Dalton Risner

Vikings To Re-Sign G Dalton Risner

JUNE 4: The Vikings may end up having Risner back at less than his 2023 salary. The base value of Risner’s second Minnesota contract checks in at $1.91MM, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Risner will see a $1.41MM base salary; $600K of that amount is guaranteed. That six-figure sum, along with a $500K signing bonus, bumps the veteran guard’s guarantees here to $1.1MM.

Risner can earn up to $3.2MM on this deal, with Florio adding incentives and roster bonuses are in place. He can collect up to $340K in per-game roster bonuses; additionally, a $200K bonus for being on the Vikings’ Week 1 roster is included. To reach any of the playing time-based incentives, Risner must play at least 75% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps. The three-tiered $750K incentive package ranges from 75-85% snap rates.

MAY 29: Dalton Risner has logged two extensive stays in free agency since his rookie contract expired. For a second straight year, it will be the Vikings who end that period.

The veteran starter has an agreement in place to stay in Minnesota, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. Risner will rejoin the Vikings on a one-year deal. The team’s eventual Ezra Cleveland replacement, following a midseason trade, made 11 starts last season.

The past two offseasons have added some unexpected chapters to Risner’s NFL career. A Broncos starter in every game he played with his original franchise, the proven guard did not generate interest in free agency last year — to the point he entered the season unsigned. Although Risner made his way into Minnesota’s lineup early in his tenure, he once again failed to command a lucrative deal in free agency. Another Vikings parachute has emerged, however, and the five-year veteran will be a clear option to start once again.

After a handful of guards with similar experience to Risner scored quality deals as free agents in 2023, this year’s record-setting cap spike brought monster deals for a few. Robert Hunt is now a $20MM-per-year player, while four other guards (Jonah Jackson, Kevin Dotson, Damien Lewis, Jon Runyan Jr.) landed pacts worth at least $10MM per annum. Cleveland scored a three-year, $24MM pact to re-sign with the Jaguars. Risner did not join those blockers on PFR’s top 50 free agents list, as last year’s free agency odyssey lowered expectations. But he returned to deliver as a dependable starter for the Vikings, who likely have another low-cost agreement in place with the Kansas State alum.

Pro Football Focus assigned Risner a mid-pack grade at guard (46th) last season, but ESPN’s pass block win rate metric slotted him ninth. Risner, who played for just more than $2.5MM last season, ran his start count to 73 in 2023. It will be interesting to see the numbers here, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicates a 53-man roster bonus and per-game roster bonuses are present in this contract. The Vikes had re-signed Blake Brandel to a one-year, $3.25MM deal. While ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert notes Brandel worked with Minnesota’s first-stringers at OTAs, Risner’s return figures to affect the veteran backup’s standing.

Beginning his Twin Cities tenure as a backup behind Cleveland and Ed Ingram, Risner became a full-time player once the Vikes traded Cleveland to the Jaguars at the deadline. He initially replaced an injured Cleveland before becoming the team’s replacement. Two years remain on Ingram’s rookie contract, and the Vikes still have Christian Darrisaw tied to a rookie deal. Risner, 28, will now be on track to protect J.J. McCarthy — potentially after a span blocking for Sam Darnold — in 2024.

The Broncos used Risner as a four-season starter, pairing him with veteran guards Ronald Leary and Graham Glasgow before Quinn Meinerz‘s emergence. Sean Payton‘s first offseason in charge led to Ben Powers signing a four-year, $52MM deal. Risner will continue to pursue a significant veteran deal, but he has a path back to a starting role in the meantime.

Vikings, G Dalton Risner Agree To Deal

One of the top free agents still on the open market has found a home. Guard Dalton Risner has agreed to a deal with the Vikings, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 9News’ Mike Klis adds the one-year pact includes $2.5MM guaranteed and can reach a value of up to $4MM.

Risner was one of the best O-linemen in the 2023 free agent class, particularly amongst interior blockers. The 28-year-old saw a number of other guards ink lucrative deals at the onset of free agency – including Ben Powers, who is in place as Denver’s new left guard starter. Risner himself remained unsigned through the summer, and it was not until July that he reportedly picked up interest regarding a deal.

That included a visit with the Vikings, but no deal came about as a result. Minnesota has run into injury troubles up front to begin the campaign, however, and they have now circled back to the former second-rounder as an in-season addition. Risner’s preference was to join the Vikings, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes, and he will now have the opportunity to resume his career and boost his 2024 free agent stock.

The Kansas State alum logged 62 starts across his four Broncos campaigns, proving to be durable along the way. Risner drew consistent PFF evaluations during that span, with his pass protection receiving encouraging marks. He will look to maintain his level of play on a Vikings O-line which has seen Oli Udoh go down for the season while also dealing with injuries to left tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury

Ezra Cleveland and Ed Ingram are in place as the Vikings’ guard starters. It will be interesting to see if Risner unseats either of them for a first-team role or serves in a depth capacity along the interior. In any event, Minnesota has acquired a reinforcement up front while allowing Risner to land a new gig following his lengthy free agent stay.

Vikings Host G Dalton Risner On Visit

AUGUST 2: Risner left his Vikings visit without a deal in place, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. While Ingram may well be ticketed to keep his starting job, Kevin O’Connell said Reed does not have a return timetable just yet. Risner figures to have other options, with a handful of teams showing some degree of interest earlier this summer. But the Vikings may be in the market for a lower-priced guard should Reed not show progress.

JULY 31: One of the best remaining free agent linemen is heading out for a visit. Veteran offensive guard Dalton Risner is visiting with the Vikings, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter).

Risner was a 2019 second-round pick by the Broncos and proceeded to earn PFWA All-Rookie Team honors after starting all 16 games that season. The lineman ended up starting all 62 of his appearances in Denver, playing primarily at left guard.

This past season, the 28-year-old missed a pair of games thanks to an elbow injury but otherwise started all 15 of his appearances. When he was on the field, he didn’t do a whole lot to impress, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 42nd among 50 qualifying offensive guards in 2022. In fact, the site has never been all that fond of the lineman, with Risner peaking as the 28th-best guard in 2021.

As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert tweets, there’s little chance Risner would be brought in to battle guards Ezra Cleveland or Ed Ingram for their starting spots. Rather, Risner would be viewed as a depth piece in Minnesota, especially with the Vikings currently dealing with some injuries at the position. That includes Chris Reed, who is currently on the non-football injury list with an undisclosed issue.

With Reed sidelined, that leaves inexperienced options like Bobby Evans, Alan Ali, and Jack Snyder to soak up snaps at offensive guard. Risner would provide a bit of veteran know-how, especially when you consider his experience playing under Vikings OL coach Chris Kuper and assistant OL coach Justin Ruscati during the trio’s time in Denver.

Dalton Risner Drawing Free Agency Interest

The 2023 guard market produced four deals north of $7MM per year, but as Dalton Risner‘s top free agent peers committed to deals soon after the league year began, the four-year Broncos starter did not get what he wanted. Nearly three months later, Risner remains unsigned.

This might not continue for much longer. It sounds like Risner will have an opportunity soon, with 9News’ Mike Klis noting the former second-round pick has received interest from several teams. Seven clubs are in on Risner, and while that picture would present a bidding war, it is unlikely the offers are especially lucrative at this point in the offseason.

Still, Risner is one of the top players available. He joined Ben Powers, Isaac Seumalo and Nate Davis as guards on PFR’s top 50 free agents list. Powers will replace Risner in Denver, signing this offseason’s top guard deal (four years, $52MM; $27MM fully guaranteed). Davis signed for $10MM per year (with the Bears), while Seumalo received a three-year, $24MM pact from the Steelers. Connor McGovern also signed a three-year, $22.35MM deal with the Bills. The Broncos’ Powers pact came together quickly, being reported minutes after this year’s legal tampering period began. That effectively ensured Risner, a Colorado native, would need to land his second contract elsewhere.

Risner is going into his age-28 season. The Kansas State product started all 62 games he played in Denver, playing both left and right guard. Joining Garett Bolles as a Broncos O-line constant over the past four years, Risner will be looking for a new team — potentially a one-year audition to better position himself for success on the 2024 market — after the Broncos gave Powers his job. A Denver reunion is highly unlikely, with Powers joining emerging right guard Quinn Meinerz as the team’s starters.

A number of teams could still use guard help, however. Among guards, ESPN rated Risner as a top-10 pass blocker in 2022 and a top-10 run blocker in 2021. Pro Football Focus ranked Risner just outside the top 40 at guard last season; the advanced metrics site gave him a top-30 guard grade in 2021. Beyond Meinerz’s improvement, not much went right for the Broncos’ offense last season. While Risner helped Phillip Lindsay to the second of his 1,000-yard seasons to start his career back in 2019, the Broncos have not accomplished much offensively during the 2020s. Sean Payton is now in place to remedy that, and after rumblings of Risner residing behind Dre’Mont Jones in Denver’s free agency pecking order, the now-Payton-led team re-signed neither and pivoted to outside help on both their offensive and defensive lines.

Risner did finish his contract year on IR, having suffered a UCL sprain. It is worth wondering if the injury affected his market. It will be interesting to see where the veteran starter lands.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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Broncos To Prioritize Re-Signing Dre’Mont Jones, Want To Keep Alex Singleton

FEBRUARY 28: Paton confirmed he has both spoken with Jones and his agent, indicating he has had a number of talks with the free agent-to-be. But the Broncos are unlikely to tag Jones, Klis adds. This is unsurprising, given the team’s cap space and the lofty tag prices for D-linemen. Paton called Jones one of the team’s core players, but with a tag now highly unlikely, the deadline will be March 13 to keep him off the market. Paton also confirmed the Broncos want to bring back Singleton.

FEBRUARY 27: If the Broncos do not use their franchise tag on Dre’Mont Jones and are unable to reach a long-term agreement with the fifth-year defensive lineman by March 13, he would stand to be one of the top free agents available. But the Broncos will try to prevent him from hitting the market.

Long on the Broncos’ extension radar, Jones remains in that position now that Sean Payton and Vance Joseph are in place. GM George Paton will meet with Jones’ agent at the Combine this week, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes, adding the organization is prioritizing a second Jones contract.

Jones did not sound particularly enthused about a second Denver contract when asked back in November, but he changed his tune this offseason. The Ohio State product said he wants to come back. Although the Broncos drafted Jones months after firing Joseph as head coach, their new defensive coordinator runs a 3-4 scheme. Jones has lined up as a 3-4 defensive end starter over the past three seasons and has been one of the league’s steadier interior pass rushers.

A week away from the deadline to apply tags, Renck adds Broncos-Jones talks have not generated much progress (Twitter link). Jones, 26, stacks up as a fringe tag candidate but more likely can be classified as a player the Broncos want to keep but not tag. That said, the Broncos will consider it with Jones, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

The D-end tag checks in at $19.73MM; the D-tackle tag is $18.94MM. While Jones was on pace for a career-best season in 2022, he finished with 6.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Jones did have the fifth-most pressures among interior D-linemen before his hip injury, per Pro Football Focus. He would be a key player for Joseph to build around up front, alongside D.J. Jones, whose $10MM-per-year contract runs through 2024.

The Broncos have Justin Simmons signed to a top-five safety deal, but their talented defense does not have another player among his position’s top-10 highest-paid players. Patrick Surtain II will qualify for a mega-extension, but the team will likely look to table that until 2025 — ahead of the star cornerback’s fifth-year option season. Denver will need to find a sweet spot with Jones, who would qualify for an upper-echelon interior D-line contract but likely not a top-five accord at the position. A tag represents a last-resort measure, but it would hamstring the Broncos’ free agency budget ahead of a draft in which they lack first- or second-round picks. The Broncos will likely be active in creating cap space in the coming weeks, sitting on just more than $9MM in available funds.

Denver’s other top free agent, Dalton Risner, has long been viewed as behind Jones in the team’s pecking order. The four-year guard starter is likelier to test free agency, Renck writes, but Alex Singleton could be a candidate to stay. Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal after the Eagles non-tendered him as a restricted free agent, Singleton broke through for a staggeringly productive season — given his low rate. The former UDFA finished with 163 tackles — including two 20-plus-tackle performances — and slotted 10th among off-ball linebackers, per PFF.

Singleton will be in line for a raise this year, but with a crowded class of off-ball ‘backers set for free agency, it will be a buyer’s market. This and Singleton going into his age-30 season will work against him and potentially make the Montana State alum a reasonable option to stay in Denver.

Broncos G Dalton Risner Addresses Upcoming Free Agency

Dalton Risner is finishing out his Broncos rookie contract on IR, and while the Colorado native grew up a fan of the team, it does not sound like a hometown discount will be forthcoming.

The former second-round pick stands to be one of the better guards available in March. Denver’s previous regime drafted Risner, and the current one identified a younger well-performing guard — Quinn Meinerz. These factors could point Risner out of town, but he is not ruling out a return to Denver. The parties have not discussed a deal, however.

When it comes to this business, what everyone wants at some point as a player is to be valued,” Risner said, via Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. “So if the Broncos value me, and they want to keep me here and be a Denver Bronco, I can’t wait. That’s going to be one of the biggest things.

“But at the end of the day, it being a business… it’s like, ‘OK, where am I going to be valued at? Is it going to be with the Broncos or is it going to be somewhere else?

The Broncos traded Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins at the deadline, passing on a possible franchise tag or extension. The team looks to now view Dre’Mont Jones, who went off the 2019 draft board a round after Risner, as its top free agent priority. Jones was less diplomatic on a desire to stay in Denver, creating an interesting offseason outlook for a Broncos team coming off its worst season in at least 12 years. That said, if it comes down to paying Jones or Risner, Mike Klis of 9News expects Jones to be the choice.

Risner joins Garett Bolles as the longest-tenured Broncos O-linemen. The former was drafted during Mike Munchak’s time with the team. With the Broncos shifting to a zone-blocking scheme this season, Pro Football Focus viewed Risner as taking a slight step back. After a top-30 grade in 2021, PFF slots the four-year starter 44th among guards. The advanced metrics site places Meinerz fifth. Two years remain on Meinerz’s rookie contract. Risner, 27, leaving Denver would create a hole at guard. Considering the Broncos may be on the lookout for a center and will continue their endless search for right tackle stability, a third need emerging up front would increase this franchise’s surprisingly steep uphill battle in 2023.

Risner’s durability and experience still stand to produce a nice payday. He has started all 62 games in which he has played. Although the Packers took the top guard free agent-to-be (Elgton Jenkins) off the market, Nate DavisIsaac SeumaloWill HernandezBen Powers and Connor McGovern will be available. It is not hard to see a midlevel guard payment being required to sign Risner.

I’ve given it everything I had for four years here. … I put everything out there, whether it was a good game or a bad game,” Risner said. “… I grew up watching this team every single Sunday, so it’s a blessing for me to have played here. I look back and I’m thankful and I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

Broncos Place G Dalton Risner On IR; Sides Have Not Discussed Deal

The Packers extending Elgton Jenkins removed the top would-be free agent guard from the 2023 equation, but the Broncos have not made their intentions clear with one of the other proven guards on track to hit the market.

Dalton Risner may have already played his final game with his home-state team. The Broncos placed the fourth-year guard on IR on Tuesday. Risner suffered a UCL sprain in his left elbow, per 9News’ Mike Klis (on Twitter). He is not believed to need surgery, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets.

Not needing surgery represents good news for Risner’s chances of scoring a nice payday in 2023. The next contract might not come from the Broncos, Klis offers, and Renck adds no talks have taken place between the team and the Colorado native. Risner has stayed healthy for most of his career; Sunday will only be his fourth missed game as a pro.

Chosen 41st overall during a 2019 draft in which the Broncos also made the No. 42 overall choice (Drew Lock), Risner has started every game he has played. The Kansas State product has been one of the most consistent parts of an injury-riddled Broncos O-line, which has played most of the season without left tackle Garett Bolles and has lined up without right tackle Billy Turner and center Lloyd Cushenberry for much of the campaign. The Broncos have allowed an NFL-high 61 sacks this season.

Risner was part of an O-line that helped Phillip Lindsay to a 1,000-yard season in 2019. Pro Football Focus gave the former Day 2 pick his best career grade in 2021, when Javonte Williams showed tremendous promise as a rookie. PFF slots Risner outside the top 40 this season at the position while tabbing 2021 third-rounder Quinn Meinerz as a top-five guard. While Meinerz is not eligible for an extension until 2024, the current regime did draft the former Division III guard. Risner arrived in Denver during John Elway‘s GM run. Considering the trouble the Broncos have experienced up front this season, it would not surprise if their 2023 line looks considerably different.

In order for the Broncos to retain Risner, a midlevel guard payment — at least — will be required. Risner joins Nate Davis, Isaac Seumalo, Will Hernandez, Ben Powers and Connor McGovern as veteran starters available at guard. Davis joins Risner in finishing the season on IR.

Broncos HC Fallout: Penner, Paton, Payton, Hackett, Evero, Rosburg, Rypien, Risner

George Paton‘s status with the Broncos has taken some hits this week. Although the second-year GM is set to remain in his post, it appears the decisions to hire Nathaniel Hackett and trade for Russell Wilson have cost him.

New Broncos CEO Greg Penner is set to play a major role in the team’s next HC hire, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. With the Broncos still in the process of putting the team up for sale when they conducted the search that produced Hackett, Paton led the hiring process. Penner said he will rely on Paton during the team’s latest hiring effort, but with it being the new ownership’s first HC search, it should be expected the GM will not have final say.

Paton’s situation reminds somewhat of Joe Douglas‘ with the Jets, though the former has not been on the job as long. Douglas has rebuilt the Jets’ defense to the point the team is a playoff contender, and this year’s draft class has helped the team considerably. But the Zach Wilson investment has gone south fast. Paton passed on Justin Fields for burgeoning star cornerback Patrick Surtain II and landed high-end starters Javonte Williams and Quinn Meinerz in Rounds 2 and 3, while also adding outside linebacker Baron Browning on Day 2 of last year’s draft. Denver collected first- and fourth-round picks for Bradley Chubb at this year’s deadline, helping to fill the draft-capital void created by the Wilson trade. While several of Paton’s moves have worked out, the Wilson-Hackett partnership undercut them and has the former Vikings lieutenant on thinner ice.

It is not known if Paton or ownership pushed to have Wilson signed long-term before this season. Conversations ramped up once Penner arrived along with Rob Walton, and the team wanted to avoid waiting until 2023 to extend the QB. But the five-year, $245MM extension is off to a shockingly poor start. Penner announcing that the next HC will report to him and not Paton strips the latter’s power to the point Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk posits the next Broncos coach will have the chance to run the football operation. Paton, 52, has held that role since arriving last year.

The Broncos have experienced ups and downs with a coach running the show, going from Mike Shanahan in this role to the overmatched Josh McDaniels, who held de facto GM power upon being hired in 2009. Considering new ownership’s deep pockets and a potential offer to run football operations, the Broncos would present an intriguing opportunity for an experienced head coach. That is believed to be the direction Denver heads this time, after seeing first-time hires Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett underwhelm.

I’ve worked with a lot of great CEOs, and it starts with really strong leadership,” Penner said. “I think that’s going to be the most critical factor here in a head coach. Obviously the X’s and O’s are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning. That starts with culture, it’s instilling a sense of accountability, discipline, and we need an identity on offense. At the starting point, it’s got to be about culture and leadership, and those characteristics are what we’ve focused on the most.”

Frank Reich, Jim Harbaugh, Dan Quinn and Sean Payton are believed to be on the early radar. The Broncos could make a strong run at Payton, Fowler adds, though it is not certain the former Saints HC is interested. Harbaugh has a relationship with Broncos consultant John Elway, who ran the team’s football ops for 10 years, and minority owner Condoleezza Rice due to each’s Stanford ties. Rice worked with Harbaugh during his time with the Cardinal, per Florio, adding an interesting wrinkle to the upcoming search.

As for the team’s current setup, interim HC Jerry Rosburg said (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter) DC Ejiro Evero declined the chance to be the interim option out of loyalty to Hackett. Evero and Hackett have been friends since they were college teammates at UC-Davis. The league has also shifted away from promoting interim coaches, with Doug Marrone being the most recent such hire back in 2017. The Broncos still want to interview Evero, though the first-time DC does not profile as an experienced candidate.

Rosburg, 67, also said (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, on Twitter) it was his decision to fire special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes and offensive line coach Butch Barry. Both were Hackett hires. Rosburg also confirmed it was Paton, not Hackett, who brought him out of retirement to be the team’s game management assistant. Hackett’s run of issues during the season’s first two weeks led to the hire. The sideline confrontation between Brett Rypien and Dalton Risner also contributed to the early Hackett dismissal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link), as it was a sign the first-year coach was losing the team. Penner said off-field matters led to the early firing. Randy Gregory, who threw a punch at Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and faced a suspension, cited Hackett’s tenuous status as HC in his successful appeal to the league, Klis tweets.

Broncos Notes: Hamilton, Washington, Risner

As the official takeover of the Broncos by the Rob Walton-led group draws nearer, another significant name has been added to the list of people set to become the franchise’s new owners. Less than one month after Condoleezza Rice joined the group, the team announced a second noteworthy arrival.

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has joined the ownership group, per a statement from Walton. It added that the team is “delighted” to bring the 37-year-old into the fold, and that his “resilient sprit and and standard of excellence will be an asset to the ownership group and the Broncos organization.”

In 2020, Hamilton became the all-time winningest driver in the series’ history in terms of grand Prix victories, adding to his lengthy list of individual records. His seven World Championships place him in a tie for the No. 1 spot in that regard. He represents another unique addition to the expanding ownership group, which is expected to be confirmed via a league vote later this month.

Here are couple other notes from the Mile High City:

  • Rookie receiver Montrell Washington faces steep competition for snaps on offense, given the presence of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and KJ Hamler. He could earn a role on special teams right away, however; Troy Renck of Denver7 reports that Washington is currently the frontrunner to be the team’s punt returner. During his career at Samford, the fifth-rounder showcased his ability in the third phase, averaging 16.4 yards per punt return, totaling four touchdowns in that department. Renck adds that Washington has also impressed as a receiver, so a rotational role (especially in the absence of Tim Patrick, who will likely miss the 2022 campaign with a torn ACL) isn’t out of the question.
  • Left guard Dalton Risner has shed considerable weight this offseason, per Renck. The 27-year-old has dropped to just over 300 pounds, having previously came in at 325. A full-time starter in each of his three seasons with the team, Risner will be a key member of the Broncos’ offensive line, widely regarded as the x-factor in the offense’s 2022 success with Russell Wilson and a highly-regarded group of skill position players surrounding him.