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Tuesday open thread: Should the Lions try to sign LB Eric Kendricks?

Eric Kendricks has given the Lions hell for nearly a decade. But now Kendricks is a free agent. Should the Lions try to bring him aboard?

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

On Monday, the Minnesota Vikings released veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks after an eight-year career with the team. The move frees up $9.5 million in cap space for the money-strapped Vikings, and because he’s a vested veteran, Kendricks is immediately a free agent capable of signing with any team he wants. He does not have to wait until the start of free agency, because his contract has already been terminated.

The Detroit Lions find themselves in an interesting situation at linebacker. They currently only have Malcolm Rodriguez (age 23) and Derrick Barnes (23) under contract, and while both players could be the starting two for the future, the Lions could use both some assurance and some experience at the position.

There’s a good chance the Lions will be interested in bringing back veteran Alex Anzalone, who is not only deeply knowledgeable of the Lions’ defensive system but also developed into an important leadership role on the team. It’s unclear, though, how badly Anzalone wants to test the market, seeing as he’s coming off the best year of his career and may only get one more shot at a decently-sized contract.

Kendricks is undoubtedly a better player than Anzalone, but he’s also older (31 vs. 28) and will likely come at a bigger cost.

So today’s Question of the Day is:

Should the Lions try to sign former Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks?

My answer: I’m certainly not against it. Kendricks is just a couple years removed from an All-Pro season and he’s been amazingly reliable during his tenure with the Vikings. He played at least 14 games in seven of his eight seasons and tallied at least 100 tackles in all but his rookie year.

In 2019 and 2020, there may not have been a better linebacker in football. He earned PFF grades of 90.1 and 82.6, respectively, in those seasons, and displayed an ability to do everything: stop the run, apply pressure, and even drop into coverage (coverage grades of 88.4 and 90.7).

That said, his production has significantly dropped off in the past two seasons. Part of that likely has to do with the transition away from Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 defense in the past year, but he’s also getting to an age where his athletic traits are starting to dip, and one of the first places you see that impact is coverage. Last year, Kendricks gave up a career-high 67 receptions in 87 targets for 694 yards and two touchdowns. Only four linebackers allowed more receptions yards, per PFF. That said, he still tallied six pass breakups on the season, which tied for third-most among linebackers.

It’s fair to question whether Kendricks would be a perfect fit in the Lions’ 4-2 scheme, but at the same time, you aren’t going to find a more cerebral, experienced player to wear the green dot. The Lions could expand and change what they do with their linebackers if they bring Kendricks aboard. And while it could take away some valuable playing time from their young crew, Kendricks would also easily slide into Anzalone’s leadership role.

Kendricks is a former team captain and a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, so he’s absolutely a culture fit, too.

It’s hard to gauge how much Kendricks will be seeking in free agency, but the Lions should at least inquire.

Your turn.


Should the Lions try to sign Eric Kendricks?

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