Vikings Offensive Lineman Is Projected to Get a Large Contract in Free Agency

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have a multitude of players set to hit free agency this offseason.

This list includes Dalton Risner, who played left guard for the Vikings offensive line after Ezra Cleveland suffered a foot injury and was later traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In total, the Vikings offensive lineman played 15 games this season and started 11 games.

It also seemed like Risner would be one of the cheaper players to retain this upcoming offseason, given the fact that he remained unsigned until September. However, Pro Football Focus’ salary cap wizard, Brad Spielberger, recently published his list of the top 100 free agents, and his projection for Risner makes it seem as if he could pull a pretty penny this offseason.

Vikings Offensive Lineman Projected to Get Large Contract

Vikings Offensive Lineman
Aug 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Dalton Risner (66) in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Spielberger listed Risner as the 65th free agent on his list, sandwiched between EDGE Denico Autry (No. 64) and S Julian Blackmon (No. 66). In this spot, the cap analyst projected Risner to get a three-year deal worth a total of $24 million and $15 million in guarantees.

Here is how Spielberger defended the projection:

Risner’s 2023 free agency didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, so he bided his time before joining the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks into the season on a one-year flier. Risner quickly supplanted Ezra Cleveland at left guard and has been a plus pass protector for the fifth season in a row.

Risner does well to initiate contact with a solid punch, ensuring he doesn’t expose his chest or get his hands swatted away. Even on bull rushes where Risner is driven back and gives up pressure, he keeps his feet square and stays in front of the rusher to prevent a hit on the quarterback, frequently providing this signal-caller with just enough time to still get a pass off.

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) reacts with tight end Josh Oliver (84) and guard Dalton Risner (66) after a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For context, Risner signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Vikings this year, so this would be quite a bump up in pay for the left guard.

Risner did have a strong season in Minnesota, though, particularly as a pass-protector. PFF graded him at 67.4 in pass protection this season, which ranked 21st among guards with at least 300 pass-blocking snaps. That being said, his run-blocking left much to be desired (graded at 50.0 by PFF in this department).

If the Vikings starter did pull this much money in free agency, his annual value of $8 million would rank tied for the 23rd-highest among guards in the NFL for the 2024 season alongside Isaac Seumalo of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Similarly to Risner, Seumalo is a positive presence in pass-protection, but in addition, he is plenty capable of holding his own as a run-blocker.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) celebrates after a touchdown with guard Dalton Risner (66) against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Should Risner actually command this much money in free agency, there is a question of whether or not Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would be willing to shell out the money to keep him around.

The Vikings GM has not been particularly eager to pay offensive linemen top money to this point in his tenure in Minnesota. When Garrett Bradbury entered free agency last offseason, Adofo-Mensah decided to bring him back on a modest three-year contract worth $15.75 million rather than go out and grab a top player in free agency.

Brian O’Neill’s contract extension (which Rick Spielman offered him prior to the 2021 season) was also restructured to free up cap space in 2023.

If Risner were to head elsewhere in 2024, the Vikings would need to figure out a new starter at that left guard spot for next season. Blake Brandel would be an option, but even if they go that route, Minnesota still should find some extra depth at the guard position. It will certainly be an area of the field to keep an eye on as free agency and the draft get closer.

Editor’s Note: Contractual information for this article were found via Over the Cap, Pro Football Focus, and Spotrac.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of 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.