Andre Carter II, Ivan Pace Jr. provide Vikings with value as undrafted free agents
That process started over the weekend as the Vikings hosted rookie minicamp at TCO Performance Center.
EAGAN, Minn. -- After wrapping up the 2023 NFL Draft last month, the Minnesota Vikings continued to work the phones. And it paid off as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was able to sign skilled linebackers Andre Carter II and Ivan Pace Jr. as undrafted free agents.
The fact that both players were available at that point came as a surprise to most. Looking at the measurables, Carter and Pace probably should have been drafted by some team. There’s a reason Pro Football Focus ranked them atop its list of undrafted free agents to sign.
Now it’s on the Vikings to develop both players. That process started over the weekend as the Vikings hosted rookie minicamp at TCO Performance Center. It will continue over the next month with many veterans joining the rookies at the practice facility in Eagan.
It’ll be interesting to see where Carter and Pace fit in as more players arrive at TCO Performance Center in the coming weeks. In the meantime, though, both players seemed to make a good first impression on head coach Kevin O’Connell.
Asked about Carter, an Army product who projects more as an edge rusher, O’Connell lauded his athleticism and how that could translate at the next level.
“He was under consideration for us to be drafted a couple of times,” O’Connell said. “Through the dialogue, and really trying to figure out how we still get him here, we felt like we gained an extra draft pick with him.”
Asked about Pace, a Cincinnati product who should be able to play all over the field, O’Connell noted that his his tape alone was among the best in the draft at his position.
“He was a major priority for us,” the coach said. “He’s physical. He gets off blocks. He’s a tackling machine. We’re excited to have him in that room, and see a lot of upside for him.”
The next step for Carter and Pace is proving themselves on a daily basis. If they continue to do that, they will put themselves in a good spot to make the roster.
Looking specifically at Carter, he needs to find a way to stand out amid a talented group of edge rushers that features Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport among a handful of others. The recent trade of Za’Darius Smith, which has yet to be finalized, could open up some playing time for Carter.
The biggest knock on the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Carter was his lack of production during his final season at Army. He had 15 1/2 sacks in 2021, then followed that up with 3 1/2 sacks in 2022.
“For a guy like Andre, we’re really looking forward to seeing him build on the career he had at Army,” O’Connell said. “He’s a professional football player now. He gets to focus in on that as his job and really thrive in that with some great coaching. He’s a great kid. We’re really excited to have him a part of our team, and looking forward to seeing what he’s able to do.”
As for the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Pace, his lack of size is likely the only thing that kept him from getting drafted. He was among the smaller players in the draft at his position. Nonetheless, his aggressive is his calling card, and it wouldn’t be a shock if new defensive coordinator Brian Flores helped turn him into a solid player.
Though a lot can change over the next couple of months. Cater and Pace seem like good bets to make the Vikings out of training camp. It’s on them to make sure that happens.
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