The 1st Vikings Offseason Domino Has Fallen

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Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter. Creator: Andy Clayton-King | Credit: AP.

The Minnesota Vikings entered their offseason with the need to free up roughly $24 million in cap space. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has many different ways to achieve that goal. That has to be done before the new league year begins on March 15.

It will be a tumultuous time for the franchise as many longtime team stars might depart. The organization can release and trade away players to gain some cap space; extending contracts, especially Kirk Cousins’, is another way to save money.

The 1st Vikings Offseason Domino Has Fallen

 1st Vikings Offseason
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Adofo-Mensah started his second off-season in charge of the purple team with the release of middle linebacker Eric Kendricks. He was the starter at that position in Minnesota since his rookie season in 2015. The Vikings will have to rebuild their defensive unit without the star player.

Tom Pelissero tweeted: “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.”

In his prime, in 2019 and 2020, Kendricks was arguably the best linebacker in the league. The tackling machine recorded 919 tackles for the Vikings in eight seasons with the team and added 15 sacks, 54 tackles for loss, and scored two touchdowns. His first one was a pick-six in the season opener against the Titans in 2016 when he picked off Marcus Mariota and returned the ball for 77 yards into the endzone.

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The second and final one was a special moment in recent Vikings history. On the road in Buffalo during the 2022 campaign, the Vikings needed a miracle. The team was down 27-23. The Bills had possession of the ball at their own one-yard line because the Vikings failed to score on the fourth down, and the clock had only 49 seconds left.

The game was virtually over. However, Josh Allen fumbled the football, Kendricks picked it up in the endzone, and Kendricks and his teammates had their needed miracle moment and won overtime. That was the moment folks in the fan base started to believe that the season could be special.

By releasing Kendricks, the Vikings save $9.5 million of cap space while only inheriting a dead cap hit of $1,930,000, a manageable number. The move was expected by many.

Kendricks is now a free agent for the first time in his career. He clearly lost a step in 2022 but should still be in high demand in the next few weeks. The Vikings still have 2022 starter Jordan Hicks on the roster. He could face a similar fate as Kendricks, as his release would free up another $5 million for the Vikings.

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In addition to Hicks, the purple team has 2022 third-round selection Brian Asamoah on the squad, a player widely considered the favorite to be one of the two starting middle linebackers in the upcoming season.

New defensive coordinator Brian Flores could also be in the market for adding a new linebacker to the mix. One candidate could be his former player Kyle Van Noy. He also coached Devin Bush in Pittsburgh last season. The former first-round pick is, just like Van Noy, a free agent.

Minnesota has not drafted a linebacker in the first round since selecting Anthony Barr in 2014. The position could be an option with the 23rd overall pick. Top linebackers in the draft are Drew Sanders from Arkansas, Clemson’s Trenton Simpson, and Alabama’s Henry To’oTo’o.

Kendricks played 117 regular season and six postseason games for the organization.

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