Once-Presumed Vikings Starter Can’t Be Happy with Latest Roster Move

blake brandel
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The Minnesota Vikings have made plenty of surprising moves since Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is in charge. That includes the trades for division rival tight end T.J. Hockenson and the second first-round selection in the recent draft that, after another trade, turned out to be star rookie Dallas Turner. During Organized Team Activities, he pulled the trigger once again and added an old friend to the team.

Once-Presumed Vikings Starter Can’t Be Happy with Latest Roster Move

Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter were the two major guys walking out of the building in free agency. With them, K.J. Osborn, Jordan Hicks, and D.J. Wonnum departed after contributing for multiple seasons. Dalton Risner is someone who fans missed despite only starting 11 contests with the Vikings.

Once-Presumed Vikings Starter Can't Be Happy with Latest Roster Move
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His departure left re-signed backup Blake Brandel and veteran journeyman backup Dan Feeney as the new guys at the left guard spot. The Vikings then added interior lineman Michael Jurgens in the draft. What sounded like an underwhelming contingency plan resulted in folks penciling in Brandel as the team’s starting left guard in 2024.

The converted tackle has received widespread praise from his coaches, especially offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, who has repeatedly praised his size. He started three games at left tackle in 2022 and two more at right guard in 2023, so his resume looked like that of a solid replacement rather than that of a starter.

The Dalton Risner
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Risner’s tenure with the Vikings seemed over because the front office would’ve gotten a deal done if the team wanted him back. That take turned out to be wrong on Wednesday when Adofo-Mensah re-signed Risner to another one-year contract. His unusual journey in Minnesota continues.

After signing with the Vikes between the games in Week 2 and Week 3, Risner began his Vikings journey in the backup role behind starting guards Ed Ingram and Ezra Cleveland. A minor injury to Cleveland opened the door for the veteran fan favorite. Ultimately, Cleveland was traded to Jacksonville for a sixth-round selection, and Risner was named the starter for the remainder of the season.

Once his one-year deal expired, he entered the free agency pool. Risner was available a year ago throughout training camp and the first two weeks of the season, which was quite strange for a player of his caliber. He expected to receive more interest in his second year as a free agent but was disappointed.

Most starting-caliber players were signed in the initial wave of free agency in March, and some others were signed right after the draft when teams realized they couldn’t fill a certain hole in the draft. Risner remained available.

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Now the Vikings have re-signed him for another season. Risner is presumably the starting left guard, although there is still the minor chance that Brandel is somehow clinching the starting role in training camp.

Another aspect of Risner’s signing that can’t be underestimated is the backup plan he provides for Ed Ingram. He was noticeably better in his sophomore campaign than his rookie season, but he might not live up to expectations. In that case, the coaches still have a capable backup to take his spot.

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Long story short, Brandel has an outside chance to be the starter over Risner and an outside chance to replace Ingram. Much more likely is another season of backup duties. If one of the starters is forced to sit out because of an injury, having a solid replacement is essential.

Brandel has played in 39 games, including five starts. He has logged 503 snaps on offense and 161 on special teams.

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