Eric Kendricks heading to Cowboys after originally agreeing to deal with 49ers: Sources

By Jon Machota, Matt Barrows, David Lombardi, Saad Yousuf

Linebacker Eric Kendricks changed his mind about his free-agency landing spot and is heading to the Dallas Cowboys instead of the San Francisco 49ers, team sources said.

Kendricks originally agreed to a one-year deal with the Niners early Wednesday morning but will now play on a one-year deal with the Cowboys, per the sources.

The 32-year-old played last season with the Los Angeles Chargers — under new 49ers assistant head coach Brandon Staley — after spending his first eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Kendricks was a first-team All-Pro in 2019 and has eight straight seasons with 100-plus tackles. He finished with 117 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks last season.

The Chargers released Kendricks last week.

ESPN first reported news of Kendricks’ Cowboys deal.

Why didn’t Kendricks stick with 49ers?

Kendricks might have had a starting, full-time role on the 49ers at the start of the season while Dre Greenlaw was returning from the Achilles tear suffered in the Super Bowl. But he would have moved to the No. 3 linebacker spot — very much a part-time role — once Greenlaw was back on the field, and he simply may be getting a more prominent opportunity in Dallas.

When will Greenlaw return? He had surgery last month and there were no complications. It’s possible he’s back to full speed by the first week in September, although that would require an aggressive rehabilitation and the 49ers probably will want to take him along more slowly. Finding another veteran linebacker to step into what was going to be Kendricks’ role is part of the plan. — Matt Barrows, 49ers beat writer

What he brings to Dallas

Kendricks immediately brings a veteran presence that is much needed. His time with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota makes this a no-brainer fit for the new Dallas defensive coordinator. Kendricks will likely wear the radio in his helmet and be a quarterback of the defense. That alone should help take some responsibility away from the younger linebackers and improve communication during games. Kendricks isn’t the All-Pro player he was in 2019, but he could end up being a productive player in the middle of a defense that will have playmakers around him. — Jon Machota, Cowboys beat writer

One of the glaring needs for the Cowboys this offseason is at linebacker. Not only is there a shortage in talent but simply in bodies who can play the position. After a preseason injury to DeMarvion Overshown and an early season injury to Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys were forced to play safeties at linebacker. It showed with their inability to stop the run. Vander Esch’s NFL future is in limbo and Overshown will be working back from a torn ACL and, despite showing some promise, has never taken a snap in the NFL.

Just by being a warm body, Kendricks is an upgrade at the position for the Cowboys. — Saad Yousuf, Cowboys beat writer

Where do the 49ers go from here?

Expect the 49ers to be back on the market for a veteran linebacker, but also don’t discount the importance of the team continuing to develop their second-year linebackers, Dee Winters and Jalen Graham. Winters saw action in the Super Bowl following Greenlaw’s injury. The team will be counting on second-year jumps from both players.

Kendricks’ defection to Dallas underscores the importance of this in-house development. Because even free agents who do ultimately sign are not guaranteed fits with their new teams. — David Lombardi, 49ers beat writer

Required reading

(Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images)

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