Former Vikings draft pick reportedly lands a big-money contact

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive guard Ezra Cleveland
Jacksonville Jaguars offensive guard Ezra Cleveland / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Former Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Ezra Cleveland has reportedly agreed to a new three-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth $28.5 million.

Last October, the Minnesota Vikings made the decision to trade offensive guard Ezra Cleveland in the middle of his fourth season with the franchise. The Vikings wound up landing a sixth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for Cleveland.

Cleveland had become expendable after a foot injury forced him to miss some time in 2023 and he was replaced in Minnesota's starting lineup by Dalton Risner. The Vikings liked what they saw from Risner out on the field, and ultimately, it resulted in them trading Cleveland to the Jaguars.

The former Minnesota offensive lineman was scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, but on Thursday, Jacksonville reportedly signed him to a new deal to keep him around for a little bit longer.

Former Minnesota Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland signs multi-year contract with Jacksonville Jaguars

With the NFL's 2024 free agency period now set to begin in less than a week, teams around the league are running out of time to sign their own free agents before they hit the market.

On Thursday, the Jaguars were able to prevent Cleveland from hitting free agency this offseason when they reportedly agreed to a new three-year contract worth up to $28.5 million, according to ESPN's Michael DiRocco. The deal also includes $14.5 million in guaranteed money.

After he was acquired in the middle of the 2023 campaign, Cleveland wound up appearing in a total of nine games for Jacksonville last season, including five starts.

Among 79 qualifying guards in the NFL in 2023, the former Vikings blocker finished with the 38th-best offensive grade from PFF.

In comparison, Risner finished with the 46th-best offensive grade from PFF last season among qualifying guards. However, Risner's pass-blocking grade from PFF in 2023 (20th-best) was much better than Cleveland's (48th-best).

Cleveland's new contract is something for Minnesota to keep in mind as they decide whether or not to re-sign Risner, who is currently scheduled to become a free agent this offseason.

Risner is likely going to want an average annual salary that is either similar to what Cleveland is getting in his new deal ($9.5 million) or one that is higher than what the former Vikings offensive lineman will be getting from the Jaguars.

Before he was traded to Jacksonville in the middle of the 2023 campaign, Cleveland spent the first three seasons of his career with Minnesota after they selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

His best year in a Vikings uniform was in 2022 when he finished with the eighth-best offensive grade from PFF among 77 qualifying guards around the NFL.