I’ve been banging this drum since the day he was released from the New York Giants on March 2 and 114 days later, the situation hasn’t changed for the Minnesota Vikings. It’s past time for general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell to realize they should sign Kyle Rudolph, because he’d easily fill the current vacancy as the backup to starting tight end Irv Smith Jr.
Kyle Rudolph’s abilities have not diminished
Kyle Rudolph, even at the age of 32, has great hands, which isn’t really a skill that goes away or slips with time. When Kirk Cousins joined the team in 2018, it led Rudolph to post the highest catch percentages of his career.
|2017 (with Case Keenum)||70.4%|
|2021 (with NYG)||66.7%|
Rudolph still has hands of glue, and his big frame serves well in the red zone, where he can use his basketball background to box out smaller defenders to come down with the ball. None of these aspects of Rudolph’s game have changed.
He doesn’t need to outrun defenders 20 yards down the field, that’s never been his game. He just needs to play within his role, which as an 11-year vet entering his 12th season, he fully understands how to stay within his realm.
Rudolph knows he wouldn’t be coming back as a starter, which is important for any role player to comprehend, and he already has plenty of fans not only among the locker room, but also in the stands. He won’t go back to being a 60-plus target machine, but when his number is called, Rudolph is one player Cousins has learned he can count on, even in the clutch, as proven by
Clearly, Rudolph would welcome a reunion, it’s time for the Vikings to make it happen. If not, maybe a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come calling for the former Pro Bowl tight end now that Rob Gronkowski has possibly retired again. With training camp set to open up in just over a month, the Vikings won’t want to wait too long, risking another team scooping him up.
Vikings lack depth behind Irv Smith Jr.
As mentioned, the depth chart situation for the Vikings hasn’t changed much at tight end this offseason. Coach Kevin O’Connell got his guy from his tenure with the Los Angeles Rams, with the Vikes signing Johnny Mundt. The problem with Mundt is, he hasn’t done anything to show he can become a reliable contributor on gameday, certainly not to the extent of Rudolph.
Mundt, at 27 years old, has a total of 10 receptions in his NFL career. He’s more of a blocking tight end, if anything. Which, after finishing with a shiny 75.8 pass block and 71 run block grade per Pro Football Focus, having an extra chip blocker off the edge is valuable, but he could also serve as the third tight end.
But if the Vikings want to put another pass-catching threat on the field, Mundt isn’t it. There’s no guarantee he even makes the team, he could simply be on-hand to help install the offense and offer pointers to fellow teammates along the way.
Behind Smith Jr., is also Ben Ellefson, the Hawley, Minnesota native. The Vikings nabbed him from the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad and he’s known to be more of a blocking tight end as well, but didn’t grade as well as Mundt has thus far (44.9 PBK, 59.6 RBK), but at 25, there’s more room for growth.
The players fans haven’t even seen yet are 2021 fifth-round prospect Zach Davidson and 2022 seventh-round pick Nick Muse. At 6-foot-7, Davidson provides some inrigue, but he comes in as an extremely raw player which likely contributed to him not seeing any field time as a rook.
As is, the Vikings’ depth at tight end is scary for a team heading into the season with a pass-first operation. It’s not that they don’t have enough weapons offensively, that’s far from the case, but we’ve seen Irv Smith Jr. go down with an injury before, and if he misses an extended stretch again, the Vikings are in trouble in 2022. Signing Kyle Rudolph eliminates this danger, and he wouldn’t cost the team much at all, at likely just a few million, if not the veteran minimum.