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Vikings beef up the interior by signing guard Dalton Risner

After months of speculation, the Minnesota Vikings signed free agent offensive guard Dalton Risner Monday afternoon. According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the deal is reportedly one year for $4 million. Risner, a former second-round selection out of Kansas State, previously spent the previous four years with the Denver Broncos. He was selected to the 2019 Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie Team and started in 62 games for the Broncos organization.

A potential fix for the 2023 season

Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Minnesota Vikings interior offensive line has struggled and was a bit of a concern heading into the 2023 season. Center Garrett Bradbury is also missing time with a back injury.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles, second-year right guard Ed Ingram has struggled both in the run and pass game. He’s on track to allow 60 pressures, nine sacks, and 34 quarterback hits, meaning a repeat of an up-and-down performance we saw in 2022. While he’s known more for being a polished run-blocker, that number has taken a step backward, too, as through the first couple of weeks, Ingram has posted PFF run-blocking grades of 57.4 and 47.9. This also included him literally swiping the football out of Kirk Cousins’ hands against the Bucs.

Risner during the 2022 regular season posted pass blocking grades of 60-plus eight times. This equals the combined amount by both Ingram and left guard Ezra Cleveland over the past 19 regular season games, and let’s not forget it was Cleveland who was driven back into Cousins’ face by Dexter Lawrence during the Vikings NFC Wild Card Round loss to the New York Giants.

Back to the 2023 season, the Vikings have failed to generate any sort of run game. Ranking 31st in rushing attempts (26), Minnesota has averaged 2.7 yards per carry through its run game. Alexander Mattison simply has nowhere to run due to the inefficient play of the interior of the offensive line.

Also a potential long-term answer as well?

After the conclusion of the 2023 regular season, Cleveland is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 25. He is naturally an offensive tackle and may want to return to the position he played at Boise State. Risner is four years older than Cleveland, but guards have shown they can play at a high level into their 30’s (Kevin Zeitler and Zack Martin, for example), and Risner has played all four seasons at the left guard position.

There are a few top tier free agent guard on the market for the 2024 off-season and it’s a hit or miss when it comes to drafting one. The Vikings seem to be committed to letting Ingram get through his growing pains, and the answer to the question marks opposite of him could be Risner if he gets the opportunity to play.

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