With only two teams left in the running the looming offseason is set to be different for many throughout the NFL. With COVID restrictions and virtual scenarios still hanging over the heads of the league, there's a lot up in the air as teams start to look forward to and plan for the 2021 NFL season.
Here in Minnesota, Kyle Rudolph might be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to uncertainty for the future.
With ten seasons under his belt, Kyle has seen his role with the team change and his career shift as he's matured and the carousel of offensive coordinators in Minnesota has continued. Drafted as a pass catching tight end, Rudolph has been forced to develop as a blocking tight end just to help his team find success, and heading into this offseason he's bracing for the reality that push may come to shove.
"Early last season , the writing was on the wall," Rudolph told Ben Leber on the Unrestricted podcast. "I had like seven or eight catches through the first six games, it was absurd. I was literally blocking all the time."
Not being utilized in the passing game, he had to make the decision to become a better blocker to continue adding value to his team. Surprisingly, he "messed around and became a decent blocker". Being an all around, complete tight end is important to Kyle but it's not where his heart is.
But his awareness of his situation here with the Vikings and his awareness of the state of the league could possibly win out as the Vikings are set to be faced with a decision heading into the offseason.
Due to Covid related situations, the salary cap is not expected to rise heading into the 2021 season and that brings trouble for the Minnesota Vikings. According to Spotrac.com, the Vikings are presently more than $13 million over the cap. As they look for solutions, the attention has landed firmly on what some would deem as overpaid, veteran players who don't fit the present scheme...and that leads many to discuss the future of Rudolph in Minnesota.
"I'm realistic," Kyle explained. "I see both sides. 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 paying him a lot of money?...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.
The reality of Kyle's thoughts are pretty spot on, but the emotion behind his words shouldn't be overlooked either. This is a guy who's dedicated ten years of his life to Minnesota, he's planted roots here, started a family here, raised his kids here and he wants to finish his career here, but he's not willing to give up on his desires to do so.
"I certainly hope that I'm here for that [Super Bowl] parade," Rudolph shared. "I've had multiple opportunities to get to free agency and it's never been appealing to me because I don't want to be anywhere else but here. I wanna be on the first team that wins one here. With that being said, I want to be a reason why we win the championship, I don't want to just be a swing tackle..."
Rudolph finished the 2020 season missing the final four weeks of the season with a lisfranc sprain on his foot but was cleared to return to play had the Vikings made the playoffs. He's expected to return healthy and ready to suit up for for the 2021 season, will it be in purple?
Catch the full interview with Ben Leber and Kyle Rudolph on the latest episode of "Unrestricted w/Ben Leber" below...