The Vikings Have a Kyle Rudolph Problem

Kyle Rudolph
Kyle Rudolph / Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings, like most NFL teams, are looking at a salary crunch in 2021 due to the pandemic. Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is 31-years-old with a $9.45 million cap hit, the seventh-highest figure on the team. After a statistically down season, he is expected to be asked to take a pay cut. He does not want to take a pay cut. You can see how this might be a problem for one or more of the parties involved.

Rudolph went on the Unrestricted With Ben Leber podcast this week and explained exactly why he wasn't going to take a pay cut. Transcribed by ESPN:

""Obviously, I'm realistic. I see both sides," Rudolph said. "If I were [team owners] the Wilfs, if I were [general manager] Rick [Spielman], I'm looking at this situation like, 'Hey, we're paying this guy a lot of money and you're not using him, so why are we continuing to pay him a lot of money?' "With that being said, I think I'm worth every dime of my contract. That doesn't mean that I'm used to my potential and I'm used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don't want to go anywhere else. I've somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I've been forced to. It certainly wasn't something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls.""

That's a pretty realistic reading of the situation. Rudolph clearly sees both sides, but is taking his own here. The Vikings gave him that contract and then stopped giving him the ball so that's on them. If Rudolph isn't going to take a pay cut then the Vikings can either keep paying him to block or trade him.

Rudolph was the fifth-highest paid tight end in football this year, but only scored one touchdown. If Rudolph is still in his prime as he believes he is, there should be some interest on the trade market, but teams might be more likely to wait for the Vikings to cut him, in which case he would cost $4.35 million in dead cap. So there really is no good option for the Vikings unless they tell Kirk Cousins to just start throwing him the ball.