TRADE: Vikings Send Ezra Cleveland to the Jaguars

Not 30 minutes after the Vikings made a trade to bring in QB Joshua Dobbs, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has swung another deal.

This time around, though, Minnesota is sending away a player rather than acquiring one.

The Vikings have agreed to a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars that will send Ezra Cleveland to the AFC South, and in return, the Vikings acquire a 2024 sixth-round pick.

Vikings Send Ezra Cleveland to the Jaguars

Ezra Cleveland
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) snaps the football along side of guard Ezra Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the trade, tweeting, “The #Vikings are trading standout guard Ezra Cleveland to the #Jaguars, per me, @TomPelissero and @MikeGarafolo. One of the better young players at his position, Cleveland moves on to beef up another O-line in exchange for a third-day draft pick.”

The Vikings selected Cleveland in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and to begin the year, he was playing his best football of his career. PFF has ranked him as the 11th-best guard in the league, and the most notable improvement has been in pass protection.

After being graded in the 50s throughout the first years of his career, Cleveland has been graded at 72.3 this season, tied for the 17th-best at guard.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) and guard Ezra Cleveland (72) greet fans after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

A sixth-round selection certainly is a light price for a starting caliber guard who is just entering the peak of his career, but there are a couple things to keep in mind with this deal.

Firstly, Cleveland was set to enter free agency in March. With the improvements he has made this season, there was a strong chance he was looking to get a big payday in the spring. With that in mind, Minnesota may not have been close enough in terms of a price.

The Vikings also brought in Dalton Risner during the season, and with Cleveland dealing with a foot injury over the past couple weeks, the veteran has looked like a serviceable replacement.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and Minnesota Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland (72) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings believe it will be cheaper to retain Risner this offseason (who also is on just a one-year deal), then this trade makes a bit more sense. Minnesota also has Blake Brandel waiting in the wings, so they have plenty of depth at the position right now.

As for Cleveland’s future, he now joins a Jaguars squad that is near the top of the AFC and could make a deep playoff run. One of their few weaknesses has been at the offensive line, so the hope is that their new guard can help in that area.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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