Former Vikings Draft Pick Signs Whopping Contract Extension

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The offseason has started to heat up with releases all over the place as teams try to get under the salary cap limit before the new league year arrives on March 13, a mandatory deadline for organizations. A few days before free agency opens, players can already sign contract extensions and teams obviously want to get a deal done before their guys hit the open market where they face competition.

Former Vikings Draft Pick Signs Whopping Contract Extension

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Minnesota’s GM has already re-signed tight end Nick Muse who might be in the spotlight with T.J. Hockenson’s status in doubt to open the season. Safety Theo Jackson will continue to provide depth and special teams contributions for another season. The big ticket items Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter could also be re-signed before free agency arrives although they are much more likely to talk to other teams first.

Someone who passed on that opportunity is Ezra Cleveland who will remain in Jacksonville for three more seasons rather than entering free agency for the first time in his career. The large compensation is a significant reason why.

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Ian Rapoport announced on X: “The Jaguars and standout G Ezra Cleveland have agreed to terms on a new 3-year deal worth $28.5M, sources say, with $14.5M guaranteed. Jacksonville traded for Cleveland last season and moved quickly to keep him off the market.”

An average annual salary of $9.5 million places him in the top 15 in the salary rankings of offensive guards.

Cleveland was a 2020 second-round pick by Rick Spielman. Coming out of college, the former Boise State standout was a left tackle but the Vikings moved him to guard to keep veteran Riley Reiff at LT. In his rookie season, Cleveland lined up as the right guard but he moved to the left side in 2021 where he has played ever since.

The Dalton Risner
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Last season, the Vikings added Dalton Risner and because it is useless to have two starting caliber guards for just one spot, they shipped their former pick to Jacksonville as a trade deadline move, snatching a sixth-rounder for a player who was likely to leave half a season later anyway. The Vikings knew his asking price and were unwilling to match it.

The veteran struggled early in his career, especially his pass-blocking was suspect while has has always been a decent run-blocker. However, he improved in every season which is why his big contract is not a huge surprise. Spotrac calculated his market value at $13.3 million per season, an absurd number for a decent but not elite guard.

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Interestingly, the Vikings will be in the market for a guard once they are eligible to negotiate with players. Risner’s one-year contract expires and backups Blake Brandel and Chris Reed are also on their way out. While the other four positions are set with returning players Christian Darrisaw, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, and Brian O’Neill, the left guard spot is vacant.

Risner’s return can’t be ruled out but neither can be the acquisition of someone else in the draft or free agency. Continuity with Risner could be expensive for the GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Cleveland will turn 26 in May and he will protect Trevor Lawrence in a crucial year for the passer’s development.

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