Vikings Ship Starting Lineman to Jacksonville

Vikings Trade
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

It was an unusual and busy day for the Minnesota Vikings but they made a couple of moves at the trade deadline. The first one, perhaps the biggest Vikings news in a while, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acquired Joshua Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals. He might take over the starting duties in Minnesota after starting the first seven games of the season in Arizona.

Vikings Ship Starting Lineman to Jacksonville

Vikings Ship Starting Lineman to Jacksonville
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

But the Vikings haven’t been just buyers, they have already been selling an asset. Ezra Cleveland will head to Florida after three-and-a-half seasons protecting Kirk Cousins up north. His newest quarterback will not be Dobbs, instead, it will be former first-overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.

Adofo-Mensah spent a sixth-rounder for Dobbs and a seventh-rounder and received a sixth-round pick in return for Cleveland.

For Minnesota, it is an easy calculation. They had a couple of solid left guards so they sent one away to get some draft compensation to build for the future. Dalton Risner was signed after Week 2 and received his chance to play when Cleveland was forced to miss a couple of games with an ankle injury. And like everyone expected, Risner played well enough to make Cleveland expendable.

Vikings Had 2 Iron Men on Offense in 2021
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Mason Cole (52) and Ezra Cleveland (72) and offensive tackle Brian O’Neill. © David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

Rick Spielman selected the Boise State prospect in the 2020 draft when he was still an offensive tackle. He had a wonderful athletic profile, fitting Gary Kubiak’s zone-run scheme perfectly. That scheme features quick and mobile linemen instead of powerful players.

Entering the 2020 season, Pat Elflein and Dakota Dozier started at the two guard spots and Brian O’Neill and Riley Reiff at tackle. After some shuffling up front because Elfllein suffered an injury, Cleveland made his first start in Week 6 and a total of nine in his debut season. The guard started all 40 games in the next three seasons leading up to his ankle injury in Week 6.

Cleveland has improved in every season, providing phenomenal run blocking. His pass protection took a large jump in 2023 which is likely why the Jaguars pulled the trigger to replace the veteran Tyler Shatley in their lineup. The offensive line in Jacksonville is projected to be from left to right: Cam Robinson – Ezra Cleveland – Luke Fortner – Brandon Scherff – Anton Harrison.

Jaguars Offensive line coach Phil Rauscher during one-on-one drills at Monday’s training camp. The Jacksonville Jaguars held training camp Monday, August 1, 2022, at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Knight Campus practice fields on Atlantic Blvd. Jki 080122 Jaguarsmondaytrainingcamp 46

One aspect of the trade is that Phil Rauscher, former Vikings offensive line coach, will be reunited with Cleveland. He coached the player in 2020 as assistant offensive line coach and in 2021 when he took over the offensive line from Rick Dennison.

Risner will continue to start at left guard. He immediately formed a wonderful connection with left tackle Christian Darrisaw and they shut out San Francisco’s scary pass rush and kept the Packers front in check.

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If something happens to either Risner or Ed Ingram, former swing tackle backup Blake Brandel is nominally the backup offensive guard and has received praise from his coaches all year.

Cleveland was in the final year of his rookie contract and despite some rumors of the Vikings intending to extend his contract in the summer, they ultimately did not and received something in return for their player instead of losing him in free agency.

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