A Bizarre Turn of Events with Reagor Trade and Injured Vikings Return to Practice
Vikings Insider, The GM’s View
Justin Jefferson had to be laughing. Eagles GM Howie Roseman had to be gnashing his teeth.
Such were the different reactions I would have expected after the Vikings traded a seventh-round pick in 2023 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024 to the Eagles for wide receiver/kick returner Jalen Reagor.
Fans and media in Philadelphia have called Reagor a bust after the No. 21 pick in the 2020 draft’s first round caught only 64 passes for 695 yards and three TDs in two seasons, along with a 7.3-yard average per punt return last year. And there has been no shortage of reminders to Roseman and his scouting staff that the Eagles took Reagor one pick ahead of Justin Jefferson going to the Vikings.
Of course, Jefferson is a two-time Pro Bowler and superstar in the league with the most receiving yards (3,016) by a player in his first two seasons. Now Reagor has been dumped by the Eagles, and he’s backing up Jefferson, an irony that likely caused J.J. to chuckle in thinking of this Philly mistake in passing on him with Reagor winding up in Minnesota of all places.
As a result of the Reagor acquisition, the Vikings cut Ihmir Smith Marsette, who had played well in the final preseason game in Denver with 63 receiving yards to lead the team and a 21-yard punt return. I think Smith-Marsette brought talent and speed as a former fifth-round pick and I thought he had clinched the No. 4 receiver spot. But he also had some difficulties in the return game in earlier preseason games, so the Vikings coaches obviously felt Reagor would be the more experienced and more reliable punt returner this season beginning in next week’s important opener with the Packers, and the team will try to coach him up as a receiver in a new offense.
“We saw Jalen as somebody who has a really great skill set and also how he complements our team and our offense,” Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said.
Coach Kevin O’Connell said the plan is for Reagor to be the punt returner against Green Bay next week. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to do that,” O’Connell said. “We have some other guys on the roster we feel good about if need be but Jalen is excited about that opportunity. I think he’s got some good experience doing that, obviously some real flashes of doing that at a high level. We’ll get him going and if he’s our best option, he’ll be back there.”
Reagor will be a focal point when he and the Vikings face the Eagles in Philly on Monday night in Week 2. He surely would love to return a punt for a TD and make an impact as the fourth receiver that night against his old team and the GM in Roseman, who drafted him and then traded him two years later.
Injured Vikings back at practice:
Good news for the Vikings offense is the return to practice by Irv Smith Jr., who is now catching passes after his injured thumb is apparently healed. He’s an important cog in the offense, especially when teams double-team Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Smith is a much greater threat in the passing game than No. 2 tight end Johnny Mundt who is more of a blocking tight end.
“It feels good, just getting back in the groove of things,” Smith told Vikings.com. “My plan is to be full-go without any support so I can be at my best. I’m gonna put in the work so we’ll be ready for Week 1.”
The team’s top two draft picks—safety Lewis Cine and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. also returned to practice this week, which is important for depth in the secondary and their role on special teams.
O’Connell on his confidence in O-line and second-round pick Ed Ingram, who will start at right guard:
“You see where Ed started, where he progressed through and ultimately how we feel about him right now, still getting better every day and feeling really good about where he’s at. Feel really good about that O-line room, the depth. I feel really good about the guys we’re keeping on our roster.”
The Vikings starting offensive line has two No.1 picks in center Garrett Bradbury and left tackle Christian Darrisaw and three No. 2 picks in guards Ezra Cleveland and Ingram and right tackle Brian O’Neill.
The Minnesota O-line has been up and down in recent years, and O’Connell’s faith in this year’s group will be tested immediately in Week 1 by a very stout Packers front seven who have put a lot of pressure on Kirk Cousins in recent years. The big question is how Bradbury and Ingram will hold up inside against a Pro Bowl nose tackle in Kenny Clark, who has given Bradbury and the Vikings guards a lot of trouble in the past. And Green Bay drafted Devonte Wyatt in the first round to add to their strong group up front, including two excellent outside linebackers/edge rushers in Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.
More on the matchups in this terrific opener next week, including how the Vikings stack up against Aaron Rodgers, his new receiving corps minus the traded Davante Adams, and the Packers O-line that is in flux as they await the return of Pro Bowlers David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
Around the NFL Observations:
1.Two quarterbacks in the news this week are Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garoppolo. Wilson is the latest QB to get another big payday as the Broncos extended him for $245 million over five years ($49 million per year), placing him just under Rodgers (who is at $50 million per year) on the salary scale.
Garoppolo is on the other end of the pay scale for quarterbacks who have been effective starters as he surprisingly accepted a $10-15 million pay cut from his $25 million salary to remain in San Francisco as the backup to second-year QB Trey Lance. I think it sets up an awkward situation where Lance could be looking over his shoulder at Garoppolo, who started the past five years for the 49ers and led them to a Super Bowl and two NFC title games. It’s a different situation than the Vikings, where Cousins has unproven Nick Mullens as his backup.
Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl.