Could the Vikings Trade High Profile Defender?

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and the Vikings celebrate Kendricks intercepting a Detroit Lions pass during the second half at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are currently in an untenable cap situation. They will need to make some serious moves over the next four weeks. One of those moves could be to trade one of their best defensive players, Eric Kendricks.

Currently, the Vikings are $16 million over the cap, and their two biggest cap hits are Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. Danielle Hunter’s contract allows for a simple restructure by converting his roster bonus to a signing bonus. This conversion saves about $14 million in cap space.

Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has a fully guaranteed contract of $45 million. The Vikings have two options to reduce his cap hit, trade, or extend him. What if the Vikings fail to find a trade partner or Cousins doesn’t agree to an extension? Well, they would still be over the cap and would need to do something to clear cap space.

Why Trade Eric Kendricks?

To be clear, trading Kendricks would be a mistake as good linebackers play a crucial role in Donatell’s scheme. However, there is new leadership in the building with no ties to any player. Because of this, it’s not unrealistic that they move players who have been staples for years.

Eric Kendricks
Dec 17, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kendricks has a cap number of $13.5 million in 2022 and is 30 years old. Trading Kendricks with a pre-June 1st designation would save the Vikings $7.5 million and $9.5 million in 2022 and 2023, respectively. However, they would also be stuck with $6 million in dead cap in 2022. While this is not an ideal solution, it would clear enough cap space before the start of the league year.

What Would his Trade Compensation Be?

If the Vikings did move Kendricks, they would need to be compensated fairly. However, the question is, what do the Vikings think is fair and what does a potential trade partner? To answer this question, we can review recent linebacker trades.

Kwon Alexander – In 2020, the 49ers traded 26-year-old Alexander to the Saints for Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round pick.

Melvin Ingram – This year, the Steelers traded 32-year-old Ingram to the Chiefs for a sixth-round pick.

It’s fair to assume that Kendricks would land somewhere in the middle of these two trades. However, he is a bit older, so it’s likely he would fall closer to Ingram’s value than Alexander’s. Although, the Vikings would want more value as Kendricks is the best linebacker on the team.

If the Vikings elect to go with a youth movement on defense, it would be plausible to get as much trade value from their older players. Now would be the time to move on from Kendricks. Expect the Vikings to demand at least a third-round pick in return.