After trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings are officially punting on the season. Who can blame them? At 1-5, using the remainder of the season to build for their future is a smart long-term move. One of the many ways they can do that is by trading players who don’t fit their future plans by capitalizing on their value at the NFL trade deadline.
However, amid rumors that the Vikings are tearing it down, the team tells a different story. General manager Rick Spielman says Minnesota isn’t rebuilding and they don’t plan to take that approach.
While that is acceptable, it becomes paramount to maximize their opportunities to be successful in the win column. This season, it didn’t work. But using this lost year to gain insights into strategies for the future provides the Vikings with a chance to improve moving forward.
There are countless ways one could go about building a roster, but there are also many constraints teams have to deal with as they assemble.
One particular area where the Vikings are actually in a really good position depth-wise is the tight end position, which could open things up at the trade deadline.
Vikings rumors: Should Minnesota trade Kyle Rudolph?
On the one hand, uncertainty about trading Kyle Rudolph is understandable. He has been one of the best locker room guys the Vikings have had in recent years.
Not only is he incredible in the community, he is a great player. Rudolph can make crushing blocks in both the passing and running game. Oh and his hands, they are incredible, if not the best in the league. You would have to live under a rock to have missed some of the seemingly impossible touchdown grabs he has made in recent years.
Now, on the other hand, Rudolph is owed nearly $9 million per season. It’s a high figure, especially for a tight end who doesn’t see a ton of targets. While the 30-year-old is getting older, there’s no reason to think Rudolph the Red Zone Reindeer can’t still perform at a high level for a few more seasons.
Can the Vikings afford to trade Rudolph?
We haven’t even mentioned the biggest reason why Rudolph is somewhat expendable. Irv Smith Jr., their No. 2 tight end is a potential star. A second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Smith Jr. hasn’t received his big shot yet. Similar to Rudolph, he has not been targeted often as part of Minnesota’s run-heavy scheme.
However, when targeted, he shows the ability to make great catches with the athleticism to make big plays. In the NFL, he could be a Pro Bowl player, an ideal replacement for Rudolph. While he might not have Rudolph’s hands, few do, but Smith Jr. can help the Vikings stretch the field.
Part of the problem is the Vikings won’t receive great compensation in a trade. With Rudolph being the fifth-highest paid at his position in the league, teams may not be as eager to make a deal, without a contract restructure.
Rudolph has proven his talent is still there and with many teams battling for a postseason spot, they will call about his availability, if they aren’t already doing so.
NFL trade rumors: Kyle Rudolph trade possibilities
Like many NFL trades, any potential trade will likely be based around draft picks. Don’t expect the Vikings to part with Rudolph for anything less than a 5th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, many of the teams that may be interested in Rudolph would likely be in playoff contention, so the pick would be in the latter half of whatever round it falls in.
Teams like the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and more would likely gladly insert Rudolph right into their starting lineup right away.
Would Rudolph want to be traded?
The other factor is whether Rudolph even wants a trade. After living in Minnesota for several seasons, it is no secret, he loves it there. It’s where his kids go to school; it’s where his wife works; it’s where he’s raised his family. If it were entirely up to him, Rudolph might prefer to finish his career in Minnesota. And Vikings fans wouldn’t want it any other way, even if it may be better for the team to see what they can get for him on the trade market.
After all, the negative effect that trading a team captain can have on the locker room is not one the Vikings may be able to afford. There is a certain unmeasurable factor of having good locker room “glue” guys on the squad, and Rudolph is one of them.
This story has been updated with a video added.