Kyle Rudolph has been released by the Minnesota Vikings. What's next?

What is next for the long-time Minnesota Viking tight end?
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On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings cut ties with long-time tight end Kyle Rudolph. The former Notre Dame pass-catcher spent 10 seasons with the team, accumulating 453 receptions, 4,488 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns. Rudolph had two Pro Bowl appearances in 2012 and 2017. Rudolph also had a game-winning overtime catch against the New Orleans Saints that sent Minnesota into the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs.

The move made sense for both parties. The Vikings save about $5 million in cap space by cutting the tight end. Rudolph would have had a cap hit of about $9.5 million in 2021 if he wasn't released, which would have been one of the highest cap hits in the league for the position. For a tight end who hasn’t put up high-level production in a couple of seasons, it didn’t make sense to keep him on the roster. Minnesota also has promising young tight end Irv Smith Jr., who hasn’t been able to dominate snaps with Rudolph present. This will give the former Alabama weapon an opportunity to develop as the third or fourth receiving option depending on Dalvin Cook’s role in the pass game.

For Rudolph, he gets a fresh start in an offense that may be better suited to his play-style. Rudolph has very solid traits as a receiver, yet he has been in an offense that doesn’t spread the ball around a lot. This is the main reason why Stefon Diggs was moved from Minnesota. With a lack of opportunities (37 targets in 2020), Rudolph could finish out his career with a much more pass-happy offense. Teams that run a lot of 12 personnel (two tight ends on the field) could bring Rudolph in as a second option at the position. Releasing Rudolph early also allows him to find a home before free agency begins on March 17. The Vikings did right by Rudolph who has been a mainstay on their offense for a decade. It’s why Rudolph released a heartfelt message to Minnesota on Twitter, writing, “Thank you Minnesota!! Although my time as a Viking has come to a close, my time as a Minnesotan is just getting started!”

Rudolph will get some attention in the open market. A team that could be interested in Rudolph could be the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have a hole at the position and could use another target for quarterback Joe Burrow. Rudolph is also from the Cincinnati area, so it’s possible he may want to finish his career at home. Still, not seeing Rudolph in the purple and gold will be an unfamiliar sight.

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