Vikings Release Beloved Longtime Defender

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The Minnesota Vikings personnel portion of the offseason began with a bang Monday, one week before the league’s “legal tampering” phase of free agency begins.

The club released linebacker Eric Kendricks who had played for the Vikings since 2015.

Vikings Release Beloved Longtime Defender

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted the news, “The Vikings are releasing veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks, per sources. A first-team All-Pro in 2019 and one of the NFL’s most consistently productive LBs, Kendricks now heads to free agency.

Vikings Release Longtime
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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.

Kendricks’ release saves the Vikings $9.5 million to use next week on new free agents while incurring a $1.93 million cap hit against the Vikings books in 2023. The move was long foreseen after Minnesota lost to the New York Giants in the postseason, mainly because the franchise needed new, youthful, and faster blood in the middle of the defense.

The PFF Prediction for
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Minnesota is expected to release Kendricks’ teammate Jordan Hicks before next week, although that is speculative as of March 5th. Cutting Kendricks and Hicks would save the Vikings around $14.5 million, a sum of cash that can be used to target between 1 and 3 veteran defenders on the open market.

Kendricks was at the zenith of his power in 2019, tabulating a magnificent 90.2 Pro Football Focus grade in the same season Minnesota knocked off the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. Thereafter, Kendricks scored an 82.6 PFF grade in 2020, 59.2 in 2021, and 61.1 last year.

He 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.

Assessing the Vikings LB Situation
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The Vikings will likely promote second-year linebacker Brian Asamoah in place of Kendricks and pursue a veteran off-ball linebacker in free agency or a rookie in the NFL draft. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores has a linebackers-focused background, so the team should be in good hands.

Following the Kendricks release, the Vikings remain about $15.7 million underwater via the salary cap, so more releases or contractual restructures are on the way and could arrive as early as Monday.

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Barring a surprise retirement, which is severely unlikely, Kendricks will latch on elsewhere and perhaps thrive as he heads toward his age-31 season.

For now, Danielle Hunter is the last remaining alumnus from the 2015 draft class still with the team.

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).

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