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Vikings releasing Eric Kendricks

The end of an era for one of the most important players on the Vikings defense over the past decade.

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings knew they had some very tough decisions to make this offseason when it came to some of the longest-tenured stars on the team.

It appears that they just announced one of those tough decisions.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Vikings are releasing veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Vikings have been Kendricks’ only team for all eight years of his NFL career. He was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and has been a mainstay on the defense ever since. Kendricks started at least 11 games and played over 750 defensive snaps in all eight seasons, amassing nearly 1,000 tackles, 15 sacks, 9 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries, and 3 touchdowns.

Kendricks spent most of his rookie contract as one of the more quietly underrated young linebackers in the NFL, but he made the rest of the league take notice with his amazing 2019 season. He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors while garnering a career-high 90.1 Pro Football Focus grade. He was credited with a whopping 13 pass breakups that season. At the peak of his powers, very few linebackers in the NFL could compare with Kendricks’ versatility and range.

But of course, the NFL is still a business, and unfortunately the business move of parting ways with Kendricks probably makes the most sense for the Vikings financially. Releasing Kendricks saves the team about $9.5 million in cap space, and the team still has to make other moves to get under the salary cap for the upcoming season.

Any time a player spends that much time on your favorite team, fans are bound to get attached. When a player spends eight years with your favorite team and makes as much of an impact both on and off the field as Kendricks did, it makes the departure that much more difficult.

The Vikings released the following statements about Kendricks, and to nobody’s surprise, they’re glowing remarks:

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah:

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. 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. I have the utmost respect for Eric and wish him and Ally, along with their growing family, continued success in their next chapter.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell:

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. 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. I know he and Ally will have an immediate positive impact on their next team and community.

Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf:

Eric’s impact on our franchise over the past eight years has been immeasurable. At the core of our defense, Eric exemplified perfectly what it means to be a Minnesota Viking. He was the ultimate competitor and an incredible leader who set a high standard and consistently carried himself with class. Off the field, Eric set an example for others with his passion for giving back and using his platform to drive positive change. We especially appreciate his immediate contributions as an original member of the team’s social justice committee and his partnership with us in the fight against social and racial inequities. We are grateful to Eric and his wife, Ally, and look forward to watching them continue to make a difference in the future.

We wish nothing but the absolute best for Kendricks in the next stage of his career. It was an absolute pleasure watching #54 cover everything between the lines while making such a big impact outside them.

Thanks for everything, EK.