Minnesota Vikings.
At least his tone suggested as much at the Mike Zimmer Golf Classic on Monday at Bearpath Golf and Country Club in Eden Prairie. For now, the writing isn’t in the form of a new contract for the tight end, who is also one of the most popular community figures the Vikings have.
Rudolph is 29 years old and entering his ninth NFL season. He’s also due more than $7 million this year, and the Vikings need salary cap space to sign top draft choice Garrett Bradbury.
“We’re in a tough situation as a team. You can’t keep everybody, you can’t pay everybody,” Rudolph told reporters before playing in Zimmer’s charity tournament.
Rudolph is in a unique situation with the Vikings. He was a second round draft choice for Minnesota back in 2011 out of Notre Dame, and only knows Minnesota purple.
He’s spent eight years with the Vikings and is coming off one of his better statistical seasons. He finished with 64 catches, the second-most in a season in his career, for more than 600 yards and four touchdowns.
But with the Vikings taking Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. with the No. 50 overall pick last month, it could signal the end of Rudolph’s tenure in Minnesota. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the two are different tight ends and can co-exist in the Vikings’ offense, but there’s more to it than that.
There’s a very real chance Rudolph could be traded to clear cap space. Regardless of what the result ends up being, he’d like clarity as soon as it can come.
“My family, myself, we want to be here and we’re going to do everything we can to be here. If the alternative happens and we do get traded, change happens,” Rudolph said. “Obviously that’s not what we’re hoping for, we’ve been very fortunate to be in one place for going on nine years. This is home for us, it’s going to be home for us and that’s the way we want it to be.”
Zimmer didn’t want to get into specifics about Rudolph on Monday, choosing to focus on the golf tournament and raising money for his foundation. But Zimmer hopes he’s wearing a Vikings’ jersey this season.
“I’ve had conversations with Kyle and quite honestly, I really love all my players. We expect Kyle to be here,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes business gets in the way but we’re not here to talk about that today.”
Rudolph and the Vikings reportedly had contract conversations as recently as last week, but the discussions were tabled. He stated again Monday his desire to stay with the Vikings if it can be worked out. He’s already said he would restructure his contract, but nothing has been solidified yet.
One thing Rudolph makes sure not to do is take his contract uncertainty home with him. He was named last season’s Man of the Year nominee as he and his wife, Jordan, opened Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in December of 2017. It was built as a getaway for kids and their families going through treatments.
Rudolph and his wife also have twin girls that he goes home to every night. He won’t worry about trade rumors or his contract until a decision has been made.
“It’s 100 percent out of my control. I’ve just got to go to work every day and if I get better as a football player, that’s going to help our offense get better and that’s all I can worry about,” Rudolph said. “Everything else will fall into place.”
Rudolph has played all 16 games the last four seasons, and he said at recent offseason conditioning workouts that he feels like he’s in the prime of his career. We’ll find out soon if it’s enough to keep Rudolph in Minnesota.
“Not only for myself but for my wife and our family, this is home for us. If we don’t have to leave home, then that’s all the better,” Rudolph said.