Once again, the Arizona Cardinals shocked the world of professional football this past Monday. Superstar J.J. Watt, sent packing by the Houston Texans back on February 12th, was brought to the desert to help shore up the Cards defense. Could another recently-released Pro Bowler be acquired to help the team’s offensive unit?
Kyle Rudolph, a 31-year old who spent the last 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings, was cut by that organization on Tuesday. At the moment, Arizona has just two tight ends (Maxx Williams, Ian Bunting) under contract for the 2021 season. If they can find a way to bring Rudolph aboard, the squad would immediately upgrade a position that has been an underused aspect of the Big Red scoring attack for quite awhile.
The talented Rudolph was fantastic during his two Pro Bowl campaigns for the Vikings. Back in 2012, the 6’6, 265 pounder caught 53 passes for 493 yards and an impressive nine touchdowns in 16 starts for the club. Rudolph turned in another outstanding performance in 2017, totaling 57 receptions, 532 receiving yards and eight scores in 16 appearances.
Oddly enough, Rudolph’s best year with Minnesota did not lead to a trip to the Pro Bowl. In 2016, the former second-round draft pick hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards and another seven touchdowns in 16 games that season. Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers and Jordan Reed of the Washington Football Team were the NFC’s Pro Bowl representatives at tight end following the ’16 campaign.
It’s worth noting that the veteran Rudolph registered the least-productive numbers of his pro career last fall. In 12 matchups, the Vikings starter tallied 28 catches for 334 yards, with just one trip into the end zone. Rudolph was sidelined for four weeks because of a foot injury he suffered during a December 6th clash against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rudolph, who played his college ball at the University of Notre Dame, was the 43rd-overall selection of the Vikings back in 2011. Thirteen years ago, in 2008, the youngster became the first tight end in the history of the Fighting Irish to start all 13 contests as a freshman.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, who deserves high praise for landing the sensational Watt, needs to provide quarterback Kyler Murray with some more competent pass-catchers. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a phenomenal option, but the dropoff in talent after him is severe. Signing Rudolph to a free-agent contract would be a nice step in the right direction.