Recently Traded Viking Lives on the Bench

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When the Minnesota Vikings traded offensive guard Ezra Cleveland to the Jacksonville Jaguars one week ago, many of the team’s fans decried the compensation.

Minnesota received a 6th-Round pick for Cleveland, and some thought that was highway robbery.

Recently Traded Viking Lives on the Bench

Well, unsurprisingly, there was a method to general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s madness: Jacksonville doesn’t view Cleveland as a starter, at least not immediately on his new team.

Traded Viking Lives
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“Walker Little is the left guard. I want to be as clear as I can, Walker is the left guard. That’s been communicated to everybody. Cam [Robinson] is the left tackle. That is our plan, and that has never changed,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson told reporters Monday.

Before Cleveland’s injury with the Vikings, he was the purple team’s starting left guard.

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Pederson continued, “Ezra is somebody who can really provide that necessary backup guard. He’s a very capable, smart, talented left guard. He played some right guard his rookie year. He’s been primarily a left guard ever since. He’s a really good value for us and really solidifies an offensive line that was already good.”

A starter for about 3.5 years in Minnesota, Cleveland will hit free agency in four months. Adofo-Mensah must’ve known that Cleveland isn’t in the future plans, sending the lineman to the Jaguars for the aforementioned 6th-Rounder.

“You have to look at long-term, as well. Obviously, the age of our offensive linemen: Brandon Scherff, as great as he’s been playing, he’s not getting younger; Tyler Shatley, he’s not getting younger. You have to have guys who are very capable who are on your roster. … I do think this definitely could turn into a long-term situation for him where he could definitely compete and be in position to help us moving forward,” Pederson concluded.

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The Vikings are now in full Dalton Risner mode at left guard, a fertile outlook because the purple offensive trenches have looked marvelous in the last three games — or since Risner’s insertion into the starting lineup. Cleveland hasn’t underperformed in 2023 — or anything close to it — but after seeing Risner in the lineup, the Vikings believe he’s the special sauce.

Through nine weeks, the Jaguars rank 29th leaguewide per run-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus, and 17th via pass protection. Despite Pederson’s positive commentary about his team’s trenches, his offensive line is not elite or anywhere close to it, meaning Cleveland should get playing time before too long.

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Per PFF, Cleveland is the league’s eighth-best guard overall entering Week 10, making his existence on the bench rather strange.

The Jaguars host the suddenly downtrodden San Francisco 49ers this weekend, hoping to propel their winning streak to six games.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by