The Minnesota Vikings released veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks on Monday as they work to get under the salary cap.
Kendricks, 31, has spent all eight seasons of his NFL career with the Vikings, who selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. Last season he started all 17 games and finished with 137 tackles to lead the team. He has posted more than 100 tackles in seven consecutive seasons.
"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," general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement. "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."
The Vikings will save $9.5 million on their salary cap with the move. Entering Monday, they were approximately $24.4 million over the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com. The Vikings have until March 15 at 4 p.m. to get under the salary cap ($224.8 million).
Kendricks' release is the first move in what is likely to be a significant roster overhaul for the Vikings, who are entering the second year of what Adofo-Mensah has called a "competitive rebuild." The team is high on linebacker Brian Asamoah, a third-round pick in 2022, and he is likely to be Kendricks' replacement.
Most of the Vikings' upcoming roster moves are on the defensive side of the ball. The futures of linebacker Za'Darius Smith and safety Harrison Smith are in doubt, while defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson are pending free agents. Veteran receiver Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook might also need to adjust their contracts in order to remain with the team in 2023.
Kendricks, who was selected to his only Pro Bowl in 2019, when he also was a first-team All-Pro selection, has 919 tackles and 15 sacks in 117 games (113 starts).
"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," Vikings coach Kevin 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."
ESPN's Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.