Dalton Risner, Vikings Have Mutual Interest in Reunion

Dalton Risner
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Early last season, when the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line was struggling, criticism towards the front office mounted. Fans wanted to see Dalton Risner, arguably the top free agent guard available, signed to a contract. It took awhile, but they eventually made the move on Risner.

But now, the 28-yearold veteran is set for free agency, and he’s expressed an interest in returning to the Vikings, who have an interest in getting Risner back under contract. When Darren ‘Doogie’ Wolfson (SKOR North, KSTP) was asked what the Vikings’ plans were along the offensive line this offseason, he made it known that keeping Dalton Risner is on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s priority list for this offseason.

“Yes. Definite interest. Dalton Risner, yes, interest. That was verbalized in Indianapolis. Definite interest. Doesn’t mean it’s a done deal yet. Yes he wants to be back badly, so there is a mutual interest. But, like are they willing to invest decent money in a guard?”

Darren ‘Doogie’ Wolfson on Dalton Risner’s interest in returning to Vikings

Dalton Risner wants to move on new contract quickly

On Risner’s side, he’s looking to sign as soon as possible, ideally with the Vikings. Yet, with other big decisions to make at quarterback, plus Danielle Hunter’s pending free agency, the Vikings may have bigger priorities, but that shouldn’t impact Dalton’s ability to receive a fair contract.

Fortunately for the Vikings, Risner is not expected to demand a salary near what former teammate Ezra Cleveland just got. If Kwesi can get a deal done, they should get a similar-level of production out of Risner, but at a fraction of the cost, not to mention the 6th round pick they got for Cleveland when they traded him mid-2023.

Related: Vikings Interested in DT Christian Wilkins, Among Other Top Defensive Free Agents

The Vikings knew they either didn’t have interest in re-signing Cleveland or possibly that they wouldn’t want to pay him that rate. Or maybe it was Cleveland who didn’t want to play in Minnesota. Either way, he’s in Jacksonville now.

How we got here

Dalton Risner
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to signing with the Vikings Risner showed very public interest in playing in Minnesota, where he’d get to reunite with offensive line coach Chris Kuper from their days with the Broncos. After an 0-2 start to the season, the pressure to sign Risner only amplified.

Then, before Week 3 began, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Risner struck a deal, inking the fifth-year pro to a one-year, $3 million contract. Fans believed the plan was for Risner to take over for the struggling Ed Ingram at right guard, yet that’s not what happened.

Related: Harrison Smith Unlikely to Retire; Return to Vikings No Guarantee Though

Instead, the Vikings wound up trading their starting left guard, soon-to-be free agent Ezra Cleveland, to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2024 sixth-round pick. By the way, Cleveland just re-signed with Jacksonville on a three-year, $28.5M contract.

Cleveland’s departure opened up a starting spot for Risner, who ended up being a vastly better player in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus. Not only was Risner’s pass block grade much better (67.4 to 57.4), but he graded 40th among all guards, which is actually lower than Cleveland’s, who ranked 34th. However, keep in mind that the Vikings were paying Risner $3 million, and now Cleveland is getting paid $9.5 million per season.

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