Kennedy sure of talents, unsure of future

Defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy isn't sure if he'll get a contract deal done with the Vikings, but he is very sure of his athleticism and his improvement, and he knows what he won't accept in a contract offer.

Jimmy Kennedy is keeping his options open as the free-agent deadline approaches tonight at 11 p.m., but he is confident in his abilities.

The Vikings acquired the defensive tackle late in the 2008 season and he played in the final two regular-season games and their wild card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned to the Vikings on a one-year contract last year and made strides, but he says he is done with the one-year deals.

"I'm definitely not signing a one-year (deal) no matter where I go. I'm sure of that. I don't think that's fair to me or my family, just to go every year – year after year after year," Kennedy said Wednesday. "That's not what I want to do. As far as how I feel to play another five years, I'm 30 years old. So if I could play until I'm 35 or 36, I take care of my body."

Kennedy's desire for a multi-year deal is understandable. After being the 12th overall draft pick of the St. Louis Rams and enduring turnover with his coordinators and defensive line coaches, he went to Chicago in 2007, Jacksonville in 2008 and then to Minnesota. He was inactive for two of the first three games last year, but he ended up playing in 13 games with one start.

"I enjoyed the coaching staff. I enjoyed my teammates. I would love to come back there," Kennedy said. "Don't get me wrong. It's not in an arrogant way that I'm saying this, but I would like to be compensated for what I'm worth. I would love to finish my career there. That would be good for me," he said.

"I enjoyed it and I believe they enjoyed me. I think my career could take off out there. If not, I'm willing to go somewhere else. That all just comes down to negotiation and everything else. I was hoping to be done before free agency."

Last year, Kennedy had a base salary of $620,000 but also had a signing bonus of $200,000 and other bonuses that accounted for about another $200,000. Last year, he had 29 tackles and three sacks, fifth on the team behind Jared Allen (14.5), Ray Edwards (8.5), Kevin Williams (6.0) and Brian Robison (4.5).

But after spending more than a year working with starters Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, Kennedy believes he has a lot more to offer.

"I think the sky is the limit for me. I'm looking to prove naysayers wrong as well as prove things to myself. Me personally, it's just the beginning for what I did this season. A lot of people are happy with the progress I made this past season and I only see the mistakes that I made," he said. "I see the missed sacks that I made, I see the missed tackles. I watched my confidence continue to grow as I played and I learned the system. … It would be great to get back in that system. Just imagine how I'll be from the first game on through to next year. I pray that opportunity comes. If not, it will be starting over somewhere else and taking advantage of the same opportunities."

Kennedy said he learned a lot about playing nose guard from Pat and a lot about the three-technique and rushing the passer from Kevin. He also believes his athleticism make him more valuable than a more one-dimensional player.

"I would never say (I'm) arrogant or anything like that, but if I don't believe in myself, then who should? Me personally, I believe that I'm better than Pat athletically," Kennedy said. "I believe I have more dimensions to my game, but Pat has 13 years of experience playing nose guard. Pat has taught me things that (defensive line coach Karl) Dunbar, that (defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier can't teach me. Pat has also told me things that he wishes he could do. But they don't pay him to stop the pass; they pay him to stop the run. They pay me to do X, Y, Z. If that's the dimension of my game that he doesn't have, that makes me just a little bit better than Pat at some point. He is a master run-stopper."

It sounds arrogant, but Kennedy truly appreciates Pat Williams' advice and his talents. In fact, Kennedy still wants to learn more from the big nose tackle and said if he were making Williams' salary, he would take a pay cut to play with him again.

"Whether I'm coming back or not, I definitely want Pat there. I love Pat and I guarantee my growth continuing to go the way it goes as a Viking with Pat there," he said. "I'm not sure what other teams want me to do. When I went to Jacksonville, I was playing defensive end. I came to St. Louis playing three-technique. I'm in Minnesota and they have me playing nose guard. To be able to play a new position and then learn from the best, that's a privilege. Kevin Williams is considered one of the best three-techniques in the game, so why would I not want to learn behind him."

Whether or not he gets a contract that allows him to continue learning is a question he can't answer yet.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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