Minnesota Vikings freeing up cash for free agency, release All-Pro LB Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks with the Minnesota Vikings in 2015. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings on Monday terminated the contract of Eric Kendricks — a mainstay in the middle of Minnesota’s defense for eight seasons, a 2019 First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, champion for social justice and the 2020 Vikings Community Man of the Year.

The termination of Kendricks’ contract means he is free to sign with any suitor before leaguewide free agency begins on March 15.

Kendricks started 113 of the 117 games he played in Purple, showing a propensity to rack up tackles and make key plays.

No play by Kendricks was bigger for Minnesota last season than his goal-line recovery of a Josh Allen fumble for a touchdown at Buffalo. That score was the third of his career to go along with a 77-yard interception return for a TD at Tennessee in Week 1 of 2016 and a 31-yard pick-six against Cincinnati in Week 15 of 2017.

The touchdown against the Bengals helped clinch the NFC North for the Vikings, who finished the season at 13-3. In addition to playoff appearances that followed his 2015 rookie season, 2017 and 2019, Kendricks helped Minnesota go 13-4 to win the NFC North again in 2022, the team’s first season under Head Coach Kevin O’Connell and first time using a 3-4 base defense in decades.

Serving as a season-long captain for the first time, Kendricks wore the green dot helmet with the communications device and finished 2022 with 137 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a sack and six passes defensed.

“It is extremely difficult to start more than 100 games in this league, but Eric has been a staple in the locker room since he entered the NFL,” O’Connell said in a statement. “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. 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,” O’Connell added. “I know he and Ally will have an immediate positive impact on their next team and community.”

Kendricks led Minnesota in tackles in seven of his eight seasons, which ranks second behind Vikings Ring of Honor linebacker Scott Studwell’s eight such seasons.

The California native led Minnesota in tackles in 66 games, a franchise record, and has totaled 919 tackles, which ranks second among NFL players behind only Bobby Wagner since 2015.

Kendricks recorded 54 tackles for loss, matching his jersey number and ranking third all-time among Vikings linebackers behind E.J. Henderson (67) and Chad Greenway (62). He also totaled 51 passes defensed, 15 sacks, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. Kendricks started all six playoff games the Vikings have played in since 2015, totaling 43 tackles, seven passes defensed and an interception.


Posted in NFL