The tight end position is not really viewed as an area of need for the Denver Broncos, but could they still look to improve their depth at the position? Former first-round pick Noah Fant has established himself as the team's starting tight end, but the depth behind him comes with some question marks. 2020 rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam tore his ACL and the recovery there is always an unknown with the recovery there. Also, veteran tight end Nick Vannett could be a cap casualty and/or improved on this offseason while backup tight end Troy Fumagalli is a restricted free agent who isn’t guaranteed back. Keep in mind, that Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur utilized his tight ends often in the team's offense last season, so, they could look to improve on the depth if they find the right fit out there. Well, that right fit may have just become available when the Minnesota Vikings announced that they have released longtime tight end, Kyle Rudolph.
Vikings released veteran TE Kyle Rudolph.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2021
Recently hired General Manager George Paton was a member of the Vikings when they drafted Rudolph and throughout his entire career with the team. So, could they look to reunite in Denver? Also, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was Rudolph’s tight end coach in 2016 and was the team's intern offensive coordinator in 2016 and full-time offensive coordinator in 2017. During those two seasons, Rudolph had two of the best statistical seasons of his career.
In 2016, Rudolph totaled 83 receptions for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was targeted a total of 132 times that season. In 2017, he totaled 57 receptions for 532 yards and 8 touchdowns. So, the two found success with each other, so could they look to reunite as Rudolph looks for a new team?
Weight: 265 pounds
Age: 31 years old
Experience: 10 seasons
Kyle Rudolph played his college ball at Notre Dame where he was a standout player at the tight end position. His success and talents got him drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft where the Minnesota Vikings selected him with their 46th overall selection. He went on to play his entire career up until now with the Vikings where he became one of the better tight ends in the league during that time.
During Rudolph’s ten seasons with the Vikings, he totaled 453 receptions for 4,488 yards and 48 touchdown receptions. This past season for Rudolph, he totaled 28 receptions for 334 yards and 1 touchdown reception.
Why It Makes Sense
I already mentioned the connection to General Manager George Paton and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, but it makes sense. Paton most likely thinks fondly of Rudolph and would like to add that type of character to his team while Rudolph had his best seasons in Shurmur’s offense. So, it makes sense for both parties.
Now, Rudolph would not be joining the Broncos as a starter, but he would be an improvement over Nick Vannett and give you insurance in case Albert O. has any issues returning from the ACL injury.
Rudolph would give the Broncos a reliable pass catcher at tight end, a productive red zone weapon, a veteran presence on an offense full of youth, and a reliable blocker as well. The Broncos used a lot of two-tight end sets in 2020, so having a tight end like Rudolph to fill the number two role would be an upgrade as well.
Why It Doesn’t Make Sense
The Broncos have bigger needs on their roster than tight end. They have Noah Fant already established as the starter. Exciting-looking rookie Albert O. should be close to 100% by the start of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL, and veteran Nick Vannett is currently signed already. Plus, they could bring back Troy Fumagalli who’s a restricted free agent and someone who played fairly well late in the season for the Broncos. They have other depth options as well and could use the draft to provide more depth at the position. They have been reportedly meeting with multiple tight end prospects so that’s a realistic avenue they could talk.
Rudolph is also coming off one of his worst statistical seasons where he lost snaps to the impressive-looking Irv Smith Jr. who appears to be replacing him in Minnesota. Also, he’ll be turning 32 years old during the season so he could be hitting that decline period if he hasn’t already. It’s possible at the stage of his career that his name and reputation are bigger than his current ability.
Finally, I believe Rudolph likely still views himself as a starter and may want to join a situation that gives him more snaps and opportunities than the Broncos will likely give him. The tight end situation league-wide isn’t great, so it’s quite possible he can sign with a team and be the unquestioned starter for them come week one of the 2021 season. So, that’s another likely hurdle for this to come together for the Broncos.
Personally, I would love this addition if Rudolph was interested. You have the connections needed that usually attract a veteran late in his career to a team. Paton and Shurmur being with the Broncos could be a draw for him. Paton seems popular among players and Rudolph had his most successful seasons with Shurmur, so again, it makes sense.
I’d part ways with Vannett and use the savings from that and a few million more to bring Rudolph to the Broncos. It would make the Broncos offense even deeper, and give them insurance if Albert O. needs time to fully recover from his ACL injury.
Now, I get why people would view adding Rudolph as unnecessary. The Broncos need to spend their resources on the secondary and defensive line to either bring back their own players and/or sign starters to replace and/or upgrade those areas of needs.
What do you think Broncos Country?
Do you want the Broncos to sign tight end Kyle Rudolph?
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