Veteran players could feel the pinch of the expected salary cap dip in 2021 due to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic.
One such player is Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who, based on dwindling production, snaps, and a high contract, is a prime example of a player who could be released and/or asked to take a hefty pay cut.
From Rudolph's point of view, he deserves all his contract entails, telling the Unrestricted with Ben Leber podcast he's "worth every dime."
"Obviously, I'm realistic. I see both sides," Rudolph said, via Courtney Cronin of ESPN. "If I were [team owners] the Wilfs, if I were [general manager] Rick [Spielman], I'm looking at this situation like, 'Hey, we're paying this guy a lot of money and you're not using him, so why are we continuing to pay him a lot of money?'
"With that being said, I think I'm worth every dime of my contract. That doesn't mean that I'm used to my potential and I'm used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don't want to go anywhere else. I've somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I've been forced to. It certainly wasn't something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls."
In 2019, the Vikings extended Rudolph's contract to lower the cap hit just two months after drafting Irv Smith Jr. in the second round. Rudolph has three years remaining on his contract. His 2021 cap hit sits at $9.45 million. The Vikes would save $5.1 million on the cap by cutting the TE with $4.35 million in dead money.
Unfortunately for Rudolph, the Vikings sit at $12.8 million over the projected salary cap for 2021, per Over The Cap.
Rudolph generated just 28 catches for 334 yards and a career-low one TD in 12 games in 2020.
"Early on last season, the writing was on the wall," Rudolph said. "I saw where our offense was going. I had like seven or eight catches in the first six games. It was just absurd. I was literally blocking all the time."
Asked if the Vikings approached him about a pay cut, Rudolph was clear on his stance on the matter.
"It wouldn't happen," he said. "You only get to play this game for so many years, and I feel like I have a lot of good football left. Now we fast-forward, I've played these three years on my contract and I'm now 33, 34 and they're like, 'Hey, we want to keep you around for a couple years at a much lower number, but we want you to do X, Y and Z help these young guys out' -- sign me up.
"But like I said, at 31, with how I feel physically, with knowing what I can still do ... it's simply a lack of opportunities. In the past, I was the one getting red-zone targets. I can't sign up for that again."
Rudolph can still be a productive player, but the circumstances in Minnesota don't favor him. The Vikes have a younger, cheaper option in Smith and are up against the salary cap.
Many veterans will be anxiously awaiting just where the NFL and NFLPA land on the salary cap this season. The decision will determine the future for a slew of veterans with moveable contracts like Rudolph.