Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings released Kyle Rudolph, who was one of the greatest tight ends in team history. This surprised no one, really.
While Kyle Rudolph certainly left his mark on the team and community, there comes a point in every athlete’s career where the team moves on. Today, is that day for the Vikings and Rudolph.
Releasing the aging veteran will cost the Vikings a $4.35 million cap hit, reduced from the $7.65 million it would have cost to keep him.
However, cutting Rudolph leaves a void. Many believe TE2, Irv Smith Jr. will step into Rudolph’s shoes. But, the 2019 second-round pick hasn’t lit the world on fire the few times he’s had the opportunity.
Thankfully, the Vikings have NFL Free Agency and the draft to restock the roster.
Drafting Kyle Rudolph’s Replacement?
Kyle Pitts, out of Florida, is widely considered the top tight end in the upcoming draft. At 6-foot-6, 239 pounds, Pitts is possibly the best available player after Trevor Lawrence, according to many in the know. The giant tight end easily plays wide receiver, earning comparisons to Calvin Johnson. Some consider him the next Tony Gonzalez.
The Vikings are unlikely to spend the No. 14 overall pick on Pitts, however.
So, let’s keep looking.
Next up, Miami’s Brevin Jordan is worth a look. The 6-4, 245-pounder moves well, runs crisp routes and has good hands. WalterFootball ranks Jordan as the No. 3 tight end on the board, while he lands at No. 4 on SI’s big board. Both project him to go somewhere around the Vikings third-round pick, No. 79 overall.
Hunter Long from Boston College is also intriguing. The 6-5, 253-pound tight end has a great combination of pass catching and blocking skills. He’s big enough to win jump balls and strong enough to blow opponents out of the running lane. How that translates to the next level depends on coaching and what Long puts in. SI projects long to go in the second round, while Walter has him in the third or fourth. Either way, Long will contribute to an NFL squad quickly.
Replacing Kyle Rudolph in NFL Free Agency
Former Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry barely missed USA Today’s top-101 free agents list. The giant pass catcher racked up 1,265 yards and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons. Not only would he replace Rudolph, he might outshine him.
Jonnu Smith, the former Tennessee Titan, also made the top half of the the list. Smith played in 60 games for the Titans, amassing 1,302 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. His versatility and fluid move mechanics make a Swiss Army knife of sorts, when it comes to masking pre-play sets.
Another guy who offers extreme versatility is former LA Ram, Gerald Everett. While his numbers are quite in line with Smith’s or Henry’s, his real value to a team is what he allows the players around him to achieve. His pre-snap adjustments, live play decoying and ability to exploit mismatches with the defense make him a solid starter.