The Minnesota Vikings and TE Kyle Rudolph have agreed to terms on a contract extension, the team announced today.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a four-year deal worth $36 million.
When Minnesota drafted Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr. in the second round, many thought Rudolph could be traded. However, that did not happen, and Rudolph will be in Minnesota for the next few years.
On Monday, as the Vikings begin mandatory minicamp, Rudolph discussed his new deal with the club:
Q: When did it start to feel like a new deal was close enough to actually happen?
Rudolph: Over this weekend, and like he [Rick Spielman] said, last night we agreed to terms.
Q: You and many other players have chosen to stay in Minnesota despite the possibility of leaving to play elsewhere. How much of that is to do with the team’s win-now mentality here in Minnesota?
Rudolph: I think it certainly embodies the winning now mentality, but to me it just embodies the mentality of how much they care about winning, period. They [The Wilf family] came to this organization a little over 12 years ago with one goal, and that was to win a championship. All the stuff that they’ve done since is falling in place with that goal. Certainly we want to win now, that’s not going to change, but with their leadership, they’re providing us every resource imaginable to win now but also to win for a long time.
Q: Were there points during this process where you thought you wouldn’t be back in Minnesota this season?
Rudolph: No, not at all. Like I said, throughout this whole process rumors are spread, but my wife Jordan and I knew all along that we were going to end up back here. Like I said, Rob [Brzezinski] and my agents worked long hours to make sure that there was a way to get this done, and I’m excited it’s behind me. I mentioned last night that I have unfinished business, and that business is bringing the first championship here to this organization and to the state of Minnesota. That’s my only goal at this point. Being the best leader and best football player that I can be so that this team can win a championship, and we can do something that’s never been done in this organization.
Q: How difficult is it to balance the business side of things, like avoiding a contract that would be bad for you, and being a good teammate and a good employee of this team?
Rudolph: It’s difficult if you don’t have people in your corner that you trust. I mentioned it a couple of times, it was easy for me to come out here every day and focus on football because I have two agents that I trusted and I play for an organization that I trust. I knew that Rob had my family and my best interests in mind and I knew my agents had my best interests in mind, so that allowed me to come out here every day and just focus on becoming a better football player and helping this offense get a little better so we can win a championship, and knowing that at some point I’d be standing up here and it’d all be finished.
Q: With that said, it has to be a bit of a relief to get it done now.
Rudolph: I think the biggest thing I’m relieved of is that I won’t be all of your guys’ headlines for the rest of the summer. I’m not used to being that guy in the headlines, so I apologize, now you’ll have to have something else to write about for the rest of the summer. I’m certainly excited that this is behind us and now I can just focus on football. I can focus on being a leader of this football team and doing everything I can to make sure that we’re the first. That’s my only goal, I want to be a part of the first team to win a championship here. We got a taste of it two years ago. When we got close, you got a feel for how important that would be to this state, to this community, to this fan base. Certainly to every player and employee of this organization, but Rob and I were talking this morning, that as important it is for all of us to win [a championship] for us, it’s equally important to win it for this community and for this state, because they deserve it.
Q: Besides the football, how much of a factor do you think your leadership and off of the field involvement played in your contract extension?
Rudolph: Well I think the community, and I mentioned that this is home now for us, played a big part in it. I certainly could have just played out this year and tested free agency and maybe got more money, but that’s not what it was about. I want to be a part of this organization, and nine years ago a guy by the name of Jim Kleinsasser, who was in his 13th year here in Minnesota, talked to me about how throughout his career he had a couple opportunities to make more money elsewhere, but he stayed here because of this organization and because of the state of Minnesota. Now, nine years in and under contract through my 13th year, I hope I’m the same way. It’s important for us, although maybe we left a little bit of money on the table by not going to free agency, I don’t care about that. It’s about being here in the state of Minnesota, playing for this team, being in the color purple that I love and I’m comfortable in, and having my family here in this community.
Q: There also seems to be unfinished business for you personally, being that you’re under 30 years old and still can play. What was the groundswell for that?
Rudolph: Absolutely. I’m under contract for the next five years, and I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the next five years are better than my last five. I feel like I have a lot of good football left in me, and I feel like this team is just starting to scratch the surface, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen over the last 11 practices, and the way that these guys come to work every day, the way that our staff prepares us, the new system, the guys that we have in that locker room. There’s a reason why people come back to this organization. There’s a reason why Anthony Barr left more money on the table. There’s a reason why I had no interest in testing free agency. It’s because of the culture that we’ve established around here. Culture is what ultimately brings championships. In this league the talent level is so even across the 32 teams, and if you don’t have good culture then you don’t have a chance. We have the culture here, and I’m really excited for this upcoming season.
Q: How much do you think about how long you’d like to play, being that players don’t often get their wish in this league?
Rudolph: I feel better now from a physical standpoint now at 29 than I did at 21. You just learn how to take care of your body, you know what your body needs throughout the course of an offseason to become a better football player, but to also prepare yourself for that season. You learn week by week in season what your body needs to be ready to play on Sundays. I joked about it in the opening press conference this offseason, something about the golf analogy of not being on the back nine yet. Tony Gonzalez played for 17 years, and he set the pole. I’m going to try and play as long as I can, and like I said, at this point my focus is becoming a better football player now and doing everything I can to help this offense get a little better and bring that first championship to the state of Minnesota.
Q: How do you feel knowing that you signing this extension can help the Vikings from salary cap standpoint?
Rudolph: The numbers side obviously speaks for itself. I’ve lowered the cap number, and now we have wiggle room throughout the course of the season, which obviously everyone knows is necessary. I’m glad that worked out as well.