New York Jets could look at Eric Kendricks if they are shopping for linebackers in free agency
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Minnesota Vikings have released linebacker Eric Kendricks, a former Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro.
Vikings to release LB Eric Kendricks. (via @TomPelissero) pic.twitter.com/o80x8NlmMV
— NFL (@NFL) March 6, 2023
Kendricks immediately seems like a potential target for the New York Jets, mainly because of the strong link that connects him to the team: defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
Over the final three years of Kendricks’ college career at UCLA (2012-14), Ulbrich was Kendricks’ linebackers coach. Ulbrich was also Kendricks’ defensive coordinator in his 2014 redshirt senior season, overseeing a breakout year in which Kendricks posted 149 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions as he played his way into being a second-round pick of the Vikings in the 2015 draft.
Kendricks was highly complimentary of Ulbrich during their time together with the Bruins.
“At first, I was relying on my athletic ability,” Kendricks said in July 2014. “But now, I can get to spots faster than I would ever anticipate before just by looking at the formation before the play. I know where it’s going to lead to. Things like this is what the development of football’s all about, and that’s what coach Ulbrich is helping with.”
In addition to the connection with Ulbrich, Kendricks could enter the Jets’ radar because of the two vacancies New York currently has in its linebacker room.
Quincy Williams and Kwon Alexander are set to become free agents. Williams served as the Jets’ second every-down starter alongside C.J. Mosley. Alexander was a key substitute who would take the field as the third linebacker in 4-3 base packages, playing around 43% of the snaps on average (over 15 games in which all three LBs were active).
The Jets seem likely to try and bring both players back after solid seasons in 2022, but re-signing both players could be difficult. They may have to look elsewhere for their third linebacker.
Kendricks just turned 31 years old in February. He remains one of the most active tacklers in the NFL, as he’s coming off a season where he ranked 13th among linebackers with 137 total tackles, but his coverage skills have waned with age. After allowing a passer rating of 89.4 on throws into his coverage over his first six career seasons (which is very good for a LB), Kendricks allowed a 108.9 passer rating in 2021 and a 106.5 rating in 2022.
We shall see if Ulbrich and the Jets show any interest in Kendricks as they seek to fill out their linebacker room this offseason.