Ex-Viking Already a Locker Room Staple for New Team

Aug 1, 2022; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; A general overall view of Los Angeles Chargers training camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have overhauled their roster to the max in the last few offseasons — so much so that 24-year-old Justin Jefferson is the ninth most-tenured player on the roster at the moment.

Ex-Viking Already a Locker Room Staple for New Team

Especially this offseason, oodles of veterans have departed, paving the way for a younger, faster, and more affordable depth chart.

And one man who left a few months ago is already a locker room staple for his new club — Eric Kendricks.

Already a Locker
Oct 1, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) runs onto the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings released Kendricks in March amid a total personnel renovation. Soon after, the 31-year-old defender latched onto the Los Angeles Chargers, and it’s safe to say the relationship has clicked.

Chargers.com senior writer Eric Smith wrote this week, “Kendricks said when he joined the Bolts that his initial focus was going to be on acclimating himself to a veteran locker room. And he’s proven that to be true, even as the football side of things have been a bit of a learning curve in a new defense.”

The Vikings Can Improve the Defense and Save Money with 3 Moves
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) react after New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) drops a touchdown pass late during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Kendricks told Chargers.com, “I think the biggest thing is the locker room. I feel like I fit in with the locker room. It’s a bunch of guys who care and are all about ball. I can’t really ask for more besides to go out there on Sunday and play hard.”

The Chargers afforded Kendricks a two-year, $13.25 million deal in free agency, tabbing the veteran for starter’s duty in September.

The PFF Prediction for
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith also added, “Over the past three years, [head coach Brandon] Staley has focused heavily on implementing a culture that allows players to thrive on and off the field in powder blue. Kendricks has certainly checked the first box by quickly becoming a team leader. The more important test — helping the Bolts make a deep playoff run — looms in the coming months.”

With the Chargers, Kendricks will get a chance to rebound and perhaps get back to his 2020 form. He was at the peak of his powers in 2019 with the Vikings, played marvelously in 2020, and began to tail off a bit in 2021 and 2022. Because Kendricks wasn’t quite as effective as yesteryear, the Vikings’ decision to move on was somewhat melodramatic.

Nov 20, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley (center) talks with quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and quarterback Chase Daniel (4) in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota drafted Kendricks in the 2nd Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the same event that netted Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. It took a couple of seasons for Kendricks to metamorphize into an otherworldly defender, but when he did, he was an All-Pro contributor.

Los Angeles ranked 16th in defensive DVOA last year, so adding Kendricks may help nudge the club near the league’s upper tier.

And according to the team and Kendricks, the relationship is already netting dividends.

Second-year linebacker Brian Asamoah is on deck to replace Kendricks in Minnesota.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.