The Vikings on Monday terminated the contract of Eric Kendricks — a mainstay in the middle of Minnesota’s defense for eight seasons, a 2019 First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, champion for social justice and the 2020 Vikings Community Man of the Year.
The termination of Kendricks’ contract means he is free to sign with any suitor before leaguewide free agency begins on March 15.
Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah released the following statement:
“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.”
Kendricks started 113 of the 117 games he played in Purple, showing a propensity to rack up tackles and make key plays.
No play by Kendricks was bigger for Minnesota last season than his goal-line recovery of a Josh Allen fumble for a touchdown at Buffalo. That score was the third of his career to go along with a 77-yard interception return for a TD at Tennessee in Week 1 of 2016 and a 31-yard pick-six against Cincinnati in Week 15 of 2017.
The touchdown against the Bengals helped clinch the NFC North for the Vikings, who finished the season at 13-3. In addition to playoff appearances that followed his 2015 rookie season, 2017 and 2019, Kendricks helped Minnesota go 13-4 to win the NFC North again in 2022, the team’s first season under Head Coach Kevin O’Connell and first time using a 3-4 base defense in decades.
Serving as a season-long captain for the first time, Kendricks wore the green dot helmet with the communications device and finished 2022 with 137 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a sack and six passes defensed.
“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,” O’Connell said in a statement. “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,” O’Connell added. “I know he and Ally will have an immediate positive impact on their next team and community.”
Kendricks led Minnesota in tackles in seven of his eight seasons, which ranks second behind Vikings Ring of Honor linebacker Scott Studwell’s eight such seasons.
The California native led Minnesota in tackles in 66 games, a franchise record, and has totaled 919 tackles, which ranks second among NFL players behind only Bobby Wagner since 2015.
Kendricks recorded 54 tackles for loss, matching his jersey number and ranking third all-time among Vikings linebackers behind E.J. Henderson (67) and Chad Greenway (62). He also totaled 51 passes defensed, 15 sacks, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. Kendricks started all six playoff games the Vikings have played in since 2015, totaling 43 tackles, seven passes defensed and an interception.
As the stats stacked up, Kendricks found more and more ways — and confidence — in speaking up on behalf of social justice issues. He had regularly participated in community events organized by teammates and the club before launching multiple initiatives to give back. Having grown up in a single-parent household, Kendricks authentically knows how tough times can be for those facing adversities.
He quietly visited youth housed at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center seven times from 2018-19 and continued virtual visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kendricks also exchanged letters with many of the youth to encourage them.
The 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis further inspired Kendricks’ push for social justice reforms. He posted a raw video in which he emotionally challenged those in position to help to do more. His heart to make things better for others was clear in the video and beyond.
One of the most beautiful relationships Kendricks nurtured in Minnesota was with All Square and its fellows who are moving past previous incarcerations with help from the Minneapolis-based nonprofit.
This included Kendricks delivering a check for $250,000 from the Vikings Social Justice Committee — part of a $5 million commitment in 2020 by the Wilf family and Vikings — that fall.
All Square, which was amazed by the donation to its Fellow & Fellow Alum Fund, had a surprise of its own when Randall Smith and Terrein Gill let Kendricks know he had been selected as the 2020 Vikings Community Man of the Year, which included a nomination for the leaguewide Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. All Square created “The Kendricks #54” sandwich — a French toast bagel with brown sugar bacon, eggs, strawberry jam and sharp cheddar — in his honor.
“Eric’s impact on our franchise over the past eight years has been immeasurable,” Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a joint statement. “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.”