With several pieces remaining from the vaunted Zimmer defense of 2015-2019, the 2022 Vikings defense finished 31st in total yards allowed. Its 10 games allowing 400 or more yards are the most for the franchise since 2013, Leslie Frazier’s final year at the helm.
Table of Contents
It’s A Business
What can often be difficult as a fan is being a fan of both a team but also the indivuals that comprise it on a given year (or for several years). New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, however, joined the organization with fresh eyes and an outside perspective of the roster. He and Kevin O’Connell’s staff have quickly aligned themselves with the existing leadership group on the roster and have done a great job cultivating a culture around those building blocks.
Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter remain from the best years of the previous regime and its possible we see the Vikings move on from one or more of those multi-time pro bowlers this offseason. All other things being equal, the contract situation of Eric Kendricks is easily the easiest for the Front Office to handle.
There is one year left on his five-yr extension from 2018 with a cap hit of $11.43million per Spotrac.com and cutting or trading the veteran would save the Vikings $9.5million in 2023 cap. This is a no-brainer on paper especially if the Vikings were desperate for more cap space but the fact of the matter is the cap situation is not really that dire and the team has a lot of other ways they can create more room.
Does Eric Kendricks Make Sense For The 2023 Vikings?
These contract conversations are always more nuanced than meets the eye so its more than: “Is Eric Kendricks worth $11.43million in 2023, yes or no?”. This cap hit could be lowered significantly by another extension. At overthecap.com, I’ve done so to see what that may look like.
Adding one year and $8 million in new money could lower his 2023 cap hit to about $7.8 million, with a pretty easy out after the 2023 season if that turns out to be the team’s decision.
I like that value a lot more.
Kendricks is still viable at the linebacker position and brings leadership to a defensive unit that can only improve upon a dismal 2023 from a statistical standpoint. Sure, he’s lost a step since his All-Pro days but some of that from this past season could be more related to his reaction time in a new scheme than it is to his physical decline.
What Needs To Change?
Ed Donatell consistently put Eric Kendricks (and Jordan Hicks for that matter) in the most difficult situations with his playcalling. Some of that was due of course to the ineptitude of the back-end coverage, but Donatell’s tendency to call two-high, quarters, Cover six or eight and leaving just the off-ball linebackers inside the numbers at the second level did not help the veterans there.
EK used to move laterally with the best of them. He was hash-to-flat as quickly as anyone at the position. He’s not quite that anymore, but he’s an adequate athlete and sharp as a tack. If the new Vikings defensive coordinator is able to mix up coverages to be less predictable, and scheme up some more pressure (key to why Kendricks & Barr thrived under Zimmer), I think we could see a bounce-back year from number 54.
If the team moves off of Eric Kendricks it will not be without a plan. Maybe they set their sights on a Free Agent backer on whom they could spend what they save cutting Kendricks. The likes of Tremaine Edmunds (Buffalo), Devin Bush (Pittsburgh), and Azeez AL-Shaiir (San Francisco) are set to hit the market and would be higher upside players for the Vikings going forward.
What are your thoughts on Eric Kendricks and other roster decisions that loom for Kwesi and the crew? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter (@JohnBBoyd12) how you’re feeling!
Check out the rest of our written work at Minnesota Vikings | Stadium Rant and stick with us for all kinds of offseason coverage of your favorite team.