It’s Officially Brian Asamoah Time
The Minnesota Vikings will make many changes in the next few weeks, and they began on Monday with the first of many off-season dominos when they parted ways with linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Many more moves will follow as the Vikings need to free up more cap space until March 15. While the departure of any long-tenured player is a sad scene, there’s always a different player who will get the opportunity to step into a more significant role in the organization.
It’s Officially Brian Asamoah Time
With the release of longtime starter Kendricks, the Vikings have entered a new era of linebackers. One of his successors is already on the roster. The Vikings selected him in the third round of the 2022 draft. Brian Asamoah was in the backup role in his rookie campaign in 2022 but is now expected to be a starter in 2023 following the news of Kendricks’ departure.
Asamoah joined the franchise and was immediately stuck behind the two veterans, Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. He was set to be a special teamer, but the road to playing snaps on defense had to involve an injury to a starter. Both Kendricks and Hicks are extremely reliable in that department.
However, the defense struggled, and Asamoah started to receive some playing time. He did not disappoint and brought a spark every time he stepped onto the field. For that reason, the Vikings decided to give the two linebackers in the 30s a few snaps off every game and slowly insert Asamoah into the lineup. Throughout the season, Asamoah was on the field on 119 defensive snaps.
He recorded 17 tackles and forced a fumble on Christmas Eve when he ripped the ball out of the hands of Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger. The linebacker also forced a fumble in the previous game against the Colts. Chandon Sullivan returned the ball for a touchdown, but the officials didn’t call a fumble on the play, which was the wrong decision.
Nevertheless, that was the spark Asamoah provided. He added a different playing style to the defense. The two veterans, Hicks and Kendricks, lost a step, and in contrast to them, Asamoah was flying all over the field.
He doesn’t have the size of Kendricks or Hicks, which could lead to some problems in the running game, but he is a modern-day linebacker, a player that almost looks like a safety. The advantages are obvious, more speed and explosiveness, including an increased ability to cover tight ends, running backs, and in some cases, slot receivers.
Jordan Hicks is currently penciled in as the other starting linebacker. The Vikings could save $5 million by releasing him. He would leave a big hole at the position but help gain some cap space.
Defensive coordinator Brian Flores could hand-pick the second starter if they let go of Hicks. That could be a rookie selected with the 23rd overall pick or later in the draft or a free agent signing. His former players Kyle Van Noy who he knows from their shared time in New England and Miami, and former Pittsburgh defender Devin Bush are both free agents.
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, best friends since their time at UCLA, also handled the linebacker duties in Minnesota together for years. Barr came out in 2014, and Kendricks in 2015. Together they formed one of the top LB duos in the league until Barr departed in 2021. That era is now officially over.
Expect the 2022 rookie class to greatly impact the approaching season. Safety Lewis Cine, a highly talented first-rounder, should compete for the starting job once he returns from his injury. The two cornerbacks, Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr., are in the running for a starting spot unless the Vikings add three better cornerbacks to the team. Both speedy players, wideout Jalen Nailor and running back Ty Chandler, could also have bigger roles in 2023.
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