Kyle Rudolph: Trade is 'not what we're hoping for'

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For the first time in his career, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has an uncertain future heading into his ninth professional season.

The Vikings used a second-round pick on tight end Irv Smith Jr., who is arguably viewed as the 29-year-old Rudolph's heir-apparent. And then Rudolph became the subject of trade speculation late last week after extension talks broke down between the team and his agent.

Rudolph, however, has a firm grasp of his situation, telling reporters Monday that it isn't hard for him to block the outside noise and his preference is to stay with his current team.

"I've stated it many times: my family, myself, we want to be here, and we're going to do everything we can to be here," Rudolph said, via Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune. "But that doesn't mean that if the alternative happens, and we do get traded, change happens.

"We've been so fortunate to be in one place for eight years that you don't really realize how many guys change teams on a yearly basis. Obviously, that's not what we're hoping for. We've been very fortunate to be in one place for going on nine years and this is home for us. It's going to be home for us, and that's the way we want it to be."

Like a vast majority of personnel decisions on the business side of football, whether Rudolph stays or goes could ultimately boil down to money, a point head coach Mike Zimmer alluded to Monday at a golf outing.

"I've had conversations with Kyle and quite honestly I really love all my players," Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We expect Kyle to be here, but sometimes business gets in the way."

Rudolph enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $7.2 million in 2019. When including bonuses, the Vikings are set to pay the tight end an estimated $7.6 million, a figure that makes him the team's fifth-highest paid offensive player.

As to the state of the breakdown in extension negotiations, Rudolph didn't have an update for reporters but said his agent and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman are working "really hard to figure out something."

The challenge on the Vikings' end surrounds only having $738,054 as of Monday morning in available salary cap room, which ranks as the lowest amount in the league.

"We're in a tough situation as a team," Rudolph said. "You can't keep everybody, you can't pay everybody."

In the meantime, Rudolph appears content to continue showing up for work until there's resolution.

He also liked the selection of Smith given the potential use of more 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) groupings for the offense, which could feature Rudolph and Smith on the field at the same time.

"I think he can help our offense," Rudolph said. "The term mismatch gets thrown around a lot. And being in 11 personnel [one running back, one tight end] and having three wide receivers, you can be a pass-catching tight end and you're not necessarily creating mismatches because there's an extra DB on the field.

"For us to have both of us on the field at the same time, that's how you create mismatches. That's how teams have kind of dictated things to defenses. When we have two tight ends on the field we can dictate the tempo, the play. We have control and not the defense."

Rudolph's vision of playing alongside Smith coming to fruition will obviously require him to be on the team when the regular season begins. And that desired scenario remains to be seen.

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