One Vikings OG Leaves, Another Returns

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The Minnesota Vikings traded veteran offensive guard Ezra Cleveland to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday, fetching a 6th-Round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

One Vikings OG Leaves, Another Returns

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

Vikings OG Leaves
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s worth noting that the pick will be near the top of Round 6, for those craving details, as it previously belonged to the Carolina Panthers.

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 two 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 must believe he’s the special sauce.

Meanwhile, another guard returned after months of absence — Chris Reed.

Viking Took
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings main social media account made the news official on the X app, “G Chris Reed has returned to practice.”

Along with Blake Brandel, another veteran offensive lineman, Reed’s return exactly coincides with Cleveland’s exit. Some Vikings fans bemoaned the Cleveland trade because it allegedly thinned the team’s OG depth, but with Brandel and Reed in the mix, that theory was wacky.

The Vikings Contingency Plan at Center
Indianapolis Colts guard Chris Reed (62) practices Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, before a game against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. © Christine Tannous/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Reed, 31, played in seven games during the 2022 season, starting one, the regular season finale at the Chicago Bears. He replaced Garrett Bradbury and Austin Schlottmann at center in a Week 17 contest at the Green Bay Packers with a performance he’d assuredly like to forget. But after one week’s worth of practice and reps at center — he’s a guard by trade — Reed played commendably at Soldier Field to wrap up the 2022 regular season.

The veteran lineman also accepted a paycut to remain in Minnesota for the 2023 season. Until Wednesday, Reed has been on the Non-Football-Injury list since the summer.

Reed joined the Vikings last spring after stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts. A journeyman indeed.

The Minnesota State alumnus has experience with the previous clubs playing left guard, right guard, and center. So far in his career, Reed has registered decent grades from Pro Football Focus, especially since 2019:

  • 2016 = 53.5
  • 2017 = 50.8
  • 2018 = 57.3
  • 2019 = 70.3
  • 2020 = 63.0
  • 2021 = 67.2
  • 2022 = 54.3
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings struggled via offensive guard play for years before the 2022 season, but after scooping Ed Ingram out of the 2022 NFL Draft, adding Reed 19 months ago, signing Dalton Risner, and developing the aforementioned Brandel, the woes are finally over.

If something occurred injury-wise to Ingram or Risner, the team’s starters, Brandel or Reed would be in line to start.

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