Vikings release LB Eric Kendricks to get under the salary cap

The Minnesota Vikings are releasing linebacker Eric Kendricks, the team announced Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The 31-year-old started all 17 games for the Vikings last season and totaled 137 tackles.
  • The Vikings would have to clear $23 million of their 2023 salary to get under the cap.
  • Releasing Kendricks saves the team about $9.5 million against the cap, according to

Athletics‘s instant analysis:

Why did the Vikings choose to release Kendricks?

It’s a combination of what the team had to do from a salary cap perspective and on defense. From last year, when general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired, he laid out a two-year plan. That involved signing younger players to replace aging ones. One of them was Eric Kendricks. The Vikings entered this offseason needing to clear about $23 million to eliminate their cap deficit.

Kendricks, who has a $9.5 million cap hit for 2023, was an obvious option. He is 31 years old. His play in 2022 raised questions about his long-term athleticism in an era of the game that has shifted heavily to operating over the middle of the field. Ultimately, this move seemed inevitable as the team explored its options. — Lewis

Who will replace Kendricks?

Right now, Brian Asamoah, whom the team drafted last year in the third round, appears to be in line for the role. Asamoah, an Oklahoma product, is an athletic wrecking ball. He flies to the ball and sends himself with full force. Asamoah also possesses a level of ability that should fit into newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ scheme.

There’s also the potential, and perhaps even high probability, that the Vikings could draft — or attempt to acquire — another suitable linebacker for depth. — Lewis

What moves will the Vikings make next?

There will certainly be more to come. The Vikings still remain in the red from a salary cap perspective. Kendricks is a franchise fixture, but others like Adam Thielen could be cap casualties. Thielen, for example, is 32 years old and has a cap hit of $19 million. He himself has expressed that he and the team would try to make an agreement.

Whether that’s possible or not could play a role in what the team chooses to do with safety Harrison Smith, who also has a $19 million cap hit, and Za’Darius Smith, whose release could save the team $13 million. — Lewis

What they say

“It is extremely difficult to start more than 100 games in this league, but Eric has been a fixture in the locker room since entering the NFL,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said in a statement. “In my first year as head coach, Eric played a critical role as a captain and member of the leadership council in helping to establish the culture we want at Minnesota. He was a consistent mentor to his younger teammates and his tireless work ethic set a standard for others to emulate. I am grateful to have had the chance to coach Eric as a player and get to know him as a person.”

Back story

The Vikings selected Kendricks in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent all eight seasons of his career in Minnesota and was named First Team All-Pro in 2019.

Required reading

(Photo: Eric Hartline / USA Today)

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