UPDATE: The Vikings have officially announced the Risner signing on social media. The corresponding roster move is Oli Udoh being placed on injured reserve with his season-ending quad injury.
After a frustrating 0-2 start, the Minnesota Vikings finally decided to shore up the interior offensive line by signing the top free agent at the position. The Vikings have agreed to terms with former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner, sources tell Ian Rapoport. It’s a one-year deal worth $4 million, with $2.25 million guaranteed at signing.
The #Vikings are signing FA G Dalton Risner, sources say. The former #Broncos starter — and one of the top free agents available— lends valuable experience to Minnesota’s line. pic.twitter.com/6hM8fgKYj7— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 18, 2023
Risner, 28, was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft and started 62 games in his four seasons with the Broncos. Risner quickly established himself as an above-average starting left guard, only allowing 10 sacks on 2,304 pass-blocking snaps while also boasting the 10th-best run-block win rate (74%) among starting guards last season. His overall PFF grades have also been stellar, consistently hovering around 69-72.
Risner is pretty close with a couple of Vikings coaches. He previously played under offensive line coaches Chris Kuper and Justin Rascati during his time in Denver, with Kuper even attending Risner’s wedding. Risner worked out with the Vikings at training camp back in August, but a deal wasn’t reached. Kevin O’Connell confirmed that they brought Risner in for a workout stating: “We really just wanted to bring him in and get to know him a little bit better, use the process of a visit to do that and see if we could possibly take what we think is a strong group and make it even better.”
For a while, there was silence. The Vikings did not sign Dalton Risner during training camp, and they weren’t in contact with his representatives as of Monday, September 12th. It seemed like general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell were heavily invested in keeping the same starting five from last year, hoping that continuity on the offensive line would lead to improved performances. That clearly hasn’t happened, with the interior offensive line struggling in pass protection against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Vikings could’ve easily rested on their laurels, given that Tampa and Philly boast elite interior defensive lines. However, with Kirk Cousins in a contract year, and the NFC North well within reach after the entire division lost in Week 2, the Vikings felt a sense of urgency and decided to bolster a position that has been their Achilles heel for the longest time. Injuries to Garrett Bradbury, Oli Udoh, and Christian Darrisaw may have also played a part in the Vikings' decision to sign Risner.
It remains to be seen what the starting offensive line will look like in a pivotal matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. One thing that is certain, is that the Vikings are doing everything they can to remain competitive despite the 0-2 start.