Who Will Replace Eric Kendricks?

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To kickstart the Minnesota Vikings offseason, the franchise released longtime linebacker Eric Kendricks, a money-saving maneuver to eventually slither under the league’s salary cap.

Releasing the 1st-Team All-Pro from 2019 saved the Vikings $9.5 million in 2023, a sum that can be used to sign Kendricks’ direct replacement or anyone, really, in free agency.

Who Will Replace Eric Kendricks?

Now, because Kendricks was so dominant at the peak of his powers — mainly from 2018 to 2020 — Vikings fans wonder who will replace the UCLA alumnus?

There are three options, and all tend to work in unison.

1. Brian Asamoah

Replace Eric Kendricks
Brian Asamoah catches a pass during the University of Oklahoma Sooners football Pro Day inside the Everest Training Center in Norman, Okla., Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Ou Football Pro Day. © BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The most vivid no-brainer on the list, second-year defender Brian Asmoah will start in 2022, barring something super funky and unforeseen this summer.

Asamoah was allotted playing time down the stretch of his rookie campaign, and aside from getting juked out of his cleats by Aaron Rodgers, the Oklahoma alumnus looked fantastic. He was imposing in the regular season game versus the New York Giants — the one where Greg Joseph ended the Giants afternoon with a 61-yard field goal.

The Vikings will experience a fast, young, hungry, and affordable commodity in Asamoah, and he’s on his way to a Sunday afternoon television screen near you.

2. A Free Agent like Devin Bush

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While it’s still possible — not probable — that the Vikings retain Jordan Hicks for 2023 duty, he’ll likely join Kendricks in free agency before too long.

Then, unless Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and Brian Flores want two very young starting linebackers, the franchise will have to scour the free-agent wire next week for a veteran.

Devin Bush is an easy theory because he played with Flores last season in Pittsburgh. He’s not an elite defender but is a former 1st-Round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft. There might still be some proverbial “untapped potential” there.

Otherwise, if Adofo-Mensah is in the mood to spend big bucks, proven veterans like Tremaine Edmunds, David Long, and Devin White could be available for inquiry.

3. A Rookie like Trenton Simpson

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Finally, if the Vikings cut Jordan Hicks and sign no startable linebacker in free agency, one of the first two draft picks will be used for replenishment.

Clemson’s Trenton Simpson would be a natural fit in Flores’ system, and the young defender should be available to the Vikings with their 23rd overall pick. Plus, Simpson might fall even further as off-ball linebackers aren’t considered “premium position” draft assets.

Drew Sanders from Arkansas could grab Adofo-Mensah’s attention, too. Or if Minnesota waits until the mid-rounds — a risky strategy if they want a Week 1 starter for 2023 — Jack Campbell from Iowa is a Round 3 draft darling.

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 OverTheCap.com.