Eric Kendricks Lands in the AFC
The Minnesota Vikings said sayonara to longtime linebacker Eric Kendricks last Monday, and it took exactly one week for the 31-year-old to find new employment.
The Los Angeles Chargers signed on Kendricks’ dotted line to kickstart free agency, and he’ll begin his second chapter near his college stomping grounds, UCLA.
Eric Kendricks Lands in the AFC
The Athletic‘s Alec Lewis tweeted Monday night, “Looks like former Vikings LB Eric Kendricks is headed back to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers (via Instagram).”
The Vikings were expected to trim cap space this offseason, and Kendricks was the first big domino to fall in that effort. He was on deck to inflict a $11.43 million cap hit in 2022, but his exit from Minnesota saved $9.5 million. Minnesota turned around and used some of that newfound cap space to land Marcus Davenport, an EDGE rusher from the New Orleans Saints, on Monday evening.
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.
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.
A man named Jeff Howard is the Chargers linebackers coach, and he was a Vikings defensive assistant from 2013 to 2019, overlapping five seasons with Kendricks in Minnesota. He evidently had some degree of input on who the Chargers sign in free agency this offseason, with Kendricks as proof.
Kendricks earned a Pro Bowl and 1st-Team All-Pro nod in 2019, coincidentally the last time Minnesota won a playoff game. Kendricks played most of his career in purple with college teammate Anthony Barr — also a linebacker — before Barr bolted for the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.
The Vikings restructured the contract of Kendricks’ 2022 teammate Jordan Hicks on Monday, so for now, Minnesota has Hicks and second-year defender Brian Asamoah on top for 2023 linebacking duties. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could also sign an extra linebacker in free agency or draft one in 45 days.
Los Angeles currently employs one other former Viking, offensive tackle Storm Norton.
The Chargers ranked 16th leaguewide in 2022 via defensive DVOA. Kendricks logged 575 total tackles with the Vikings from 2015 to 2022, the most of any Vikings player.
Kendricks’ Chargers will play the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium this season.
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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,’ and The Doors (the band).