It's already June, which means that teams have done their primary free agency spending for the offseason. Big-money deals have been handed out, and in many cases (if not most or all), the best players still sitting on the market can really hope for is a one-year prove-it deal to compete for a team this coming season. For former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner, the fact that he's still available in early June and facing the likelihood of those one-year deals is a bit shocking.
Risner was a second-round pick in 2019 out of Kansas State. He was the Denver Broncos' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2022. He won the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in 2022 as well, an award given to a Denver Broncos player by the Denver media. He has been a consistent starter for the last four years and is only 27 years old.
He dealt with some injury issues last year, but played through a lot as well. So what gives? Why is Dalton Risner still available as a free agent? Why hasn't any team signed him? Why didn't he receive a multi-year contract? A lot of people felt like Risner would receive a similar deal, if just a little lower, as we saw Ben Powers get from the Denver Broncos. Contract prognosticators were estimating Risner would receive at least $9-10 million per season on a multi-year deal in free agency, but he's not likely to come even close to that.
He might be lucky to get a one-year deal worth $5 million at this point. But why? Even if Risner struggled with consistency the last couple of seasons, teams in the NFL are desperate for offensive line help and Risner is a solid player who can help a lot of teams.
Again -- why is he unsigned? How?
Well, you can't help but wonder and speculate at this point if the reason Dalton Risner is unsigned at this point can be traced back to one particular event last Christmas. As the Denver Broncos were being destroyed by the Los Angeles Rams, Russell Wilson took one of a wide variety of sacks and as the offensive line came off the field, they got an earful from backup QB Brett Rypien.
Risner took issue with that, and actually shoved Rypien on the sideline. You can see video evidence of the dispute here:
The decision to shove Rypien was a horrendous one by Risner, regardless if he would have already been signed in NFL free agency or not. But NFL teams have clearly decided not to sign Risner at this point and if I were in charge of building a team, this might be a big reason why. Risner has always been one to get a little hot-headed on the field. He has had training camp scuffles in Denver before. He had a scuffle at the 2019 Senior Bowl with Zach Allen, now a member of the Denver Broncos. He's been called for unsportsmanlike conduct. This has been a consistent issue for Risner, letting his emotions get the better of him on the field, as nice and likable of a guy as he is off of it.
If Risner's fuse is short enough to do this in a game with the backup QB, teams might wonder if or when he might snap on the starting quarterback. Or another teammate. This wasn't just a light shove of Rypien, either. Risner gave him a pretty substantial push from a place of anger. Heat of the moment, sure, but this is an inexcusable move from an NFL offensive lineman. The QB is untouchable.
Risner has to know that, and every other NFL team undoubtedly saw this footage. When you're talking about bringing a guy like this into training camp, it's a little harder to justify given Risner's desired price tag. Not to mention, he's coming off of a year in which he landed on IR at the end of the season with a foot injury, and that also perhaps has something to do with it. Is his foot okay at this point? Is he able to pass a physical?
We haven't heard so much as a visit for Risner this offseason, much less the possibility of some team signing him. Considering he hasn't even reportedly taken visits, I'm more inclined to believe that Risner's availability this deep into the offseason isn't injury or recovery related. Though that is merely speculation.
As is the idea that teams have "blacklisted" him due to challenging Rypien on the sideline with the words, "Do something." As speculative as it may be, Risner has too many connections right now around the league, a league starved for good help on the offensive line, to simply be sitting in free agency.
Teams may be sending him a message, and they would be justified in doing so.