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Tight end Kyle Rudolph catches a touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings.(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Another starting-caliber tight end is hitting the open market. On Tuesday evening, the Minnesota Vikings announced the release of 10-year veteran Kyle Rudolph.

Originally drafted by the Vikings in the second round in 2011, Rudolph spent his entire career in Minnesota. However, the emergence of Irv Smith in recent years made Rudolph expendable, and his release saves the Vikings – who are currently projected to open free agency above the cap limit – about $5 million in cap space.

Rudolph now becomes a free agent for the first time in his career. The 31-year-old is coming off a season that saw him catch 28 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown in 12 games for the Vikings, with a career-high 11.9 yards per reception. He joins a strong free agent tight end class that includes Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Gerald Everett, and Tyler Eifert, among others.

Expect Rudolph’s name to be linked to the Patriots moving forwards. He’s a well-rounded tight end, who can make an impact both as a receiver and a blocker. At 6-foot-6 265 pounds, he has the typical frame the Patriots usually look for in a tight end. His durability stands out as well – Rudolph has missed just four games total over the last six seasons.

In a down market, he should be a relatively affordable option, especially on a one-year deal. Such a situation would allow the Patriots more time to develop 2020 third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, while improving their output from the tight end position in 2021.

Because Rudolph was released, as opposed to having an expiring contract, he’s eligible to sign with any team at any point, even if it’s before free agency opens on March 17.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.