Free Agent Files: Jimmy Kennedy

Posted on February 17, 2010 by Patrick Moran

Jimmy Kennedy(We’re running a series profiling players that could fit into the Buffalo Bills’ plans leading up to the start of free agency on March 5.  Today we look at Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy)

To conclude anything other than Jimmy Kennedy being a bust to this point would be kidding yourself.  The defensive tackle who completely dominated at Penn State in college was the 12th overall draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2003.  He came with a high pedigree, including being named the Big Ten defensive linemen of the year and an All-American as chosen by the Sporting News. Kennedy finished his Penn State career with 39 tackles for loss; good for a tie with LaVar Arrington for eighth place on the school’s all-time list.

But since that time he’s dramatically underachieved in the NFL and found himself bounced around four organizations.  After getting a $5-million signing bonus with the Rams, Kennedy managed just four sacks in four seasons before being dealt to Denver in 2007 for a sixth round draft pick.  He barely had a cup of coffee with the Broncos before being released during training camp.

In December of 2007 the Chicago Bears signed him and he played in three games.  As a restricted free agent following the season, Jacksonville signed him to a one-year, $650,000 offer sheet the Bears declined to match.  But his time in Jacksonville lasted just a half season, registering five tackles and a sack before the club waived him.

Things began to turn around for Kennedy when Minnesota gave him a shot late in the 2008 season.  Finally showing progression under defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and getting to rotate behind Kevin and Pat Williams, Kennedy had a strong 2009, recording 18 tackles and tying a career-high with three sacks in limited duty.

Now that Kennedy is an unrestricted free agent, it remains a mystery if other teams envision Kennedy as a late bloomer that’s finally tapping the potential he showed coming out of college, or a guy that simply played well in a Vikings system that made the most of his talents and hid his liabilities.

He’s been in the league six years and only his latest could be measured as a triumph.  Perhaps the Bills will look past pre-2009 and give the guy a chance to build on the success he had with the Vikings.

He certainly has the right body to play in their new defense.  At 6’4”, 320 pounds Kennedy is bigger than Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson. He’s also more of a space eater than a lot of other unrestricted free agent tackles set to hit the market, including Tank Johnson, Fred Roberts and Ian Scott.  Kennedy could be the gap clogger needed to free their linebackers to make more plays.

With Aubrayo Franklin already the victim of the franchise tag and Vince Wilfork and Casey Hampton likely to follow, the pickings are already slim at a position the Bills absolutely need to bolster.

The Bills will unquestionably select a defensive tackle at some point of the draft, but unless it comes quite early it’s unpromising he’d contribute much early on. Defensive tackles rarely come into the league and dominate early on.  Kennedy could be plugged in and at 30 years old his best days should hardly be behind him.

Buffalo signed a former Minnesota reserve to their team two years ago and Johnson has been a solid backup who may start at end in 2010 with the defensive schematic switch. Maybe they can strike again with another Viking.

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