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Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ linebackers

Minnesota Vikings' linebacker

In sports, the month of March is usually synonymous with March Madness, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. However, in the NFL, there’s a different kind of March Madness that we look forward to: free agency. The NFL free agency period never disappoints to bring us shocking trades and acquisitions to our favorite teams.

However, one important part of preparing for the free agency frenzy is to look back and analyze your team’s performance from last season. The Minnesota Vikings are in the middle of this phase of offseason planning right now.

As we have for almost every other position, let’s breakdown the performance of the Minnesota Vikings’ linebackers.

Anthony Barr

Anthony Barr has enjoyed a productive career so far in his first four years in the NFL. After being selected ninth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Barr has slowly developed into a talented strongside linebacker.

Minnesota Vikings' linebackers
Anthony Barr (55) and Eric Kendricks (54) line up in a double A-gap formation, leading to a sack against the Detroit Lions. (GIF from thepowersweep.com)

After playing in a smaller role in his rookie season, Barr has earned three straight Pro Bowl nods. His 75 tackles and one sack in 2017 doesn’t raise any eyebrows, but Barr is still an integral part of Mike Zimmer’s defense. Due to his athleticism, Barr can be effective in run defense and has improved mightily in pass coverage.

Last year, the Vikings exercised the fifth-year option on Barr’s contract, keeping him signed through 2018.

Barring an unforeseen position change, Barr will be the Vikings’ strongside linebacker for many years to come.

Eric Kendricks

Another former UCLA Bruin, Eric Kendricks has also enjoyed a successful career so far with the Vikings. Kendricks has led the Vikings in tackles every year since joining the team in 2015.

The third-year middle linebacker played well again last season, recording 113 tackles. Kendricks is best known for his ability to stop the run and his role in Mike Zimmer’s famous double A-gap blitz.

Like Barr, Kendricks’ rookie contract will expire after next season. The Vikings may choose to re-sign Barr instead of Kendricks this offseason. If the Vikings do not have enough available cap space, the team might be forced to let Kendricks test free agency next March.

Ben Gedeon

Minnesota Vikings' linebackers
Ben Gedeon (42) as a senior at the University of Michigan. (Photo from arrowheadone.com)

Ben Gedeon was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Vikings last offseason. As a rookie, Gedeon started as the team’s weakside linebacker in 2017. The Vikings drafted Gedeon to replace retired linebacker Chad Greenway.

Gedeon played admirably last season, despite being overshadowed by his teammates. After beating out Emmanuel Lamur and Kentrell Brothers for the starting job, Gedeon played in every game this season.

Gedeon will look to improve upon his rookie season and will return as the Vikings’ starting weakside linebacker in 2018.

What to expect

The Minnesota Vikings’ linebackers are a solid bunch of gifted athletes. All three of the Vikings’ linebackers are still very young and continue to show potential. It would be shocking to see the Vikings make any major moves at the linebacker position.

If the team does choose to add another linebacker, it will most likely be to challenge second-year player Ben Gedeon. The Vikings’ focus this offseason should be ensuring their linebacker corps stays intact. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are both due for big contract extensions, so this will be a situation to watch heading into 2018.

 

Featured image by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

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