Offensive Line Decision Coming Closer for Vikings

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For good reason: Vikings fans are used to complaining about the offensive line. The blocking unit was a disaster for the entire tenure of Mike Zimmer as head coach. Former general manager Rick Spielman selected an offensive lineman within the first two rounds in each of his last four drafts. His successor, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, continued that trend in 2022.

Offensive Line Decision Coming Closer for Vikings

The Vikings entered consecutive seasons with the same starting unit upfront for the first time in years. That was a huge surprise — the decision-makers continuously stated their trust in the group. And they were right. Seven games have been played in 2023, and the Vikings have an excellent offensive line.

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But that leads to an interesting and unusual problem. They have too many players that deserve to start. With Ed Ingram and Ezra Cleveland making a jump in their second and fourth seasons and the Vikings adding Dalton Risner a couple of weeks into the season, they now have three guards who could and should be starters in the NFL.

The state of many offensive lines around the league could be called subpar, and many teams would like to have a problem like that. Cleveland missed Week 7 against the 49ers, and Risner started in his spot. He played like most fans who wanted the purple team to sign him in the offseason expected. The former second-round pick and four-year starter in Denver is a solid guard, and it was strange for a player of his caliber and age to be available when the season kicks off.

Once Cleveland returns, which could be as soon as Sunday in Green Bay, the Vikings must decide if Risner keeps his spot over Cleveland or if they return to their original starting group.

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Cleveland has played too well to be benched, but Risner is also too good to sit on the bench. Adofo-Mensah mentioned the term champagne problem at a presser earlier in the year, and this is one of those.

The good news for the Vikings is that there are no bad alternatives. Starting either player is fine, and having good depth options is desirable. One outlet the Vikings could take is entering the trade market and selling Cleveland to the highest bidder. He would be an upgrade on at least half of the league’s offensive lines, and there should be interest. His contract is expiring, and instead of losing him in free agency, the Vikes could get some draft capital in return.

There is certainly a possibility to see that happen. Just like it is possible for the Vikes to keep their logjam of solid players in case of injury. It was a wonderful development when Austin Schlottmann subbed in when center Garrett Bradbury missed time earlier in the season. The backup played so well that nobody would’ve noticed the starter actually missing. And the same thing can be said about Risner starting in Cleveland’s spot.

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The Vikings will make the decision on whether they want to keep both Risner and Cleveland or move one to a different team before Tuesday’s trade deadline. They have to decide on the starting unit as soon as Cleveland returns. He logged limited practices on both Wednesday and Thursday with his foot injury.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt.