The Vikings Have a Cut Candidate

Draft Plan Just Got
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Minnesota Vikings General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has to steer the Vikings ship through his second offseason in charge. Despite having to find a new coaching staff in 2022, the next few months will arguably be even more tumultuous than last year.

The resources don’t help Adofo-Mensah in building a competitive roster in 2023 and beyond. He is stuck in a situation, mostly self-inflicted because of trades, with only four draft picks. A fifth is likely to be added via compensatory picks.

The Vikings are currently about $23 million over the cap limit, and the roster is aging. On the positive side, however, the Vikings come off a 13-win season with playoff experience, granted one fewer game than expected, despite having a new head coach in his first season with the organization, but also the first season as an HC in his career.

The Vikings Have a Cut Candidate

Releasing veterans makes sense for two reasons for the Vikings – declining play and high salary cap hits. The most important is to save cap space, mainly because the team needs to free up $23 million before the new league year arrives on March 15. A few different veterans come to mind.

The Vikings Have a Cut Candidate
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PFF’s Brad Spielberger suggested that the purple team should part ways with linebacker Eric Kendricks one year before his contract expires.

The middle linebacker has played for the Vikings since his selection in the second round of the 2022 draft. For most of his career, he played right next to his former college teammate and linebacker colleague Anthony Barr, who left the team after the 2021 season. One year later, Kendricks could follow.

Flores’ defense is a polar opposite of the system deployed by Ed Donatell, and perhaps tasking Kendricks with more man coverage responsibilities could help him bounce back from his career-low 46.4 coverage grade in 2022. However, Kendricks may also be viewed as a player who has lost a step now on the wrong side of 30.

Brad Spielberger, PFF

Kendricks will turn 31 years old in just two weeks and certainly lost a step in 2022. A couple of years ago, he was still phenomenal, especially in coverage. However, the down-year was too severe to only blame the different schemes.

Losing a step after turning 30 is a common theme for athletes, and Kendricks seems to be of the same mold. His release will save the Vikings $9.5 million.

2023 Breakout Candidate
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The Vikings already have his replacement on the team. 2022 third-round pick Brian Asamoah was stuck behind Kendricks and Jordan Hicks but showed flashes when given a chance and even got some more snaps late in the season.

Hicks could also be on the chopping block. He lacked the necessary speed to keep up with running backs, a crucial part of playing linebacker in today’s NFL. Most remember Tony Pollard taking a 68-yard pass to the house because Hicks couldn’t keep up.

ESPN Likes the Vikings in 2023
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By releasing both Hicks and Kendricks, the Vikings can save $14.5 million, and new defensive coordinator Brian Flores could hand-pick a linebacker in the draft or free agency that perfectly fits his scheme.

Kendricks appeared in 123 games for the Vikings and recorded 962 tackles, 10 interceptions, and 15 sacks in eight seasons with the Vikings.

Parting ways in the 2023 offseason is possible in a huge defensive overhaul. The three top cornerbacks, Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and Chandon Sullivan, are set to enter free agency, just like defensive linemen Dalvin Tomlinson and Jonathan Bullard. If the Vikings release both linebackers, they will start Week 1 with at least seven new starters.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt