Dalton Risner Sweepstakes Heats Up

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.

For now, the Minnesota Vikings appear content or at least on deck to start veteran lineman Blake Brandel at left guard in 2024.

Dalton Risner Sweepstakes Heats Up

The franchise curiously hasn’t re-signed Dalton Risner, a beloved free-agent addition to the Twin Cities last September. Risner joined the purple team after fans demanded it — for weeks if not months — and quickly grabbed a starter’s job while Ezra Cleveland was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dalton Risner
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.

But his deal was only for one year last autumn, and now Risner remains on the free-agent wire, a predicament that beset the man all spring and summer last year. Now, however, Risner may be cooking with gas.

The Athletic’s Alec Lewis reported this week, “The Vikings’ left guard situation still seems a bit uncertain. Blake Brandel is the leader in the clubhouse. The Vikings could pursue another option in the draft. They could also sign a free agent like Dalton Risner, who has switched agents since the beginning of free agency and is represented by Drew Rosenhaus.”

The Dalton Risner
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Rosenhaus has a reputation as “the guy” to get things done, and whether Risner returns to the Vikings or signs on with another franchise, business is probably about to pick up.

On his contract desires, Risner personally tweeted March 12th, “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.”

Six days after the Risner tweet, KFAN’s Paul Allen asked Adofo-Mensah about the chances of Risner returning in purple, and the young executive replied, “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.”

Judgment Day
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Typically, if the Vikings wanted a player back for the following season, the front office says something to the effect of: We’d love to have _______ _________ back but negotiations are ongoing. That didn’t happen during the KFAN interview.

Risner’s price in 2023 was affordable, likely because the regular season was in full swing when signed on the Vikings’ dotted line. But not this go-round. His overall PFF grade of 57.1 didn’t break the Richter scale, but his 67.4 pass-blocking score is music to the ears of Vikings fans. For years — arguably a decade — Vikings enthusiasts asked for a competent pass-blocking guard or two, and the wish was granted in 2023 with second-year lineman Ed Ingram and Risner’s midseason addition.

If Risner returns, the Vikings will again showcase complete offensive line continuity, as they did in 2022 into 2023. Minnesota encountered a few struggles here and there in 2023, but on the whole, the offensive trenches markedly improved, especially because of Risner’s steady pass protection.

the Dalton Risner Era
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota re-signed the aforementioned guard-tackle hybrid Blake Brandel earlier this month for three years and $9.5 million, a signal he could take over left guard duties if Risner isn’t re-signed. The Vikings could also draft a mid-to-late-round rookie in four weeks to compete with Brandel if there is no Risner on the depth chart.

Risner will turn 29 this summer, and generally speaking, with Rosenhaus in the mix, his free agency should move quicker than last year.

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 OverTheCap.com.