Kevin O’Connell Comments on FA Possibility of Dalton Risner

Aug 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Dalton Risner (66) in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have embraced offensive line continuity this offseason, mainly by re-signing center Garrett Bradbury in March. Bradbury was a true-blue free agent and could’ve signed anywhere in the league but returned to the Vikings for a fifth season.

Kevin O’Connell Comments on FA Possibility of Dalton Risner

And while the offensive trenches are on track to look the same from left to right, the Vikings hosted veteran guard Dalton Risner for a free-agent visit this week.

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Nov 1, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner (66) in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

Risner played for the Denver Broncos from 2019 to 2022, and three of those seasons involved a partnership with current Vikings offensive line coach Chris Kuper. The coach-player tie is alive and well if Minnesota wants to make the relationship official.

As of Wednesday morning, though, Risner had not signed with the Vikings, so fans live in limbo regarding his free agency. Kevin O’Connell spoke about the possibility of onboarding Risner sometime soon, “Both groups, we’ve got some guys in that second group that are really starting to mesh well together, so really I look at it as the personnel department working in conjunction with our staff, and we’re always looking for ways to find good football players when they’re available.”

Aug 21, 2020; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner (66) during training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

The Broncos drafted Risner in the 2nd Round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the man was actually linked to the Vikings via the draft lead-up process four years ago. Now, Risner could start his second career chapter in Minnesota.

“We really just wanted to bring him in and get to know him a little bit better, use the process of a visit to do that and see if we could possibly take what we think is a strong group and make it even better,” O’Connell continued.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at 2023 mandatory minicamp in Eagan. The Vikings won 13 games in O’Connell’s first season as head coach. He previously won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator in 2021.

Why would the Vikings sign an offensive guard, as they seem pretty well set in the trenches? Easy — depth and improvement. Left guard Ezra Cleveland’s contract expires at the end of the 2023 season. It is unclear if Minnesota is willing to bring him back beyond his rookie deal. On the right side at guard, Ed Ingram produced a topsy-turvy rookie season, succumbing to gaffes and poor performance early in the season before starting to improve down the stretch.

O’Connell concluded, “It’s going to be a process that starts with that visit, and I think it’s gone really well so far, and we’ll just continue to see if that’s something that makes sense for ourselves and Dalton.”

Aug 10, 2022; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner (66) signs autographs for fans after training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

Some may argue that O’Connell has mastered coach-speak after a year and a half on the job, but at least the Risner Sweepstakes is alive and well for the Vikings. He’d offer a trait Vikings fans are unaccustomed to — Risner protects quarterbacks better than his run-blocking accolades. Usually, Vikings guards from the last decade or so exude the opposite tendencies.

Risner turned 28 in June.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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