The battle lines are drawn between the Vikings and tight end Kyle Rudolph. They want him to take less money, and he doesn’t want to take less money.
A trade doesn’t seem to be an option, because the Vikings have done everything but purchase billboard space outside Gillette Stadium advertising the eight-year veteran. But what if the Vikings, who want to dump or at least reduce Rudolph’s $7.275 million base salary, would be willing to utilize the fairly new trend of paying a portion of Rudolph’s salary to facilitate the move?
It would be a simple formula. The Vikings pay, for example, $2 million, the new team pays $5.275 million, and the new team sends a low-round pick to Minnesota. It’s an alternative to cutting Rudolph and getting nothing, or to paying him the full $7.275 million for one last year.
Ultimately, the team’s best play may be to keep Rudolph. Rookie Irv Smith is completely unproven, and the depth chart behind him lacks a guy who can produce like the 6-6 football mattress who has an even more important role in an offense without a clear No. 3 receiver behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Here’s what the Vikings also could do: Wait. In time, they’ll see whether Smith can get it done. They’ll see whether Rudolph can still perform at a high level. And, ultimately, they’d be able to squeeze Rudolph with a proposed pay cut at a time when rosters elsewhere are set, offering him less than $7.275 million but more than anyone else would pay him at that point.
Regardless, Rudolph has made it clear that the ball is in the team’s court. And the options are cut him, trade him (possibly by paying some of his salary), or wait to make a decision later.