EAGAN, Minn. — A popular veteran and key cog of the Minnesota Vikings defense is now contemplating his future after the club announced he has been released.
The Vikings confirmed Monday that the team has terminated the contract of 31-year-old linebacker Eric Kendricks. The 8-year veteran has anchored the Vikings' "D," calling signals and sets since he came into the league out of UCLA. Kendricks figured in more than 100 tackles in every year he played except two, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2019. He totaled 857 tackles, 51 passes defended and nine interceptions over 119 career games with the Vikings.
Kendricks won the Dick Butkus Award in 2014 as the nation's top college linebacker.
“As a Pro Bowler and team captain, a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and a leader of the Vikings' social justice efforts, Eric leaves a powerful, permanent legacy within our organization and the Minnesota community," said Vikings GM Kwese Adofo-Mensah in a released statement. "While he is best known as a playmaker and respected linebacker across the league, Eric’s contributions to the Vikings extend far beyond the field because of his selfless and unwavering commitment to improving societal issues."
While making reference to his on-field abilities, Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell also referred to Kendricks' leadership in the locker room and the community. "During my first year as head coach, Eric played a critical role as a captain and a member of the leadership council in helping establish the culture we want in Minnesota," O'Connell said in tribute. "He was a consistent mentor to his younger teammates, and his tireless work ethic set a standard for others to emulate. I’m thankful to have had the chance to coach Eric as a player and get to know him as a person. I know he and Ally will have an immediate positive impact on their next team and community.”
Kendricks is among a group of long-tenured players whose future with the Vikings has been in question this off-season due to their age, compensation level and the team's salary cap challenges. Others whose situations have not been resolved include wide receiver Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook and safety Harrison Smith.
Insiders have speculated that the Vikings will have to sever ties with a number of the team's highly-compensated veterans so they can hammer out a contract extension with wideout Justin Jefferson, who appears on the cusp of becoming the NFL's highest-paid receiver.
Sportrac, which keeps track of player contracts and team salary cap situations, says Kendrick was set to make a base salary of just over $9 million, and count for $11,430,000 against the Vikings' cap.
Team officials are reportedly high on 2022 third-round draft pick Brian Asamoah, who will likely be given an opportunity to step into the starting middle linebacker spot.
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