Vikings LB Ivan Pace “Top Contender” To Serve As Defensive Signal-Caller

The defensive signal-caller in a Brian Flores-coordinated defense is especially important to the success of the unit, given how much Flores likes to rotate most of his personnel. At present, second-year linebacker Ivan Pace appears to be the “top contender” to serve in that role for the Vikings in 2024, per ESPN.

That should not come as much of a surprise. Even as an undrafted rookie, Pace took over green dot responsibilities when veteran Jordan Hicks was forced to miss four games with a leg injury last season, and he played in 100% of Minnesota’s defensive snaps during that time. In all, he appeared in all 17 contests (11 starts) and racked up 102 total tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks and an interception.

Pace’s surface-level production is impressive enough for any rookie, but especially a UDFA. Those numbers were supported by a similarly strong showing in the advanced metrics world, as Pro Football Focus considered him the 16th-best linebacker out of 82 qualifiers and thought especially highly of his work in coverage. With Hicks having signed with the Browns in free agency, Pace seems like the most logical candidate to step in as the full-time signal-caller on defense.

That said, the Vikings did authorize a notable contract for linebacker Blake Cashman in March, and they also signed Kamu Grugier-Hill, who has 115 games and 42 starts on his resume. Those acquisitions were part of a defensive overhaul that saw the team part ways with star pass rusher Danielle Hunter while adding the likes of Cashman, Grugier-Hill, Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jihad Ward, and Jerry Tillery to the front seven. Minnesota also selected prized prospect Dallas Turner in the first round of April’s draft.

The ESPN report indicates that the team is considering Cashman and Grugier-Hill for the green dot role, but it would nonetheless seem that Pace, in light of his rookie-year performance and the fact that he handled those duties last season, would have a leg up.

Said head coach Kevin O’Connell, “[Pace] has had a very good spring, just with the type of communication [Flores] is putting on his plate.”

Pace himself said, “I know they brought in a couple linebackers that have more experience and stuff, but if they trust me enough to have the green dot, I’m ready for it.”

Undrafted free agents are signed to three-year contracts, as opposed to the four-year pacts that their drafted counterparts receive. As such, UDFAs become extension-eligible after accruing just two years of service time, so if Pace can build on his 2023 showing, he could be in line for a noteworthy pay raise next offseason.

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