Vikings Undrafted LB Dubbed Among NFL’s Top Offseason Steals

Ivan Pace Jr., Vikings

Getty Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are playing defense on something of a budget this season, and they appear to have found a bargain in linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.

The undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati signed with the team in May. Pace made 137 tackles, recorded 10 sacks, broke up four passes and forced three fumbles during his final collegiate campaign in 2022, per Football Reference.

Minnesota inked pace to a three-year deal worth $2.7 million, including $236,000 guaranteed. The move looks like a bargain thus far, as Pace got a considerable amount of preseason work due to a shoulder injury that sidelined second-year linebacker and projected starter Brian Asamoah II.

Pace has a chance to contribute meaningfully in the middle of the Vikings defense, particularly under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores who has a reputation for aggressive scheming.

Ivan Pace Has Chance to Make Splash as Reserve LB for Vikings

GettyLinebacker Brian Asamoah II of the Minnesota Vikings stretches on the field before an NFL preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks in August 2023.

On Thursday, August 31, Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report named Pace among a handful of undrafted free agents expected to make the biggest impacts in 2023.

Ivan Pace Jr. didn’t need all three preseason games to lock up a roster spot. He registered eight tackles in the first two exhibition contests and didn’t suit up for the preseason finale.

The rookie LB gained valuable experience with green-dot responsibilities in the exhibition games and flashed a bit of his pass-rushing ability with a hit on the quarterback in the second preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

Even with Asamoah back on the field alongside Jordan Hicks in the middle of the defense, Pace can contribute in a versatile role. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores can field three linebackers on early downs to stop the run. He may also use Pace on designed blitzes, which is an added duty for inside linebackers in his scheme.

Ivan Pace Potentially 3-Down Player at Inside LB Position

Brian Flores

Courtesy of VikingsMinnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores has brought a new philosophy to the team. 

Moton added that Pace has the ability, and may also receive the chance, to be a three-down linebacker in Flores’ new defense.

Pace racked up 21 sacks during his collegiate career and flashed some coverage capabilities as well, deflecting nine passes and recording an interception over his four years in college.

Minnesota’s fourth and final inside linebacker to make the initial 53-man roster in 2023 is Troy Dye. The Vikings selected Dye in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he has appeared in 45 of a possible 50 regular season games for the franchise since then.

Dye has primarily contributed as a special teams player after seeing 202 defensive snaps across 11 appearances during his rookie year. Those numbers dipped to 54 snaps on defense in 2021 and 40 snaps in that phase of the game last season, per Pro Football Reference. Dye played 326 and 330 snaps on special teams for the Vikings in each of the previous two seasons, respectively.

The outside linebackers in Minnesota’s base 3-4 defense, such as Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter, primarily function as pass rushers.

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