Former Vikings Guard Gets Beefy Contract with Jaguars

Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland (72) blocks Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (97) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Last year at the trade deadline, Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cleveland was heading into the final year of his rookie contract with Minnesota, and now, the former Vikings starting left guard has received a pretty large deal to remain in Jacksonville for the next three seasons.

Former Vikings Guard Gets New Contract

Vikings Guard
Nov 1, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates with offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland (72) after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The contract was reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who tweeted, “The #Jaguars and standout G Ezra Cleveland have agreed to terms on a new 3-year deal worth $28.5M, sources say, with $14.5M guaranteed. Jacksonville traded for Cleveland last season and moved quickly to keep him off the market in a deal done by Ron Slavin of @SPORTSTARSNYC.”

Cleveland was selected by the Vikings in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Boise State. After playing his entire collegiate career for the Broncos at the left tackle position, Minnesota opted to change his position to right guard for his rookie season, seeing as Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill had already filled the two starting tackle spots.

After Pat Elflein and Dru Samia split starts over the first five games of the 2020 season, Cleveland made his first NFL start in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons where he remained for the rest of the year. Following the conclusion of the season, he moved over to the left guard spot for the remainder of his time with the Vikings.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Mason Cole (52) and Ezra Cleveland (72) and offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) wait to take the field to play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland developed into a solid starting guard with the Vikings, but a foot injury took him out of the lineup in 2023. As a result, Dalton Risner stepped into the starting lineup and proved to be serviceable at the position.

Risner’s performance opened up the Vikings’ chance to trade Cleveland, and in return, they got a sixth-round pick for the guard. At the time, it was an interesting choice by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, but Minnesota ran the risk of losing him for nothing if they let him walk into free agency this offseason.

Cleveland’s deal with the Jaguars, again worth $28.5 million in total money, ranks as the 14th-higest contract for a guard in the NFL, per Spotrac. Considering the Vikings’ needs at other position, it seems unlikely that they would have handed Cleveland such a contract, so the trade ultimately looks like a smart decision.

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

Cleveland will turn 26 years old on May 8th.


Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Focus and Spotrac helped with this article.

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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