Cutting Jalen Reagor Isn’t Without Complexity, Cost, & Consternation

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

At first a mere ripple before growing into a discernible wave crashing ashore, the discussion about cutting Jalen Reagor appears to be growing more crowded.

Consider, as just a few examples, a bit of what’s being discussed in our portion of the internet: Dustin Baker’s “5 Bold Summer Predictions,” Josh Frey’s “5 Veterans that May Be on the Roster Bubble,” and my own “3 (Overlooked) Vikings Veterans Being Pushed by Recent Draft Picks.” In each article, there is substantial talk about moving on from Reagor.

The Possibility of Cutting Jalen Reagor

The first word belongs to Dustin:

Adofo-Mensah signed Brandon Powell in March, and he might be able to do everything Reagor does but with a more anonymous name. Reagor tabulated 8 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in 2022. And of all 31 NFLers who returned 15+ punts in 2022, Reagor’s 6.2 yards per return ranked 31st in the league. The return on investment, at least in 2022, was a total meh.

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Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Reagor. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The second word belongs to Josh:

Not only will Addison take up many of the targets that used to go to Thielen, but he quietly was a rather productive return man in college. He averaged 15.7 yards per punt return in 2021 with the University of Pittsburgh. Perhaps he can take on that role in Minnesota as well, thus leaving Reagor as the odd man out in the WR room.

Finally, I’ll toss in the third word:

Addison’s addition slots everyone down a spot. Jefferson is #1, Addison #2, Osborn is #3, and then it’s wide open. Jalen Nailor should be considered the favorite for #4. Can Reagor justify being #5? Let’s not forget that Addison has some punt return experience.

Reagor is legitimately fighting for his roster spot, especially when we remember the addition of Brandon Powell to further increase special teams competition. Failing to show something during the offseason could mean Adofo-Mensah looks toward a trade or release. Still just 24, Reagor was a 1st-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft (infamously one spot ahead of Jefferson).

In essence, we’re all seeing the same thing. Jalen Reagor is making essentially no impact on offense. His primary responsibility – returning punts – didn’t go well. Very seldom did he actually take the football back for a large gain. Much more common was modest yardage, making it more difficult for the offense to work down the field to pick up points.

As the offseason continues to unfold, the chatter about cutting Jalen Reagor will only intensify.

Part of the issue, of course, is that GMs can sometimes be reluctant to move on from players who were/are costly. Getting Reagor to Minnesota meant Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had to trade over a 7th and 5th to Philadelphia. Not a monstrous amount of draft capital but there’s still value there.

Furthermore, a simple cut wouldn’t bring any financial relief to the Vikings. The gadget player carries a $2,419,639 cap charge into the 2023 budget. A cut – either before or after June 1 – doesn’t do anything to lessen the cap charge. The only way to clear money would be to trade him. Given his modest production in a pair of favorable scenarios – the Philadelphia and Minnesota offenses – the market will likely be fairly tepid.

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Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Reagor. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Many will think back to Matt Daniels’ “salivating” comments about Reagor. Clearly, the Vikings special teams coordinator was enthused about adding the former first-round pick into the mix. After a year of underwhelming returns, one wonders if the same level of enthusiasm remains.

We also think of the economist at GM. The draft picks are a sunk cost, so Adofo-Mensah likely doesn’t view the trade as being reason enough to keep Reagor around if his play doesn’t merit a spot. Ditto for the cap charge.

Entering Year 4 in the NFL, Jalen Reagor finds himself in an unenviable position. He needs to overcome doubt from without and within just to stick around his team’s final roster. The absolute best thing he can do is show that he’s capable of providing safe explosion as a punt returner: catch the ball cleanly every time, maintain possession through tackles, and consistently threaten to pick up chunk yardage.

If he can do so, all the offseason chatter won’t amount to very much. Instead, he’ll have dismantled the doubt, reinvigorating his NFL career in the process. Since his personal success helps with team success, Vikings fans should be cheering him on.

At 24, Reagor still has youth aplenty. He has 72 catches, 799 yards, and 4 TDs in his career.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.