Vikings cut TE Kyle Rudolph after 10 years for cap savings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings released two-time Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph on Tuesday, ending his 10-season run with the team to create a little more than $5 million in salary cap space.

Rudolph is fifth in franchise history with both 453 catches and 48 touchdown receptions. He was due to make $7.65 million in 2021. By terminating his contract with three years remaining, the Vikings will carry a salary cap hit of $4.35 million in dead money this season.

“A pro’s pro,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said on Twitter. “Best hands and the smartest player I’ll ever play with.”

Rudolph, who caught the winning touchdown pass from Cousins in overtime of Minnesota’s win at New Orleans in the wild-card round of the playoffs after the 2019 season, had his usage in the passing game drop off considerably over the past two years as the Vikings leaned hard on running back Dalvin Cook and their top two wide receivers.

Rudolph was the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2017, 2018 and 2019 for community service. He and his wife, Jordan, developed a deep fondness for the patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

“From the moment we drafted Kyle as a young man out of Notre Dame in 2011, through his 10th season with the Vikings in 2020, he has been one of the premier tight ends in the NFL and most influential and positive leaders I’ve ever been around,” general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement distributed by the team. “Kyle and Jordan have made such an immeasurable impact on our team and community that may never be matched.”

The Vikings will now certainly expand the role of Irv Smith Jr. at tight end, where Tyler Conklin also made strides in 2020 as a run blocker and pass catcher. The 31-year-old Rudolph’s leadership and reliability will be missed, though. He started 98 consecutive games including the playoffs until a foot injury kept him out of the final four weeks last season.

Rudolph’s touchdown total is the most among tight ends in Vikings history. In a farewell-to-Minnesota essay posted on The Players’ Tribune website, he said he was particularly proud of leaving the Vikings as their longest-tenured player.

“An insane run in today’s NFL. I mean, we made it to a third contract with each other,” Rudolph said, noting his prime parking spot in the lot at team headquarters. “Just an unbelievably clutch situation during those Minnesota winters. Hate losing it, but shout-out to the next car up. Treat our spot well.”

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