On the eve of their mandatory minicamp, the Vikings solved their most pressing financial question.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, whose contract was set to expire after this season, told the Star Tribune via text message Monday he has agreed to a new deal with the team, after posting a note on his Twitter feed that said, “I am honored beyond words to say that my home, our home, will always be ... in Minnesota!”
The team announced the extension Tuesday morning.
The deal will extend Rudolph, who was entering the final season of a five-year deal, through the 2023 season. The added four years are worth $36 million, according to an NFL source, and Rudolph will make $9 million in 2019, which is fully guaranteed. The 2020 season is guaranteed for injury.
After drafting Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round, the Vikings worked with the 29-year-old Rudolph on a new deal that would extend his time with the team while providing the Vikings some salary cap relief.
The team entered Monday with just $611,926 in cap space, according to NFL Players Association salary data, and had targeted a deal with Rudolph — who was originally set to make $7.625 million this season — as a means of creating some breathing room.
The structure of Rudolph’s new deal will determine how much cap relief it provides.
The eight-year veteran’s expiring contract was worth $36.5 million over five years. He has 386 career receptions for 3,787 yards and 41 touchdowns, with two Pro Bowl selections.
On Monday night, he wrote on Twitter: “Just under a decade ago, I received a phone call that would change my life. On that day, all I knew is that I would be playing in the NFL, realizing my childhood dream. What I didn’t know was the role the state of Minnesota would play in my life.
“Marrying my wife and establish[ing] our home ... in Minnesota. Experiencing the birth of my 3 beautiful children ... in Minnesota. Starting a journey to better the lives of children dealing with a disease that doesn’t discriminate ... in Minnesota. Giving everything I can possibly give, professionally and personally, to the greatest sports franchise and its fans ... in Minnesota. And I am honored beyond words to say that my home, our home will always be ... in Minnesota! #UnfinishedBusiness.”
The contract means the Vikings will head into the season with Rudolph and Smith in an offense that could make frequent use of two-tight end sets, as schemes orchestrated by new assistant head coach Gary Kubiak often have during Kubiak’s tenure as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL.
After missing a combined 15 games because of injury in 2013 and ’14, Rudolph has played all 16 games in each of the Vikings’ past four seasons.
Since 2015, only two tight ends — Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz — have caught more passes than Rudolph’s 253. Only Kelce and now-retired Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in more touchdown passes among tight ends than Rudolph, who caught 24 TD passes in that time.
Rudolph also said last month he had heard from his agent, Brian Murphy, that multiple teams had expressed interest in a trade for him, though he made it clear at the time his priority was to stay in Minnesota.