Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott addressed the media prior to the team’s second OTA session Tuesday and revealed that newly-signed tight end Tyler Kroft suffered a broken foot during Monday’s practice. Kroft was signed to a three-year, $18.75 million contract upon the start of the 2019 NFL free agency period and was expected to have a significant role on the Bills’ offense this season. According to McDermott, it’s the same foot that Kroft broke last season while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals and he didn’t provide a timetable for his return. The tight end position was a disaster last year and it’s a group that Buffalo’s front office made a great effort to improve during the offseason. Now, with their top free agent addition at the position out for the foreseeable future, would a trade for disgruntled Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph make sense?
It’s no secret that the Vikings are exploring options to trade Rudolph after contract extension talks broke down two weeks ago. The 29-year old is scheduled to count $7.6 million against Minnesota’s 2019 salary cap, a number that the Vikings would like to free themselves from after selecting Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of last month’s draft.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Vikings have just $1.1 million in salary cap space for the 2019 NFL season and Rudolph recently explained that he feels he is ‘too young’ to take a pay cut to remain with the team.
Kyle Rudolph was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and has had a great career thus far, catching 386 passes for 3,787 yards and 41 touchdowns. He has shown no signs of slowing down, either, as his last three seasons have been the most productive of his career.
Since 2016, only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz have more receptions and touchdowns than Rudolph’s 204 catches and 19 touchdowns. Kelce, Ertz, Jimmy Graham and Eric Ebron are the only tight ends with more receiving yards in that span than Rudolph’s 2,006. According to Pro Football Focus, Rudolph has only dropped two passes in his last two seasons, so he’s an incredibly reliable target that would provide Josh Allen with an uber-talented security blanket.
Buffalo saw minimal production from their tight ends last season as Charles Clay, Jason Croom and Logan Thomas combined for just 55 receptions, 520 receiving yards and one touchdown. Rudolph, a two-time Pro Bowler, caught 64 passes for 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2018.
Rudolph is a big, athletic tight end that would undoubtedly enhance the Bills’ offense. Standing 6-foot-6, 265-pounds, he has the speed to stretch the field down the seams and is also a solid blocker as an inline player – two traits that Buffalo covets at the position.
The Bills currently have $27.8 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, so if they were to make a deal for Rudolph, they would still have great flexibility. Rudolph has just one year remaining on his contract and it sounds like he is seeking a long-term deal with security to avoid another situation like the one he’s currently in. The way that Buffalo structured Tyler Kroft’s deal makes it easy for the team to get out of after one season, which makes the prospect of adding Rudolph even more enticing.
The Bills traded up to select Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox in the 2019 NFL draft, but he’s a raw and extremely inexperienced player that shouldn’t be counted upon to take on an extended role. Jason Croom is the only returning player at the position from a year ago, but he too, is still relatively inexperienced and isn’t exactly a game-changer. Buffalo also brought back veteran Lee Smith, but his role is more of a blocker than a pass-catcher.
Its been reported that the New England Patriots have already engaged in trade talks with the Vikings for the star tight end. While this is currently all speculation, the Buffalo Bills would be incredibly wise to seriously explore just what it would take to acquire Kyle Rudolph.