Should the Vikings Be in the Dalton Risner Market?

Even National Voices
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For the longest time, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line has been a hot topic of conversation. It has been the team’s Achilles’ heel forever in an offense otherwise brimming with talent.

The interior offensive line has always been the weakest point, and that is still the case. Many thought the offensive line’s interior would be an area the Vikings looked to strengthen this offseason, but so far, that has not been the case. It’s not too late, though, as one of the best options is still available — which leads to the Dalton Risner question.

Should the Vikings Be in the Dalton Risner Market?

Up to this point, the Vikings have kept everyone from last season, re-signing free agents Garrett Bradbury, Austin Schlottmann, Oli Udoh, and Blake Brandel while slashing Chris Reed’s pay. The Vikings might be happy running it back with the same guys. 

Same Again in 2023?

Be in the Dalton
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Wholesale changes certainly shouldn’t have been expected, with Christian Darrisaw looking every bit the franchise left tackle in his second year. Brian O’Neill has matured into one of the better right tackles in the league. Ed Ingram had a rough rookie year but showed signs of progression in the second half. With second-round draft capital tied into him, the Vikings will allow Ingram to show continued progression. 

Bradbury returns to be starting center on a three-year deal that is more like a one-year prove-it contract. Minnesota might look to the draft to find competition at center and a potential successor to Bradbury. The depth guys currently in Minnesota are solid backup options, but none pose any real danger of usurping the incumbent starters.

The most intriguing part of the Vikings offensive line is Ezra Cleveland at left guard. He has proved serviceable, despite being drafted as a tackle. He is best in the run game, but his pass-blocking often leaves much to be desired. Much like Bradbury on his inside, he gets steamrolled by the bigger defensive tackles.

Cleveland or Risner?

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Cleveland is coming into the last year of his rookie contract, so there is a decision looming about his future. Has he shown enough to warrant a substantial payday?

Risner came into the league a year before Cleveland, so his rookie deal has finished, hence why he’s a free agent. The Denver Broncos decided against giving him a new contract, instead opting to sign Ben Powers instead.

Do the Vikings look to pay Risner now? He would cost somewhere in the region of $8 million a year. Or keep Cleveland at just short of $3.4 million, knowing they will have to pay him next year? As one of the best interior offensive linemen free agents this year, Risner’s availability is surprising. The Vikings should have strong interest. 

He’s been a consistent performer since entering the league in 2019. He would be an upgrade over what we’ve seen from Cleveland and Ingram in pass protection. Pro Football Focus graded him 72.6 for pass blocking in 2022, compared to 53.2 for Cleveland and 44.4 for Ingram. 2022 was actually seen as a disappointing season for Risner. He gave up 3 sacks, 6 QB hits, and 29 pressures. That would be a significant improvement compared to Cleveland (5, 20, 53) and Ingram (11, 18, 58).

Do the Vikings Have the Money?

Vikings Will Enter 2023
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The question is money. Can the Vikings find the money for Risner?

According to OverTheCap, the Vikings currently sit with just $552,868 of cap space. It can be done if it is seen as a priority. Plenty of financial gymnastics are doable with extensions and restructures. The futures of Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Cook still appear murky too. 

If the thought process is to give the guys already in place another chance and use significant funds in other areas, then the Vikings will have examine cheaper alternatives — the draft or simply sticking with what they have.

Risner would be a wise move for the Vikings, who could then try and deal Cleveland to a team willing to commit to him long-term, thus creating cap space and draft capital.

Everyone’s a winner! Of course, only the opinions of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell matter. Are they happy with what they’ve got, at least for now? We shall see.