First-round draft picks aren't always long-term solutions, and at the end of the 2008 season Jimmy Kennedy was hoping to find some stability in his NFL career.
The former No. 12 overall pick of the St. Louis Rams has bounced from St. Louis to Chicago to Jacksonville and finally Minnesota. When the Vikings signed him to a one-year deal after his release from Jacksonville during the 2008 season, he signed only a one-year deal. But in his short time with the Vikings, he found another defensive tackle with which he'd like to build a rapport.
"It wasn't about proving myself. I don't have anything to prove to anyone, so I don't have a grudge toward anyone. Things went down in the Jacksonville, they released me for a couple of guys that they had long-term contracts with on PUP (the physically unable to perform list) who were coming back active. Minnesota took the opportunity of picking me up," Kennedy said. "It's a blessing, man. You've got Kevin, who was the ninth pick and me being the 12th pick. We both have talent, and if I get a chance to come back here and learn from him and learn from Pat, I'll jump at the opportunity. It's a great D-line, great coaching staff. It's like it's bittersweet. I had multiple coaches in a six-year career. It's weird because as a first-rounder, in six years I've had seven head coaches, seven D-coordinators and six D-line coaches. Leslie Frazier is a great guy.
"… I'm just looking for a home, looking for a place to feel comfortable and I kind of fell in love with Minnesota, but we'll see what happens."
Kennedy had only about a month in purple to earn the eye of the coaches. After signing with the team on Dec. 3, he spent his first two games on the inactive list, then played in the final three games, including the team's playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kennedy had a bit of a transition to make when he joined the Vikings. The scheme wasn't the issue, but since entering the NFL he has been used mainly as a three-technique tackle (the position Kevin Williams played). Kennedy was originally signed as an insurance policy in case the suspensions to the Williamses were upheld. Turns out, even without them being suspended in 2008, the Vikings needed Kennedy to become a big part of the defensive line rotation when Pat Williams fractured his shoulder blade.
After his final game with the Vikings, the playoff loss to the Eagles, Kennedy wasn't sure what his chances were of re-signing with the Vikings.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity. … If it comes to it and they discuss some stuff with my agent, then so be it. If not, then I think I at least played well enough to where I should at least get some offers from some other teams. We'll see what happens," he said. "Like I said, it's a blessing to be part of this group. I would have loved to be out there with Pat and learned some things from him. This was the second time in my career playing nose guard, my last time in St. Louis my last year. Other than that, it's been three-technique, so there are still a lot of things that I have to learn. A lot of things that if I'm going to be here and be a nose guard, be a swing guy with three-technique – Pat can't go forever, so it would be great to be here and play with Kevin and Jared and those guys. We've got a young guy in Ray, so I think I could be a huge piece of the puzzle."
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the Vikings are "very interested" in Kennedy's abilities, but they'd like to get a better feel for his skills.
"We have a pretty good feel, but you'd like to get a little more work from him to be able to evaluate him properly, but we think we have a pretty good feel about whether or not he can help us going forward," Frazier said. "We were pleased with the work we got out of him. He had to play extended snaps in his last two games, the Giants game as well as the playoff game. We got a feel for him and we think he can help us."
Kennedy has become used to moving from team to team in the NFL, but that doesn't mean he likes it. Stability, he says would be a big plus in his career.
In six years, he has played with more teams than most. In fact, he can name the teammates, the defensive line coaches and coordinators he has played with and under. It's an exercise that takes time, but Kennedy goes through the players and coaches as if to remind himself how much he'd like to find some stability.
"That's what it is. If you look at it, I was drafted to the Rams when they didn't need me. They didn't need me going there. If you look at the way it went, I was supposed to be a Viking. Minnesota let the clock run out, Mike Tice. We had all those picks. I went to the Rams and when I got there I was one of five or six first-round D-linemen. Myself, Ryan Picket, Grant Wistrom, Leonard Little was getting paid like a first-rounder, Erik Flowers was a first-rounder from Buffalo, Brian Young was starting. They didn't need me; I was just the best available," he said.
"It was kind of like a red-shirt year when I first got there. I had Love Smith, he left. … Jim Haslett. I had Mike Martz, he got sick."
Kennedy then names off a litany of other head coaches, coordinators and line coaches. Joe Vitt, Scott Linehan, Mike Shanahan, Jim Bates and others.
"I'm just looking for some stability. There's not necessarily anything to prove. You name a first-rounder that's had to jump around like that and had to deal with all that," he said.
"I definitely started feeling comfortable here. It's a great staff. It's a good organization. It had to be by far the most laid-back and committed team that I've been around. It was definitely a blessing being here. If I get the chance to stay, of course I'll jump at the opportunity, but we'll see what happens."
Free-agent DT Kennedy looking long term
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