We’ve seen enough middling offensive line play the past few seasons. The Vikings clearly still have a need on their offensive interior. OG Dalton Risner is still a free agent. This is a perfect match that will go a long way to keeping QB Kirk Cousins upright and able to deliver deep passes to Justin Jefferson.
Risner was a second-round pick from the Denver Broncos, and he is still only 27 years old. He has 62 career starts over his four seasons in the NFL. The young guard stabilized a shaky Broncos offensive line and earned All-Rookie honors from the PFWA and PFF. Risner would provide an upgrade over LG Ezra Cleveland almost immediately, as he would slot in to his natural position on the left side right away.
The Vikings selected Cleveland in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft from Boise State. Originally a tackle in college, Minnesota transitioned him to guard because of concerns with his smaller size against premier NFL edge-rushers. Cleveland has done a remarkable job in the run game, but he has consistently struggled in pass protection. PFF gave the LG an 80.3 run blocking grade for the 2022 season. His pass blocking score was a dreadful 53.2, however.
Vikings fans are familiar with watching whoever starts at QB be hit hard and often over most of the past decade. Now, after the success of Netflix’s hit series Quarterback, there is tremendous exposure of just how badly hurt Cousins was in almost every game because of the team’s inability to stop opponents’ pass rush.
The Vikings recently waived CB John Reid and signed TE Colin Thompson on Monday. This leaves them with 90 players on the roster, but they still have an open roster spot. OLB Junior Aho is part of the International Player program and does not count towards the 90-man roster. The team has cap space, with just over $18 million, heading into the 2023 season. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can free more space with extensions to TJ Hockenson and Justin Jefferson as well.
It remains to be seen if the Vikings are waiting to make one more splash free agent signing. If they do, though, Risner is likely the best option. Following a fantastic 13-4 campaign in 2022, the team is looking for ways to create similar success. What better way to do so than keeping the offense humming and protecting the star QB with a proven lineman. Reports are that there is another potential roster move coming, pending a physical. Will Risner be the next piece for Minnesota in an offseason of significant roster changes?