Maybe the Dalton Risner Theories Were Right?

dalton risner
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In back-to-back offseasons, Dalton Risner received less attention than expected on the free-agent market.

Maybe the Dalton Risner Theories Were Right?

A strange occurrence indeed, the veteran lineman is back in the saddle for 2024 with the Minnesota Vikings, a club hoping to improve on a 7-10 record one year ago.

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But as details emerged on Risner’s contract, fringe theories from a couple of weeks ago may have been correct. For starters, Risner rejoined the purple team on a dinker deal for one year and $2.4 million. When free agency kicked off three months ago, many thought the veteran guard could command between $6 and $8 million annually. No such luck.

And between the start of free agency and Risner’s re-addition to the purple team’s roster, the club signed Blake Brandel for three years and $9.5 million. The easiest way to digest this is the realization that Brandel will earn more money than Risner.

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So when various Vikings-themed reporters claimed Brandel could start over Risner in 2024 — Risner started over Brandel last year — they may have been on to something. Money talks, and this could be an example.

On May 29th, the day Risner returned to Minnesota, The Athletic‘s Alec Lewis tweeted, “A couple things on the Dalton Risner signing. I don’t believe the Blake Brandel belief to be overstated; the staff does love him, but Risner’s experience is obviously notable. The full terms of the deal will be interesting, and they’ll likely indicate why the team waited.”

Dalton Risner
Minnesota guard Dalton Risner addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Dalton Risner: “We All Know We Have A Great Culture But We Came Up Short This Season.”

Spot on reporting, a Risner versus Brandel camp battle could be coming to a Vikings training camp near your. Risner’s only advantage at the moment is incumbency. When the 2023 season concluded, and Ezra Cleveland (the team’s left guard from 2020 to midway through 2023) was long gone via trade to the Jacksonville Jaguars, most Vikings fans thought Risner would re-sign in Minnesota after a prosperous first campaign. But then March, April, and most of May hit — with nothing. Meanwhile, Risner hired superagent Drew Rosenhaus in March, a sign that he wanted to avoid last year’s weird silence.

Risner finally rejoined the Vikings, and because he was a starter last year, most assumed he’d regain his LG job even with Brandel on the depth chart. Per the contracts, however, that theory must be readjusted.

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Of course, Risner can still win the LG job this summer. Money isn’t a mandate for a starter’s job. That’s in play. Yet, the value of each deal suggests Brandel should be classified as the default frontrunner.

There’s also a small chance that Risner regains his LG spot with little fanfare while Brandel, for example, challenges right guard Ed Ingram from a starter’s job. Brandel has proved his versatility in recent years as a tackle-turned-guard.

The takeaway? Minnesota has pretty sweet depth with Risner back in the fold, but it cannot be reasonably called a no-brainer that he’ll slide back in as the starting LG this season. He may have to fight. He won the job last year midseason, so he’s done it before.

If Risner returns to LG, Minnesota will showcase total OL continuity in back-to-back seasons for the first time in years. Minnesota headed into 2023 with continuity from the end of 2022 and this season could follow suit.

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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