As the NFL off-season continues to progress ahead of the start of the 2022 season, the Minnesota Vikings and other teams around the league continue to look for ways to bolster their rosters before the new year kicks off. This week, an intriguing development arose when the Vikings parted ways with one player on their 90-man roster. It opened up a spot for a potential addition to be made yet this off-season. Minnesota made the decision to waive quarterback Nate Stanley, who has spent time with the practice squad Vikings offense in the past.
The move isn’t that noteworthy as Stanley would likely be low on the depth chart to begin with. However, it opened up a roster spot on Minnesota’s offense that wasn’t present just a day prior.
With an open spot available, the Vikings could look to add multiple players still on the free agent market. Earlier in the week, one former Minnesota player was someone worth keeping an eye on. That player is veteran tight end and former Viking, Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph had yet to find a new home for the 2022 campaign until ultimately signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday.
It’s not known if Rudolph was someone Minnesota was strongly interested in or if this reunion would have ever materialized. The addition, the tight end would have provided the purple and gold with another receiving option and he could have certainly helped the Vikings offense in 2022. It is also a move that would have made sense on multiple levels, notably Rudolph’s continued involvement in the Minnesota community and his desire to return to the Vikings.
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A Kyle Rudolph Reunion Could Have Brought Depth to Minnesota Vikings Offense
Recently Off the Free Agent Market
After being drafted by the Vikings in 2011, Rudolph spent the first 10 years of his career in Minnesota as the starting tight end. In 2021 the two sides parted ways, with the veteran joining the New York Giants for one season before being cut in March.
As a free agent at the age of 32, Rudolph was drawing interest from multiple teams with training camp approaching. Notably, those teams included the Buccaneers and potentially the Vikings. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler even reported in recent days a reunion with Minnesota was “not off the table.”
Shortly after that report, Rudolph took himself off the free agent market when he signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay to replace Rob Gronkowski, now retired. Rudolph was there for the taking if Minnesota would have wanted him badly enough, but it appears Tampa Bay was a bit more serious in signing the veteran.
Tom Brady has a new tight-end target in Tampa: Former Vikings’ and Giants’ veteran Kyle Rudolph is signing a one-year contact with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 21, 2022
Still Involved in the Community, Interested in Returning
Another reason why signing Rudolph made sense is because he is still involved in the community that houses his first NFL team. Rudolph had also expressed his interest in returning to the Vikings if the opportunity ever arose.
Since he left the Vikings, Rudolph has continued to give back to the Minneapolis area. Most notably, he has teamed up with other Minnesota athletes to help a community impacted by gun violence and has also hosted and taken part in multiple charity events. For example, Rudolph held his annual charity golf tournament for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Earlier this off-season, Rudolph also said “it would definitely interest” him to reunite with the purple and gold if that opportunity ever presented itself. His continued involvement in the community and his desire to eventual return to the Vikings made for the perfect storm of Rudolph returning to the Vikings.
He Still Has Ability to Produce
Rudolph is on the tail end of his playing career and isn’t the player he once was, but he can still produce and is a nice piece to assist in redzone offense and in the run-blocking-game.
As a member of the Vikings, the two-time Pro Bowler finished with averages of 45.3 receptions, 444.8 yards and 4.8 touchdowns in 140 games over 10 seasons. In 2021 with the Giants, Rudolph took a step back in production while tallying just 26 catches for 257 yards and one touchdown in New York.
Even if Rudolph would have landed back in Minnesota, he wouldn’t have resumed the starter status he once had and would have likely backed up Irv Smith Jr. However, his presence and production could have still helped Minnesota while serving as a nice safety net option given Smith Jr.’s inability to stay healthy the last few years.
Rudolph wasn’t a huge free agent target in the NFL, reflected by the lack of teams requesting his services as a free agent. But, he is a player that could still help a squad in 2022, something he now gets the chance to do in Tampa Bay.
As much sense as it would have made to reunite Rudolph with the Vikings, that appears to be a thing of the past. Which is unfortunate given his involvement in the community, his desire to return to Minnesota and his ability to produce. All of those traits could have helped the Vikings offense in the new year.
— Pro Football Rumors (@pfrumors) July 21, 2022