One Unsung Viking Could Start in 2024

blake brandel
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have undergone significant change, onboarding 14 new players this offseason. On March 21st, 2023, Minnesota had signed four newcomers in free agency. This year, on the same date, it’s 14.

One Unsung Viking Could Start in 2024

Regardless of a litany of newcomers, one unsung Viking could be on deck to start in September — offensive guard Blake Brandel.

Vikings Free Agency
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah re-upped with Brandel last week for three years and $9.5 million, a contract suggesting a starter’s trajectory. The man didn’t utterly break the bank, but the dollars and years were noteworthy.

And without Dalton Risner on the roster — he remains an unsigned free agent — all signs point to Brandel as the 2024 starter at left guard, at least at the moment. Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling told KFAN this week, “The money they gave Brandel, specifically the years, did make me wonder if he’s going to get that chance to start … the fact they gave him a three-year deal, that’s not something you just do because you have too. I don’t think his market would have been that hot … I do think there’s a chance that he will get an opportunity to compete for that spot.”

Unsung Viking
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Generally speaking, Goessling is correct. The years suggest Brandel will stay in Minnesota for the long haul, and affording three years to a reservist guard would be a bit weird. Unless Risner is re-signed or Minnesota uses the 2024 NFL Draft on a startable guard, Brandel may be in the LG driver’s seat for September.

Brandel produced a 55.3 Pro Football Focus grade last year on 163 offensive snaps after the Vikings coaching staff moved him from tackle to guard. Truth be told, that score isn’t very promising, so Vikings fans will hope for improvement if Brandel is indeed tapped for starter’s duty. Just when the club had the guard spot fixed — it was a problem for years — some are paranoid that Minnesota could slide back to half-measured solutions.

Otherwise, free-agent guards like Laken Tomlinson or Cody Whitehair, for example, remain available on the open market.

Vikings Free Agency
Former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner on Monday Night Football during his first start with the Minnesota Vikings. U.S. Bank Stadium, October 23rd, 2023. Risner started for an injured Ezra Cleveland.

On Risner, Adofo-Mensah talked about this status on the same KFAN network earlier this week. The young executive said, “Where we’ve wanted to be is best available. That’s where we’ve tried to set ourselves up both in a draft and acquisition standpoint. So every option is on the table. That’s all I can say about that.”

Naturally, most took those words as an indication that Risner won’t return in purple.

Risner personally tweeted nine days ago, “Just In case anyone was wondering … I’ve started 73 games over 5 years in the league … missing only 4 games due to injury… earning the starting spot amongst 3 different coaching staffs … I’ve never asked for a bag, simply just a starting guard contract.”

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.

If Goessling is correct, and Brandel is the starter, Minnesota’s offensive line would look like this in the fall:

  • LT: Christian Darrisaw
  • LG: Blake Brandel
  • C: Garrett Bradbury
  • RG: Ed Ingram
  • RT: Brian O’Neill

Brandel turned 27 in January.

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).

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