Longtime Vikings Defender Released By Chargers

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Free agency begins on March 11 with the legal tampering period, and a couple of days later, players can officially sign their new deals. Minnesota awaits the decision of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is scheduled to leave in free agency after wearing the C on his purple chest for six seasons. Danielle Hunter, a longtime staple of Minnesota’s defense, could also exit.

Longtime Vikings Defender Released By Chargers

Longtime Vikings Defender Released By Chargers
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Another longtime star in Minnesota’s defense, Eric Kendricks, will enter the free agency pool one year earlier than expected after signing a two-year contract with only the second team of his career last offseason.

Los Angeles announced the move on Tuesday: “The Los Angeles Chargers today released linebacker Eric Kendricks. A team captain in 2023, Kendricks started 14-of-15 games played with the Chargers after signing last offseason. He ranked second on the team with 117 tackles (79 solo), marking his eighth-straight season with at least 100 defensive stops. Kendricks added 3.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, six passes defensed and a forced fumble.”

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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 Anthony Barr in Mike Zimmer’s defense and was one of the most reliable players in the league. He rarely made any mistakes or missed games.

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.

6 Landing Spots
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The defender then joined Brandon Staley’s group in California and had a surprisingly productive season. At age 32, however, the new regime around new head coach Jim Harbaugh prefers to save $6.5 million in cap space over keeping the veteran.

Interestingly, Minnesota requires some additional bodies in the linebacker room as Troy Dye and Hicks are in the final days of their contracts, leaving 2023 rookie standout Ivan Pace and 2022 third-rounder Brian Asamoah as the only potential contributors with practice squad players William Kwenkeu and Abraham Beauplan providing depth.

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The veteran has lost more than just one step, and he is no longer an elite coverage linebacker, something he excelled at a few years ago. Still, there will be a market for a linebacker with that experience. He has always been one of the smartest players in the league, and having him as a borderline coach on the field can be helpful, especially for young and inexperienced defenses.

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