Eric Kendricks

Chargers Rule Out RB Austin Ekeler For Week 2

It is now official that Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will miss his first game since 2020, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, due to an ankle injury that has been bothering him since the team’s loss to the Dolphins last weekend. Schefter also reports that defenders Eric Kendricks and Chris Rumph have been ruled out for tomorrow’s matchup in Tennessee, as well.

The loss of Ekeler is obviously the most significant, but last week’s game showed that Los Angeles may be set up well for his absence. While Ekeler showed his usual dual-threat impressiveness, rushing for 117 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown while adding 47 yards on four receptions through the air, backup running back Joshua Kelley was nearly as productive.

Kelley matched Ekeler’s 16 rushing attempts, amassing a still impressive 91 yards as a result and also scoring a touchdown. While Kelley hasn’t necessarily shown a similar aptitude for receiving out of the backfield in his career, backup running back and undrafted rookie Elijah Dotson was known for his versatility during his time with the Bears of Northern Colorado. In his final year of college football, Dotson caught 48 balls for 300 yards and two touchdowns. If the Chargers don’t want to shoulder Kelley with receiving back duties, Dotson should be more than capable of stepping in.

Highlighting the loss of Ekeler is not meant to minimize at all the loss of Kendricks. Kendricks is half of the team’s starting inside linebacker duo alongside Kenneth Murray. In last week’s loss to the high-powered Miami offense, Kendricks was one of only four defenders who played every defensive snap, the others being safeties Derwin James and Alohi Gilman and cornerback Michael Davis.

The Chargers didn’t see much action from backup off-ball linebackers in Week 1 at all. They do have depth at that spot on the roster, though. The three healthy options on the active roster (Tanner Muse, Nick Niemann, and Amen Ogbongbemiga) are all primarily special teamers who have played on defense sparingly throughout their respective careers. Los Angeles did use a third-round pick this year to acquire former Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley, but after failing to play in Week 1, Henley is listed as doubtful to make his NFL debut tomorrow.

As for Rumph, the third-year rotation edge rusher will have to wait at least one more week to make his season debut. The team will likely hope to be seeing the return of Ekeler and Kendricks by that time, as well, but for now, they’ll have to make do without two of their more talented starters. To help fill in this week, the Chargers promoted outside linebacker Brevin Allen and safety Dean Marlowe from the practice squad as standard gameday elevations.

Steelers Rumors: Peterson, Sutton, OL

Still opting to conserve costs at cornerback, the Steelers let Cameron Sutton walk in free agency and replaced him with Patrick Peterson. While the latter’s resume laps Sutton’s, the new Pittsburgh cover man is going into his age-33 season. Peterson bounced back in Minnesota, intercepting five passes last season, and Mike Tomlin plans to take advantage of the All-Decade corner’s experience. Tomlin said he will not shy away from using Peterson around the formation, including at safety, this season. The 17th-year Steelers HC has discussed this with Peterson, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets.

This would be a transition to monitor, and increased safety usage would be a way for Peterson to play well into his mid-30s. Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson and Ronde Barber transitioned to safety as their careers advanced; each Hall of Famer finished his career at the position. Peterson will have a Hall of Fame case when he retires; his Steelers tenure will help determine if he can ascend to first-ballot status. The Steelers have Minkah Fitzpatrick rostered at safety and have Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal at the position, with the latter agreeing to terms Thursday, whereas their corner group invites more questions. Citing Peterson’s intelligence, Tomlin is still planning to move the 13th-year defender off his usual boundary corner post at times.

Here is the latest out of Pittsburgh:

  • Sutton signed a three-year, $33MM deal with the Lions. While the Steelers expressed interest in keeping him on a third contract, Dulac notes their offer was not in this ballpark. Pittsburgh had kept Sutton on a two-year, $9MM deal in 2021; he outplayed that contract and will now be asked to be Detroit’s No. 1 corner. The Steelers gave Peterson a two-year, $14MM pact with just $5.9MM guaranteed; they still roster Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon, who are each on $4MM-per-year deals.
  • On the subject of rejected Steelers offers, the team is believed to have extended a proposal to Eric Kendricks. Pittsburgh has been connected to making a strong offer to Kendricks, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com writes. A UCLA alum, Kendricks will return to Los Angeles on a two-year, $13.25MM Chargers contract. The Steelers have still overhauled their linebacker group, cutting Myles Jack and letting Devin Bush leave for a Seahawks deal. Cole Holcomb (three years, $18MM) and Elandon Roberts (two years, $7MM) are now in the fold.
  • Shifting to the O-line, Tomlin offered support for scrutinized tackles Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor by indicating he was “comfortable” with the starting duo, per Kaboly. Pro Football Focus rated both between No. 55 and No. 60 at tackle last season. The Steelers have added both Isaac Seumalo, whom Tomlin has not determined which guard spot he will play, and Nate Herbig this offseason but largely left the tackle spots alone. The Steelers, whom Kaboly notes were briefly tied to Orlando Brown Jr. during a free agency stretch that ended with Brown a Bengal, will be connected to tackles early in the draft. Though, the cornerback need may take precedence. Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock sends a corner (Maryland’s Deonte Banks) to Pittsburgh.
  • The team also added swingman Le’Raven Clark recently. A former Colts third-rounder who spent last season with the Titans, Clark signed a one-year, $1.2MM deal, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. The experienced O-lineman’s $50K signing bonus represents the only guarantees in this deal, which will qualify the eighth-year veteran as a competitor for a depth role.
  • The Steelers made a coaching tweak recently, promoting assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin to OLBs coach, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com tweets. The former scout has been with the team eight years. Pittsburgh also hired Jason Brooks as a defensive quality control assistant; Brooks previously was on Baltimore’s staff.

Chargers To Sign LB Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks is heading to the west coast. The long-time Vikings linebacker is signing with the Chargers, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

Kendricks agreed to a two-year deal worth $13.25MM, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). The UCLA alum will receive $6.75MM guaranteed, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. The Chargers will have a decision to make ahead of this contract’s second year, with Wilson adding Kendricks is due a $1.5MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2024 league year.

The Vikings cut the veteran linebacker last week, providing the team with $9.5MM in cap relief. The move ended Kendricks’ eight-year stint in Minnesota that saw him collect at least 90 tackles each season. He earned a first-time All-Pro nod and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2019, and he’ll end his Vikings tenure with the third-most total tackles (919) and top-10 marks in tackles for loss (54) and passes defended (51).

Kendricks was set to enter the final year of a $50MM contract he inked with the organization in 2018. Thanks to a subsequent restructure, he was set to earn more than $11MM in 2023. The team decided to take the savings and move on from Kendricks as they look to revamp that side of the ball.

The Chargers will still be getting a highly productive linebacker. The 31-year-old finished the 2022 season with 137 tackles and eight tackles for loss, although Pro Football Focus only ranked him 50th among 81 qualifying linebackers.

Drue Tranquill was the Chargers’ most productive linebacker last season but is currently an unrestricted free agent. Kendricks could easily fill Tranquill’s role, but considering the team’s lack of depth at the position, it’s within the realm of possibility that the Chargers still retain their free agent.

Vikings Release LB Eric Kendricks

Cost-cutting season is in full swing, and the Vikings are parting ways with a mainstay of their defense. Minnesota is releasing linebacker Eric Kendricks, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). A team announcement has confirmed the move.

The 31-year-old has spent all eight seasons of his career in Minnesota, putting up consistent numbers throughout his tenure. He has started 113 of his 117 appearances with the Vikings, and racked up at least 100 tackles in all but his rookie campaign. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 2019 after he notched a career-best 12 pass breakups, and remained a key contributor in the middle of the Vikings’ defense through the 2022 season.

That includes being on the field for over 1,000 snaps in each of the past two campaigns; over that stretch, Kendricks totaled 280 tackles, six sacks and a pair of interceptions. Those numbers speak to his value on the open market, which will likely see him earn a notable short-term deal in his next NFL home. They were not, on the other hand, sufficient for the Vikings’ front office to turn away significant cap savings brought on by this move.

Kendricks had no guaranteed money due for 2023, the final year of his $50MM extension signed in 2018. That contract was restructured one year later as Minnesota battled cap issues. As a result, the former second-rounder was set to count for $11.43MM on the books this season. By releasing him now, Minnesota will open up $9.5MM in cap space and incur a dead cap charge of only $1.93MM.

The Vikings entered Monday in the second-worst financial position in the league, so more similar decisions will likely be made. Minnesota, like all other teams, must become cap compliant by the start of the new league year (March 15), and have a number of other priorities this offseason. Those include new contracts for wideout Justin Jefferson and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson; the former could feasibly command the largest WR deal in the history of his position, which would obviously require significant flexibility on the team’s part.

It also comes as little surprise that the Vikings’ defense will look significantly different in 2023, with Kendricks (and, likely, a number of other veterans) absent. The unit ranked near the bottom of the league in many categories last offseason, and a rebound on that side of the ball will be needed to improve on the team’s overall 2022 performance. Kendricks, meanwhile, will join a LB free agent class which also includes the likes of Bobby Wagner, Tremaine Edmunds and Lavonte David, as he looks to start the next chapter of his NFL career.

Latest On Vikings’ Cap Situation

The Vikings are looking to reset their cap, and their quarterback could end up being a casualty. According to Jason La Canfora (via Twitter), the Vikings are “eager to move big contracts,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up moving on from Kirk Cousins.

With the Vikings changing regimes, the status of their four-year starting quarterback has understandably come up. Cousins carries the NFL’s third-highest 2022 cap hit at $45MM, and he’s going into a contract year. If the organization is truly looking to reset their books, it’d make sense to move on from the veteran QB. It would help the Vikings a bit if Cousins agreed to another extension, which would allow the team to reduce his 2022 cap hit. However, Cousins’ camp hasn’t been receptive to that idea.

La Canfora also mentions wideout Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and even running back Dalvin Cook as sizable cap hits that the organization could look to move on from. These four players and Cousins represent five of the team’s seven highest cap hits, joining defensive end Danielle Hunter and safety Harrison Smith.

The Vikings entered the offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the NFL, so it’s not surprising that the team is looking to move around some money. Per OverTheCap.com, the Vikings are currently $15MM over the cap, so moves are certainly coming.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/3/22

Here are Monday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: OT Mike Remmers (remains on IR)

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Raymond Calais (remains on IR)

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Vikings, Eric Kendricks Agree To Reworked Deal

The Vikings just agreed to a five-year extension for running back Dalvin Cook, and in order to create sufficient cap room for that deal, the club restructured the contract of LB Eric Kendricks. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Minnesota converted $6MM of Kendricks’ base salary into a signing bonus to spread out his cap charge (Twitter link).

This is the second year in a row that the Vikings and Kendricks have come together on a reworked deal. Last May, the club and Kendricks agreed to a similar restructure that may have allowed TE Kyle Rudolph to remain in Minnesota.

Of course, these types of kicking-the-can-down-the-road maneuvers always carry some risks, especially considering that the 2021 cap is expected to decrease. But Kendricks, who signed a five-year extension in 2018 that runs through the 2023 campaign, continues to play at a high level. As of right now, it looks like he will see the end of his contract — or sign another extension before then — so the dead cap charges that increase in a restructure like this one may never come into play.

Kendricks, 28, posted his fourth consecutive 100+ tackle campaign in 2019. He tallied 110 tackles in 15 games (all starts), and he graded out as the second-best LB in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. That effort led to a Pro Bowl nod and First Team All-Pro selection in 2019, the first such honors of his career.

Vikings Restructure Eric Kendricks’ Deal

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks agreed to restructure his contract in order to keep the team under the cap, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press tweets. The Vikings entered Tuesday with less than $700K in cap room, which did not leave them enough room to ink first-round pick Garrett Bradbury. With Kendricks’ cooperation, they were able to get the deal done

The revised deal will convert $2.15MM of Kendricks’ $4.15MM salary for 2019 into a salary bonus, which created about $1.72MM in space for the Vikes. That extra bit of breathing room may also bode well for the future of Kyle Rudolph, who is set to carry a $7.625MM cap hit this year. The Vikings have tried – and failed – to ink the tight end to a cap smoothing extension, but Kendricks’ gesture could go a long way towards keeping the veteran in Minnesota.

The Vikings inked Kendricks to a five-year, $50MM extension last year with $25MM guaranteed. And, in 2018, he kept up the good work. Kendricks finished out with 108 stops, one sack, and two interceptions in 14 regular season games.

Extra Points: Kendricks, Eagles, McCain, Seahawks

Mychal Kendricks visited with the Vikings earlier today. While the free agent left without an offer, it sounds like he’d certainly welcome playing in Minnesota. After all, it’d provide the linebacker with an opportunity to play with his brother, Eric Kendricks.

“Oh, man, it’d be a dream come true. I’d be awesome. That’s my best friend,” the former Eagles defender told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). “To strive for a championship (with Eric) would be awesome…Playing with my bro would be cool, and it’s a rare opportunity.’’

Predictably, Kendricks indicated that his brother is putting on the full-court press when it comes to recruiting.

“He’s doing all that he can,” Kendricks said (Twitter link). “He’s let me know what the team’s all about…But he knows in the end I’m going to make my decision based off the things that are presented to me.’’

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the league…

  • Kendricks, who was released by the Eagles last week, said he wasn’t surprised by the transaction. “I didn’t ask to be released but I asked for a trade a year prior to this,” he told Tomasson (via Twitter). “[S]o, yeah, I’m trying to be in a situation where I can play big role and really contribute.’’
  • Dolphins‘ cornerback Bobby McCain had a breakout campaign in 2017, rating out as one of Pro Football Focus’ top players at the position. The former fifth-rounder finished the campaign having compiled 48 tackles, one sack, seven passes defended, and two interceptions. After such a productive season, reporters naturally asked the 24-year-old if he’s been approached about an extension. “I mean, I um, I mean I…” McCain stammered (via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald). “No, I’m just going out and trying to play my best ball.” The defensive back is an impending free agent, but the Dolphins currently have little money to work with… until this weekend, when the team will free up $17MM in cap space due to the Ndamukong Suh move.
  • For what it’s worth, it sounds like McCain is more focused on helping his team succeed. “It’s a contract year,” McCain said. “There’s no secret at the end of the day, but me personally, I think just go out and play. If you go out and play ball, it will end up well for you at the end of the day. You win ballgames, everybody gets paid. Period. That’s just how it is. You go out, take a team to the playoffs, go deep in the playoffs, go to the Super Bowl, everybody gets paid.”
  • Players are starting to get used to Seahawks new offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. It’s the first time for many of these players (including Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin) playing under a new coordinator, but the offensive standouts are excited for the opportunity. “It has been a change, obviously,” Baldwin told John Boyle of Seahawks.com. “We’re excited about it though. There’s two ways you can go with the unknown: you can be fearful of it or you can be excited about it. With a lot of new faces, the young guys, a new system, a new, different energy, we’re excited about it. We’ve got an opportunity to put something special together again—I don’t want to say starting over—but kind of reloading if you will. It’s an exciting time for us.”

Vikings Sign Eric Kendricks To Extension

The Vikings have signed linebacker Eric Kendricks to a contract extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s a five-year, $50MM deal with $25MM guaranteed. 

Kendricks, a product of the 2015 draft, was set to enter the final year of his rookie contract. Because he was a second round pick, the Vikings did not have the option of extending him via the fifth-year option.

The linebacker earned his big money deal after leading the Vikings in tackles in each of his first three seasons. In total, he has racked up 314 regular season tackles, plus 24 in the postseason. Last year, he set a new career high with 113 tackles and played on 1,099 snaps which was good for seventh amongst all linebackers in the NFL.

Kendricks’ work against the pass has helped the Vikings bottle up opposing tight ends as well as pass-catching running backs. Last year, the Vikings D allowed the fewest passing yards to opposing tailbacks in the league. Meanwhile, Football Outsiders had them ranked as the top overall defense in the NFL.

The Vikings have several defensive stars locked up with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, safety Harrison Smith, defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and Kendricks under contract for multiple seasons. There’s still some work to be done, however, with linebacker Anthony Barr and edge rusher Danielle Hunter on the agenda.