Ex-Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks Is Pulling an Anthony Barr

Eric Kendricks / Anthony Barr
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It was 2019 when linebacker Anthony Barr entered free agency after five years in purple. The former UCLA star was set to choose the New York Jets, and all the relevant reporters around the league broke the news. Vikings fans were sad to see their top player leave. However, before he signed the contract, he pulled the deal and returned to Minnesota.

Ex-Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks Is Pulling an Anthony Barr

Ex-Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks Is Pulling an Anthony Barr
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

A story like that doesn’t happen often but it does sometimes. Before the Vikings signed Za’Darius Smith in 2022, he had also agreed to terms with the Ravens but reversed his decision.

Eric Kendricks, a longtime teammate of Barr in college and the pros, has now done the same. Kendricks was set to join the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday morning but changed his mind and now follows his former head coach in Minnesota, Mike Zimmer, to the Dallas Cowboys.

Adam Schefter reported: “Another change of heart: after agreeing to a deal with the 49ers, former Chargers and Vikings LB Eric Kendricks has decided to go to the Dallas Cowboys instead, per sources. Mike Zimmer wanted Kendricks to help run his defense and Kendricks preferred to play in Dallas.”

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Zimmer was hired last month to take over the defensive coordinator spot vacated by Dan Quinn who was hired as the new head coach of the Washington Commanders and like many coaches, his first addition is someone he knows from a previous stint.

Kendricks was a 2015 second-round pick, and it was one of Rick Spielman’s best moves in charge of the organization. The linebacker from UCLA joined his college teammate Barr in Zimmer’s defense and was one of the most reliable players in the league. He rarely made any mistakes or missed games. Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, and Harrison Smith formed the core of the defense together with the two linebackers. Following Hunter’s departure, Smith is the last remaining one.

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Playing in 117 contests throughout eight seasons, he racked up 919 total tackles, 15 sacks, 54 tackles for loss, and nine interceptions in the purple jersey with the number 54.

When Ed Donatell took over the defensive reigns from Zimmer in 2022, Kendricks wasn’t a good fit in his scheme, and his athleticism declined. At age 31, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah parted ways with the longtime star while keeping the cheaper Jordan Hicks on the team. That move allowed Ivan Pace to transform into a rookie sensation.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The defender then joined Brandon Staley’s group, the Los Angeles Chargers, and had a surprisingly productive season. At age 32, however, the new regime around new head coach Jim Harbaugh preferred to save $6.5 million in cap space over keeping the veteran and released him a week ago.

Zimmer wouldn’t have added Kendricks if he didn’t intend to use him. How big that role will be, though, remains to be seen. Interestingly, Barr is also available and he played for the Cowboys in 2022.

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