A critical part of the league's No. 1 defense will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks signed a contract extension on Monday, the franchise announced. Kendricks' deal is a five-year extension worth $50 million with $25 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Kendricks, 26, is the first of four Vikings players with contracts coming due in 2019 to receive an extension. Minnesota will also need to decide on extensions for linebacker Anthony Barr, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and defensive end Danielle Hunter before the three are set to become free agents after this season.
"Eric is just another young core player for us," general manager Rick Spielman said. "Great player on the field. He does nothing but represent us in a first-class way out in the community, he's a leader in the defense, he's a leader in our locker room. His work ethic, his prep that he puts in week in and week out is why he's such a dynamic player for us on Sundays."
Kendricks said that he and his agent, Doug Hendrickson, were in constant communication throughout the offseason as it related to working out a deal.
"He always told me that the Vikings wanted to keep me here, and they knew I wanted to be here as well," Kendricks said. "It kind of made things easier to get done."
Kendricks' brother Mychal, a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, was among the first people the Vikings linebacker told about his new deal.
"I definitely didn't tell anybody at all," he said. "My parents found out probably when everybody else found out. I don't know why I did it like that, but I just kind of wanted to surprise them. They know how hard I work. They know what this sport means to me, and I feel like it was just a natural progression."
The former UCLA product has played a vital role in the Vikings' front seven over the past three seasons, totaling 209 solo tackles, 30 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries, 21 pass break-ups, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions throughout his NFL career.
Remaining with the team that drafted him and in the best locker room the linebacker said he's ever been a part of was among Kendricks' top priorities.
"It's huge," he said. "I've been on a couple defenses as far as college and stuff like that, so I know what it's like to be switching around, so it's good. I like the defense we're on now, I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, and I'm just excited to get another opportunity to play with them. I have a crazy front in front of me so that's another factor that came into it. At the end of the day, I just want to be out there playing football and winning championships."
The Vikings had $18,996,172 in available salary cap space before Kendricks signed his deal, according to ESPN's roster management system. Strategic planning regarding how Minnesota structures Kendricks' deal will be important as the Vikings' front office aims to keep as much of the current roster intact when other extensions come due.
Kendricks salary cap figure will likely have to go up in 2018 as the Vikings could look to layer a signing bonus on top of his new base salary and/or give the star linebacker a roster bonus which is payable several days after inking his new deal.
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman began setting a new standard last summer when he and the Vikings' front office worked out new deals for Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes more than a year before they were set to become free agents.
With his deal inked and the Vikings voluntary nine-week offseason program underway, Kendricks will have the chance to interact with the team's newest acquisitions, including quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"The hype is real," he said. "Everybody's super excited ... We got the best defense I've ever been on. I'm just excited to play for this team, and with the addition of Kirk Cousins, it's not going to hurt us by any means at all. I'm just excited to see how he can sling the rock, and I'm just excited to practice against him."