Continuity Could Be Expensive for Vikings

Judgment Day
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The Minnesota Vikings have multiple free agents, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must evaluate which players he wants to return for another season in Minnesota. All eyes are understandably on quarterback Kirk Cousins and pass-rusher Danielle Hunter, but the franchise is set to lose some more key contributors.

Continuity Could Be Expensive for Vikings

That list of players includes linebacker Jordan Hicks, wideout K.J. Osborn and outside linebackers D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport, leaving a huge gap at a key spot in any defense.

Continuity Could Be Expensive for Vikings
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Another significant loss would be the looming departure of left guard Dalton Risner, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent after one season with the organization. Risner signed with the Vikings after Week 2 following months of surprisingly low interest in him. A player of his caliber shouldn’t be available during the season, especially with the struggling offensive lines all over the league.

But Risner was available, and the Vikings signed the fan favorite to a cheap one-year deal. At first, he backed up Ezra Cleveland, but once the starter got hurt, Risner was inserted into the starting lineup, and there was no noticeable dropoff, so the Vikings traded Cleveland to the Jaguars at the trade deadline. Cleveland was also in the final year of his deal, and the Vikes secured a sixth-round pick in return for their former second-rounder.

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Risner, meanwhile, ultimately logged 15 games with 11 starts and 746 snaps on offense. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 46th-best guard in the league. According to them, his performance was about average, but he was one of the better pass protectors, while his struggles came in the running game. He is certainly a fit for Kevin O’Connell’s pass-first offense.

The veteran lineman ranks fourth among available guards in the PFF free-agent rankings, so he should draw some serious interest. Brad Spielberger wrote:

Risner’s 2023 free agency didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, so he bided his time before joining the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks into the 2023 season on a one-year flier. Risner quickly supplanted Ezra Cleveland at left guard and has been a plus pass protector for the fifth season in a row.

Risner does well to initiate contact with a solid punch, ensuring he doesn’t expose his chest or get his hands swatted away. Even on bull rushes where Risner is driven back and gives up pressure, he keeps his feet square and stays in front of the rusher to prevent a hit on the quarterback, frequently providing this signal-caller with just enough time to still get a pass off.

The contract expert predicted Risner’s new deal to be a three-year contract worth $24 million with $15 million guaranteed. $8 million per season is a hefty price for an average player.

5 Vikings Rank
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However, it ensures continuity up front, something the Vikings emphasized last offseason as the most important feat regarding offensive line play. Both tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill are no-brainers to return for another season. Center Garrett Bradbury could be cut for minor cap reasons, but it is unlikely that the Vikes could find a better player for a similar price tag. Right guard Ed Ingram has become a solid player after a struggling debut season, and he might have some more untapped potential.

Leaving Risner as the only potential change. The Vikings perhaps could find a replacement in the draft, but they are pressed to fill some crucial spots on defense and potentially draft a quarterback.

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Risner will celebrate his 29th birthday in July, and it remains to be seen if the Vikings want to spend that much for the longtime Bronco. He allowed 30 pressures, 19 QB hurries, and 11 QB hits but was not responsible for a sack, according to PFF.

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