Cleveland Browns: Kyle Rudolph ‘would love’ to be reunited with Kevin Stefanski

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 1: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings looks at information on a Microsoft Surface tablet along with tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski during a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 1: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings looks at information on a Microsoft Surface tablet along with tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski during a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Longtime Minnesota Viking interested in Cleveland Browns

The Minnesota Vikings released tight end Kyle Rudolph on Tuesday, and while the Cleveland Browns don’t have a need at TE at the moment, Rudolph reportedly is very interested in playing for his former offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski once again.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Rudolph would want to reunite with Stefanski and could be an option for the team if David Njoku is traded. Njoku is entering his fifth season, and is coming off the best campaign of his career.

Last offseason, the Browns made Austin Hooper the highest-paid TE in NFL history and then drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round, which made Njoku feel unwanted. He requested a trade, but the front office did not oblige. He responded by developing into a formidable blocker and the team’s most explosive receiving threat after the injury to Odell Beckham Jr.

Njoku will make over $6 million this season, and has been non-committal about his future in Cleveland. It makes practically zero sense to move on from him, and in fact, Andrew Berry should be attempting to extend Njoku; he’s still just 24 years old and is one of the most talented players at his position in the entire league.

The TE spot takes a while to adjust to in the NFL, and Njoku missed nearly all of 2019 due to injury. He wasn’t a starter in 2020, but he made his snaps count, outplaying both Hooper and Bryant as both a blocker and a receiver.

However, in the event that Njoku reaffirms his desire to be elsewhere and the team receives an acceptable offer, would Rudolph make sense as a replacement?

Well, not really. He’ll turn 32 in November, is not a strong blocker, and his receiving skill set is redundant with Hooper. Rudolph is still a quality player, but he isn’t the dynamic separation-creating athlete that Njoku is down the seam.

Had Rudolph been a free agent last offseason, the fit would have been much more obvious, and perhaps the Browns would have signed him to a short-term deal rather than (over)paying Hooper.

If Rudolph were willing to sign for the minimum and be the team’s fourth tight end, then sure, go ahead and sign him. But that won’t be happening; last month, Rudolph stated that he felt he was worth every dime of his contract. Evidently, the Vikings disagreed. He was owed nearly $9.5 million, and Minnesota saved over $5 million by moving on.

Yes, the Browns run a lot of multi-tight end sets. But they are already committed to the personnel for those formations. Rudolph wouldn’t have a role in Cleveland, and even if the team were to make the mistake of trading Njoku, they’d likely replace him with another athletic tight end in the draft like Brevin Jordan or Kenny Yeboah, among others, not an old, slow red zone threat.

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It’s flattering that Rudolph reportedly wants to come to Cleveland. That says a lot about Stefanski and how the Browns are situated. But that also means they can afford to be particular about which players they add, and there’s no room for Rudolph.