Vikings Could Pursue Former Broncos O-Lineman

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Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner (66) against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah currently finds himself in a favorable position with approximately $9.5 million in cap space following the recent trade of edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. 

The team can potentially create an additional $19 million in cap space by restructuring right tackle Brian O’Neill’s contract and the potential release of running back Dalvin Cook. 

Vikings Could Pursue Former Broncos O-Lineman

Adofo-Mensah has the flexibility to explore further moves, and one name that could emerge as a potential target is former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner.

Risner, 27, is a former second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft coming out of Kansas State. He quickly established himself as a vital presence on Denver’s offensive line, missing only three career games, showcasing his durability, versatility, and consistency.

Pursue Former Broncos
Dalton Risner of the Denver Broncos walks the red carpet before the NFL Honors awards special at the Phoenix Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. © Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Risner has proven to be a reliable pass blocker since entering the league, with his best season coming in 2021 when he finished with a 73.6 PFF grade. However, his effectiveness as a run blocker hasn’t translated as successfully, as he has consistently received below-par grades, with a maximum of 63.2 PFF run blocking grade. 

Risner’s unwavering work ethic and invaluable leadership qualities have not gone unnoticed, positioning him as a potential fit within head coach Kevin O’Connell’s culture. Recognized for his exceptional dedication and ability to lead, Risner’s attributes align with the values and expectations set by O’Connell, making him an intriguing fit.

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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

As of now, there are no indications that Minnesota is actively pursuing a signing of Risner. However, if the team harbors doubts about Ezra Cleveland’s long-term fit, a move for Risner then could potentially make sense. According to KSTP reporter Darren Wolfson, there are rumblings that Cleveland still believes he is a tackle at the NFL level, not a guard.

If Cleveland wants to test the open market a year from now, expressing his desire to pursue a career at tackle instead of guard, Adofo-Mensah may be inclined to explore trade possibilities. It’s difficult to dictate what Cleveland could net in a trade return, but his value arguably should start at around a fourth-round pick.

The potential link between Risner and the Minnesota Vikings gains further credibility through his established relationship with offensive line coach Chris Kuper, who previously served as Denver’s assistant offensive line coach under Vic Fangio. Kuper had the opportunity to work closely with Risner for multiple seasons.

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.

In a notable indication of their connection, Kuper even attended Risner’s wedding, according to Wolfson, suggesting a level of camaraderie beyond the typical player-coach dynamic. 

While this does not guarantee an impending deal, it does provide an intriguing connection for fans to consider regarding Risner’s potential fit in Minnesota. The shared history and personal bond between Risner and Kuper could factor into the team’s decision-making process should they pursue him.

As Adofo-Mensah carefully evaluates the roster for this upcoming season, the potential pursuit of Risner emerges as a solution to uncertainties surrounding Cleveland’s future in Minnesota. With more cap space and contract restructuring options, the team has the flexibility to make more offseason moves. 

While their specific plans regarding Risner remain undisclosed, the groundwork has been set for a pursuit if they decide to do so.