Vikings Let Top Free Agent Walk After Visit: Report

Dalton Risner

Getty Images Dalton Risner runs onto the field during a 2019 preseason game.

The Minnesota Vikings hosted one of the top guards available in free agency on Tuesday, August 1, but allowed him to walk.

Former Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner visited the Vikings training facility in Eagan, Minnesota, on August 1, but left the state without a contract, 9NEWS’ Mike Klis reported.

“Dalton Risner had a positive visit with Vikings but left without signing,” Klis wrote, adding that Risner has three other teams that are interested in the veteran lineman.

The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling reported the same day that “there could be a deal at some point,” but he wouldn’t “expect one is imminent.”

Vikings Guards on Notice After Dalton Risner Visit

Risner is the top free-agent guard available currently and was ranked third at the beginning of the offseason by Pro Football Focus (PFF).

“Risner offered consistency along a Broncos offensive line that had anything but at every other position, logging almost 1,000 snaps before unfortunately missing the season finale with an elbow injury,” his free-agent profile on PFF reads. “Before going down, Risner earned his second consecutive pass-blocking grade above 70.0, with a 65.7 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets that ranked 22nd among guards. It’s a great time for Risner to hit free agency, with a short list of quality interior offensive linemen available. Risner is right at the top of that list.”

Kevin O’Connell kept his cards close to his chest for the reasons to bring in Risner, saying they just wanted to “get to know him a little better” and are considering adding more depth at guard.

However, O’Connell did make a telling comment when asked whether Risner would be seen solely as competition at left guard or if both spots were open for competition for the veteran guard.

“His predominant history is on that left side, that’s one of the reasons why you bring a player on a visit, to have those conversations,” O’Connell said, referring to asking Risner about his comfort in playing the right guard spot. “We feel very comfortable about his answer to that question and would put that plan into place as far as his competition to try and earn a significant role on our team.”

O’Connell’s comment seemingly puts right guard  Ed Ingram on notice, although  Ezra Cleveland could also be challenged dependent on how their camp performances pan out.

Ingram led the league in pressures allowed last season with 58, while Cleveland was third with 53, according to PFF. Risner, on the other hand, allowed just 29 pressures across 967 snaps in 2022.

Vikings Considering Continuity on Offensive Line

While Risner seems to be an immediate upgrade over either guard spot, it’s not that simple for a position group that tends to equal the sum of its parts.

Continuity on the offensive line has been the biggest calling card for Minnesota this offseason, which is expected to improve with tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill spearheading the offensive line.

The Vikings re-signed center Garrett Bradbury, whose chemistry with Kirk Cousins was undoubtedly considered when looking at bringing back the former first-round pick.

But pressure up the middle was the most consistent threat that led to Cousins being hit more than any other quarterback.

Both Ingram and Cleveland appear safe for now, but as camp progresses, Risner may be called upon to compete if either guard does not fit O’Connell’s expectations for the 2023 season.

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