For all his faults, Dalton Risner could still start for Broncos in '23
Dalton Risner is still a free agent and probably has not gotten an offer he likes. Could the Denver Broncos still bring him back, and could he actually start in 2023? The Broncos picking Risner in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft seemed universally loved by the fanbase.
He was one of the best OL prospects in that class and fell into the Broncos' lap. He was also the team's best offensive lineman in his rookie season and it seemed as if Denver had found a long-term answer at the guard spot.
Well, the last three years proved to not be the case. Since that stellar 2019 season, Risner has struggled mightily. He constantly got beat in pass protection and never seemed to be able to pick up a defensive stunt.
His shove of Brett Rypien on the sideline during the Broncos' Christmas Day game this past season was also a giant turn-off for many, and the team signing Ben Powers in free agency indicated that Risner was probably not returning.
But could there be a spot for him still along the offensive line? Possibly. I'm not saying that I endorse this as I think Risner isn't starting caliber material and I'm not so sure he's that loved in the locker room. However, what if free agency continues through the NFL Draft and Risner still doesn't have a new team?
In that case, his best option might be to return to Denver, and what if the Broncos made him an offer on a one-year deal? For example, Shelby Harris had this same situation happen to him a few years ago. The rumors were that Harris was going to land a rich contract in free agency, and it never came. He then returned to Denver for one year on a much smaller contract than he had expected.
What if the Broncos do the same with Risner? Could they slide him a one-year contract offer for a couple million dollars? Perhaps. I also think they could take this a bit further and move Quinn Meinerz over to center and insert Risner at the right guard spot.
That might seem a bit odd, but center has been an iffy spot for Denver for a couple of years, and I'd have full confidence that Meinerz could settle that spot for the long term. And with better coaching, could Risner return to at least an average starting level? Sure.
Sean Payton will bring the best out of his players and while I am low on Risner, I do think being put in an advantageous situation could benefit his play.
An offensive line from left to right of Bolles-Powers-Meinerz-Risner-McGlinchey has a ton of potential and might be a better solution than something like Bolles-Powers-rookie-Meinerz-McGlinchey.
Of course, Denver could always look to sign someone like Connor McGovern or Ben Jones. Two above-average starters at the center position are there for the taking, but a Risner return to Denver could still happen.