LB: Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon, Elijah Lee, Edmond Robinson
The linebacker group is another interesting situation to keep an eye on, as the retirement of long-time starter Chad Greenway opens up a weak side linebacker spot in the base defense.
Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, who looks to redeem himself after a down year, are locks to start, leaving Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon, Elijah Lee, Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur fighting for the third linebacker spot.
I would take Gedeon out of contention since he seems to be a better fit as an inside linebacker. Here’s what NFL.com‘s Lance Zierlein has to say on Gedeon: ‘
"Gedeon has ample size and talent to become an NFL backup at middle linebacker, but his bread will be buttered as a special teams performer as he has the instincts and fearlessness needed to succeed in that area. He can step in and get you through a game at inside linebacker, but his lack of speed and short area quickness could be picked at on the next level."
I fully expect Gedeon to make the team and be a solid special teamer, but if Kendricks were to move to outside linebacker in the base, Gedeon could have an opportunity to start. Yet, Kendricks starting in the middle is the most likely scenario.
My dark horse for the weak side spot is seventh rounder Elijah Lee, who was talked up by former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber.
"“I think he’s really good,’’ Leber said. “I think the only reason why he probably didn’t get drafted higher was his size. He lacks ideal size for a linebacker, he’s a little on the leaner side. … But watching him play, the guy is a spitfire. He will run sideline to sideline. He looks for contact. He looks to deliver the blow.’’"
At 6-foot-3, Lee is a lean linebacker at 228 pounds, but had 190 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 5 interceptions in his last two seasons at Kansas State.
Only time will tell how his size holds up in the NFL, but as a third linebacker, he likely wouldn’t have to play every down, while giving the Vikings another rangy linebacker.
As for the rest, Brothers, Lamur and Robinson will likely get first cracks on the weak side, but I don’t think the latter two are long term starting options. After last season, I didn’t see enough from Lamur to think that he could be a replacement for Greenway and given his age and salary, I have the Vikings cutting him over Robinson.