Following 10 seasons and two Pro Bowl trips as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, tight end Kyle Rudolph has been released by the team, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday. The team later confirmed the release.
"Thank you Minnesota!! Although my time as a Viking has come to a close, my time as a MINNESOTAN is just getting started!" Rudolph said in an article on The Players' Tribune.
Rudolph was set for the second season of a four-year, $36 million pact and set to make a base salary of $7.65 million. Cutting Rudolph will save the Vikings a bit more than $5 million in cap space and $8 million in cash for 2021, Pelissero added.
"Kyle has been a leader and mentor for us on and off the field from the first day I arrived in Minnesota," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement. "He has been such an important part of this team and community throughout his career and it has been an honor to coach him the last seven seasons. He will be missed, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best."
Taken in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Vikings, the 31-year-old Rudolph is now bound for free agency for the first time in his career.
The conclusion of Rudolph's days in Minnesota seemed to be nearing when the club selected tight end Irv Smith in 2019, but instead, Rudolph inked the aforementioned four-year deal. However, with the salary cap problematic for each and every NFL team in these unprecedented times, Rudolph's final days with the Vikings truly were drawing near and Tuesday's news was hardly unexpected.
Rudolph had previously made it clear he wasn't going to take a pay cut, and the Vikings therefore made a roster cut.
Smith will now step to the forefront more so in Minnesota following a 2020 season in which he had 30 receptions for 365 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games (seven starts), while Rudolph's final season with the Vikes netted 28 catches for 334 yards and just one score in 12 starts.
Across his autumns in Minnesota, Rudolph played 140 games with 132 starts, hauling in 453 catches for 4,488 yards and 48 touchdowns, all of those numbers top-10 marks in franchise history. His touchdowns are the most all-time for a Vikings tight end and his catches and yards trail only Steve Jordan.
Rudolph was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and 2017 and now has the opportunity to show whether he still has the ability to be a top-tier tight end and was simply in the wrong situation toward the end in Minnesota or if, indeed, his best seasons are in the rear view. He will join a free-agent class led by Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, as far as tight ends are concerned.
Regarded as a high-character guy and, at 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, an excellent red-zone target, Rudolph should be able to aid any team with at least tight end depth, but could potentially provide more if he finds the right landing spot.