The New England Patriots have a need for an established tight end. Minnesota Vikings standout Kyle Rudolph could be the perfect fit.
The Minnesota Vikings spent a second-round pick on former Alabama star Irv Smith Jr., and since previous starter Kyle Rudolph is set to cost $7.625 million against the salary cap in 2019, a parting of ways seems likely.
Minnesota reportedly haven’t asked Rudolph to take a pay cut, instead offering the 29-year-old a five-year extension that would lower his cap number for next season. That indicates the Vikings still see value in keeping Rudolph alongside their promising rookie, but it’s more likely that a trade will happen if general manager Rick Spielman can find an interested party.
Per Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer, a former Patriots beat writer, the New England Patriots have spoken to the Vikings about acquiring Rudolph. Though the Pats aren’t desperate for a tight end with steady veteran Benjamin Watson and possible late-bloomer Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the roster after free agency, Tom Brady could use a more productive weapon at the tight end position than the 38-year-old Watson or the inconsistent Seferian-Jenkins.
Rudolph has understandably shown zero interest in taking a paycut from the Vikings, but perhaps he’d be more willing to scrap his current deal for a new, cheaper one to play for the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots value the tight end position, but they rarely like to spend big money. Take note of the replacement options they’ve tabbed for Gronkowski in Watson and Seferian-Jenkins.
That said, Bill Belichick is well-known for acquiring pass-catchers for mid or late-round picks and if the price is right, Rudolph could be a big acquisition for the Super Bowl favorites. Rudolph isn’t an elite player by any means, but he’s a consistently productive tight end who has hauled in at least 50 passes in each of the past three seasons. Rudolph also had a combined 15 touchdown receptions in 2016 and 2017, and there’s reason to believe he’d put together a career year with Brady throwing him passes. His red-zone volume would be sky-high, particularly since his touchdowns were nearly halved by playing with Kirk Cousins.
Keep an eye out for the Patriots as a sensible landing spot for Rudolph. The Vikings seem willing to move on from him, and a draft pick would be icing on the cake for Spielman. As for the Patriots, they’re always looking to improve, and they shouldn’t leave anything up to chance after losing a high-impact player like Gronkowski this offseason. No, Rudolph isn’t nearly the player Gronk is as a receiver or blocker, but he’s, at worst, an above-average starting tight end.