Trade Theory Insists Vikings Should Look to Add Push Rusher Depth

May 15, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell during rookie minicamp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, a piece on Vikings Territory caught my eye. Dustin Baker responds to the trade theory proposed by Bleacher Report. BR suggests that Minnesota ought to make a move for Malik Reed, a 25-year-old edge rusher. The connection, of course, is that Ed Donatell was recently employed by Denver, so he’d have a great understanding of Reed’s abilities.

Dustin offers these thoughts on the Vikings trade proposal:

The idea makes sense as Minnesota hasn’t nominated a third pass rusher behind Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith — a fierce tandem on paper. Hunter has missed 79% of games since the start of 2020, and per ESPN, the Vikings pass-rush win rate ranked 30th in 2020 and 29th in 2021. Somehow trading for Reed would, in theory, help hedge the bet in the event of another Hunter setback.

And take a peak at the rationale from the actual Bleacher Report piece:

Malik Reed helped the Broncos in a pinch when Bradley Chubb and Von Miller suffered season-ending injuries during the 2020 campaign, and then again when Miller was traded midseason last year.

Reed managed 13 sacks during that stretch. The Broncos tendered the restricted free agent this offseason, and the outside linebacker re-signed on a one-year, $2.4 million contract.

Despite his contributions over the last two seasons, Reed may be a man without a role in Denver this year.

[…]

Another options exists, however. Denver can flip Reed to Minnesota, where he’ll be reunited with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after playing under his direction the last three seasons. More importantly, the 25-year-old provides much-needed depth behind Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, both of whom have scary injuries histories.

In theory, I’m all for adding pass rushing depth. It’s supremely difficult to find lasting success on defense without being able to generate pressure on the QB. That being said, one wonders if the Broncos would be willing to move on from Reed. Minnesota could certainly accommodate his modest cap hit, but Denver won’t just give him away.

For whatever it’s worth, he finished 89th out of 109 edge rushers considered on PFF in 2021. His 54.3 pass rush score was actually down at 99th overall. In other words, Vikings fans ought not expect Reed to be someone who is a perfect replacement for one of the top two edge rushers.

Familiarity with the Donatell defense is certainly a good thing, and bringing in players to raise the defense’s floor is a similarly positive. Whether or not the Vikings look to a trade to help solidify the edge rusher depth remains to be seen.

Currently, the EDGE3 job appears to belong to D.J. Wonnum, who led the team in sacks last season. In a perfect world, Wonnum could take a considerable step forward in his third NFL season. Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter will demand a ton of attention, allowing for easier matchups for other defenders. Adding in Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Phillips, and Armon Watts up front further puts the offense in an unenviable position. In other words, the expectation isn’t necessarily that the EDGE3 needs to be dominant, but simply pretty good. Being above average would be enough to make a strong impact given the talent in other areas of the defense.

Truth be told, I don’t foresee the Vikings pulling off a trade for Malik Reed. However, I am keeping an eye on the edge rusher depth. It’s plausible that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brings someone in, just as it’s plausible that one or two of the young guys show strong improvement.