The rumor mill was churning around draft time, and the word around town was the Vikings were looking to trade veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. He ended up staying in Minnesota, but Ian Rapoport reported on Friday Rudolph and the Vikings weren’t able to come to terms on a contract extension, which may lead to a trade. Rudolph is an above-average blocker and an average pass-catcher at this point in his career; he provides a valuable dual-threat presence, but isn’t a game-changer by any means. Still, there are plenty of teams weak at the position who would love to have Rudolph. Here are four teams who should consider acquiring Rudolph.
The Patriots are always in the running when a team is looking to offload a veteran, and Rudolph would provide immediate relief at a position of immense need. While it’s clear Bill Belichick doesn’t plan on utilizing tight ends nearly to the degree he did with Rob Gronkowski, they still need some bodies at the position who didn’t just unretire, à la Ben Watson. Rudolph would fit in immediately, and would give the team one legitimate pass-catching option at tight end; other than Watson, they have Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a handful of undrafted free agents there. He’d need to re-work his contract, which is why he’s getting traded from the Vikings in the first place, but if that can be resolved, New England would be all over him.
The Saints signed Jared Cook over the offseason and used a late-round flier on a project tight end in Alizé Mack, but Sean Payton wouldn’t hesistate to sacrifice a mid-round pick to give Drew Brees more weapons and add another big blocker in the ground game. Cook and Rudolph would be a solid, if unspectacular, one-two punch and the Saints are going all out to get to the Super Bowl after getting robbed last season. Their team doesn’t have many holes, but if Cook misses any time, they’ll be getting nothing from their tight ends. Rudolph would provide quality insurance at the bare minimum.
The Texans don’t have an impact player on their depth chart at tight end even after spending a third-round pick on Kahale Warring, and Rudolph would immediately become a reliable safety net for Deshaun Watson. Watson looked to Ryan Griffin, the starting TE last year, quite a bit when he was in a pinch, and Rudolph could fill that role. Rudolph is a little less athletic than Griffin, but has much better hands and is a more impactful blocker. His presence would give the Texans a degree of unpredictability they’ve struggled to find in the past. Watson is a great quarterback, but only has two years left before he gets the big bucks and the Texans must tie up half of their cap space giving him the contract he deserves. Trading for Rudolph would be the kind of timely capitalization that good teams engage in.
The Jets signed Le'Veon Bell over the offseason to make life easier for Sam Darnold, and they’d follow the same line of thinking here. They haven’t gotten anything from the tight end position in the last half-decade, and Rudolph would provide a big upgrade instantaneously. Helping pave the road for Bell while playing as a safety blanket for Darnold would go a long way towards what the Jets are trying to accomplish this year; namely, a competitive team and improvement from Darnold. GM Mike Maccagnan has generally been cautious about trade acquisitions, but if the right price can be reached, Rudolph would be a great fit with New York.