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Minnesota Vikings release All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks

The third-longest tenured player on the Minnesota Vikings roster, Eric Kendricks, has been released as of Monday morning. Kendricks, a one-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker, gets a head start on hitting the open market at the age of 31.

After being selected with the 45th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Kendricks became nearly an immediate starter on the Vikings’ defense. He’s racked up 100 or more tackles every season since his rookie year but now appears to be moving on from Minnesota after seven productive seasons.

While this move is a bit of a surprise, as teams typically try and keep good players, Kendricks’ release does not come as a shock for a Vikings team needing to get creative to get under the 2023 salary cap. Prior to this roster move, the Vikings were $20 million over their spending limit.

Kendricks’ release will save $9.5 million on their 2023 cap number.

Long known as one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, Kendricks’s play slipped a bit last season as he tried to adjust to playing in a 3-4 defense for the first time in his professional career. Yet, he received a strong 81.1 grade as a run defender, per Pro Football Focus. Chances are, he’ll return to being effective as a pass-defending linebacker in his next stop.

Related: Minnesota Vikings mock draft 2023: Rebuilding the Brian Flores-led defense

This move would seem to indicate that the Vikings are pushing forward with veteran Jordan Hicks and the 66th overall pick from 2022, Brian Asamoah, in the middle of Brian Flores’ defense. Yet, there’s still the possibility Kendricks is brought back at a different rate. Being that the Vikings would appear to have his replacement already on hand, we wouldn’t hold our breath waiting for a reunion.