New England Patriots

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 09: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after catching a touchdown pass in the third quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The Patriots’ quest to load up on a Rob Gronkowski-less tight end position may lead them to Minnesota, as the Patriots and Vikings have engaged in trade talks for Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi.

Entering the final year of a contract that pays him $7.6 million per year, Rudolph’s contract re-negotiation/extension talks with the Vikings have gone nowhere, and given their cap crunch, it’s believed that the gap between the parties could put the career-long Viking on the outs in Minnesota before the start of the new season.

And Minnesota’s selection of Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. with a second-round pick in last month’s NFL Draft would only further reinforce the idea that Rudolph’s days in Minnesota are numbered, too.

The gap in the contract talks is most certainly real, too, as Rudolph publicly stated that he’s “too young” to take a pay cut for the Vikings.

Given his age and production, that’s an incredibly fair point on the part of Rudolph, but it’s also made all the more confusing (especially from a Minnesota standpoint in what feels like one of their last real attempts to deliver a Super Bowl with this core) given the fact that it was in that same interview that Rudolph said he didn’t want to leave the Vikings.

I don’t want to go anywhere,” Rudolph told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We want to stay here.

“They’re working really hard to get it done, and I hope it gets done.”

Considered one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends, the 29-year-old Rudolph racked up 64 grabs on 82 targets in 2018, and finished with 634 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Rudolph isn’t all that far removed from a career-best 2016 season in which he set career-highs in catches (83), targets (132), yards (840), and yards per game (52.5).

But factoring in his aforementioned unwillingness to take a cut of any sort means that a Rudolph-to-Foxboro trade would essentially have to be a money-in, money-out situation of sorts for the Patriots.

New England has seemingly loaded up on bodies at tight end to date thus far, with free agents Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins already added to the mix this offseason via free agency.