Did the Vikings Unearth a Diamond in the Rough in LB Troy Reeder?

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoffs-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If we brought things down to athletic ability, Troy Reeder would be among the foremost linebackers in the NFL.

Per Kent Lee Platte’s RAS Score, Reeder is a better athlete than virtually every other linebacker in the game, coming in with a sizzling 9.32 score. The 6’3″, 245-pound linebacker is still only 28. He shouldn’t have too much wear & tear on his body since he has played sparingly across 4 NFL seasons.

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams linebacker Troy Reeder (51) celebrates a play with cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) against the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now, there’s a reason why has hasn’t ascended into being a top-tier NFL LB. Clearly, there is still room for Reeder to improve. One does wonder, though, if Brian Flores (the Steelers’ LB coach last season) will find a way of maximizing Reeder’s abilities.

Troy Reeder and The Vikings Defense

In 2021, Troy Reeder helped Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips snag a Lombardi Trophy. He played in all 17 regular season games, starting 10. Along the way, he had 91 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 6 TFLs, 2 INTs, and 6 PDs. He was sent on 18 blitzes.

On the way to the Super Bowl, Reeder forced Cardinals QB Kyler Murray into an errant pass that got brought back for 6:

All together, the speedy linebacker played in 4 playoff games, starting 3. He had 16 tackles and 1 PD. Oh, and the above QB hit, a play that firmly signalled that Arizona was in over its head.

In college, Reeder played for Delaware and Penn State. According to the team’s website, Reeder is pals with Brian O’Neill; they “were high school teammates at Salesianum High School” and they “hosted a football clinic in their hometown last summer.” The relationship with some of the coaches and friendship with one of the team’s foremost players should help him to acclimate to life in Eagan.

Former Rams LB Heads to Minnesota
Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams linebacker Troy Reeder (51) against the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few seasons, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding Minnesota’s suboptimal defense. In 2019, the defense finished 5th in the NFL by allowing 18.9 points against per game. Since then? 29th (29.7 points against per game), 24th (25.1 points against per game), and 28th (25.1 points against per game).

Reeder, of course, isn’t being relied upon to cure all that ails Minnesota’s beleaguered defense. Rather, he’s being relied upon to secure one of the team’s leanest positions. Indeed, much remains unsettled with the linebacker position.

Jordan Hicks returns after an underwhelming season and Brian Asamoah – who has 0 career starts – is the other frontrunner for a starting spot. Otherwise, the team has Troy Dye and William Kwenkeu, but their roles will likely be constrained to special teams.

Aug 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings nose tackle Jordan Scott (66) celebrates his interception with linebacker Troy Dye (45) during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Per PFF, Reeder’s best season occurred in 2020 (excluding 2022 since he played so little on defense). During that season, the LB put up a 60.4 grade, suggesting it was a solid-but-far-from-spectacular season. What’s notable, though, is that he had strong pass-rush grades in both 2020 and 2021, the two seasons when he played the most defensive snaps.

Brian Flores wants to have an aggressive, attacking defense. If the goal is to insert more speed on passing downs while still having a blitzing option at off-ball linebacker, then perhaps we’ll see Reeder come in for Hicks.

Currently, Over the Cap doesn’t have the contract details for Reeder, but it’s likely a modest deal. If he shines, the LB will be able to secure a larger deal in the future.

He’s the LB3 on Minnesota’s roster.

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