The Minnesota Vikings have a handful of tough calls to make this offseason, including two involving players who are part of a crucial defensive unit.
Not only must the Vikings decide how to approach linebacker Anthony Barr’s upcoming free agency, they will also have to determine whether to trade or continue to ride with his positional counterpart Eric Kendricks. The former All-Pro defender has two years left on a five-year deal and represents a cap hit of more than $13.5 million in 2022, while his team must decide where and how to clear $15 million in salary off of its balance sheet before next season begins.
Kendricks’ fate is intertwined with both the long-term plan for the roster under new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell, as well as their decisions on several of his pricey and high-profile teammates.
“After speculation the Minnesota Vikings could tear down their roster with [a] new regime in place, the new staff seems more interested in balancing winning now and long-term,” Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report wrote in a piece published Tuesday, March 8. “That means instead of completely selling off their expensive veterans like Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Kirk Cousins, and Harrison Smith, they’ll approach the market with tact.”
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Analyst Ranks Vikings Kendricks 8th Most Likely NFL Player to be Traded
Wharton highlighted nine NFL players that he deemed “most likely” to be traded this offseason, with Kendricks coming in at No. 8 on the list.
Kendricks is especially interesting for linebacker-needy teams. The 30-year-old has been as productive as any of his peers, and he is coming off maybe his best all-around season yet. He accumulated 143 tackles, two interceptions, four pass deflections, and five sacks in 2022.
The Vikings would save over $7.5 million in a trade on top of receiving a mid-round draft pick. Losing his leadership and stability are part of the tough long-term decisions that exist with each of [Minnesota’s] top veterans.
A contending team would happily pay Kendricks his $9.15 million base salary in 2022 and 2023. The limited financial obligation to Kendricks beyond his prime is a positive selling point. Plus, the list of inside linebackers available in free agency isn’t especially strong.
Wharton named the Cleveland Browns, Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles among the group of franchises that would be most interested in Kendricks’ services, should the Vikings decide to shop him this offseason.
Vikings LB Barr May Also Soon Move on From Minnesota
Another long-time and successful member of the Vikings’ linebacking core may also move on from Minnesota this offseason.
Barr is in a different situation than Kendricks, as he is no longer under contract with the Vikings and will officially hit free agency on Wednesday, March 16. The eight-year NFL veteran will presumably be on the hunt for a multiyear deal after agreeing to a reduced salary in 2021, which he did in exchange for Minnesota voiding the final two seasons of his contract.
Barr made the Pro Bowl four consecutive times from 2015-18, but he’s been less durable and productive since. He has started only 13 of 33 games across the previous two seasons after suffering a torn pectoral in 2020 and knee problems last year.