Detroit Lions, NFC North positional preview: Linebacker

Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Vikings

Key Returning Players: Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Ben Gedeon

New Additions: None

Key Losses: None

In one of the most bizarre sequences of the NFL offseason, veteran linebacker Anthony Barr seemed on the cusp of signing a lucrative free agent deal with the New York Jets, only to back out at the last minute and return to the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a good thing too, since the Vikings will likely rely on him again to anchor the middle of their defense in 2019.

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Barr returns to the only team he has ever known, where he has enjoyed a solid, yet unspectacular five year run. He is a well-rounded linebacker capable of moving all over the second level of the defense. He has also been selected to the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons. The Vikings have finished in the top five in fewest yards allowed in each of the last three seasons with Barr in the fold.

Barr will once again be flanked by tackling machine Eric Kendricks, whom the Vikings gave a five- year, $50 million contract prior to the start of last season. Kendricks, not unlike Barr, is much more solid than splashy. Minnesota’s top two linebackers are often overshadowed by the powerful and explosive defensive linemen that play in front of them, typically the main purveyors of game altering plays.

Behind them is nothing much to write home about. Ben Gedeon is next in line at the second level, but he’s little more than depth at this point. Gedeon has yet to record a sack, interception, tackle for loss or forced fumble in his two NFL seasons. One of the Vikings’ other young linebacker prospects, such as Eric Wilson could challenge Gedeon for snaps this season if they show some playmaking ability in training camp.

The Vikings will field one of the most talented rosters in football once again in 2019. Their top two linebackers are certainly among the best duos at their position in the division. However, they are also one od the highest paid pair of linebackers in the NFL with a combined cap hit of over $10 million in 2019. For that kind of coin, it’s not unreasonable to expect some more game-changing plays from them this season in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.