After four Denver Broncos seasons, Dalton Risner’s future uncertain as free agency beckons

Jan 5, 2023, 8:30 PM | Updated: 8:36 pm

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Dalton Risner doesn’t know for certain what the next few months have for him.

But Thursday, he sounded very much like a man preparing to say his goodbye to the Broncos.

Risner spoke after being awarded the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, an honor given to a Broncos player each year for cooperation with the media. His season is complete; a left elbow injury landed him on injured reserve this week. He wore a bulbous brace as he answered questions.

And the end of his season could mean the end of his Broncos career. As a four-year veteran, his rookie contract expires after Sunday. He is set to hit free agency. And unlike some other Broncos in recent years with expiring contracts — players such as wide receivers Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton in 2021, left tackle Garett Bolles in 2020 and fullback Andy Janovich in 2019 — no in-season contract came his way.

What Risner wants is simple in theory: to be valued. And the way to show value in the NFL is measured in dollars.

“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,” Risner said.

“But at the end of the day, it being a business, me entering this next area of my life, it’s like, ‘OK, where am I going to be valued at?’ Is it going to be the Broncos? Is it going to be somewhere else?”

Indeed, Risner’s future seems more likely to be somewhere else — although he remains open to returning.

“We’re just excited to see what happens, and if that’s the case here, then, I can’t wait, man,” Risner said. “That would be awesome.”

Still, it’s wise to prepare for the end of this chapter of his football life. That was why he spent part of his time at the lectern thanking coaches, shouting out Vic Fangio, Nathaniel Hackett and line coaches Mike Munchak and Butch Barry. He gave thanks to three public-relations staffers. He offered his thanks to the team’s community-relations manager, Liz Jeralds.

Risner said he was “grateful.” Over and over. And often, he referred to his years as a Bronco in the past tense.

“Leaving every game, putting everything out there on the field and saying, ‘I had nothing left. I put everything out there.’ Whether it was a good game or a bad game of mine. And that’s something I’m really proud of,” Risner said.

“I’m not getting done with four years with the Broncos and looking back and saying, ‘Man, I could have done a lot better in areas. I left a lot out there. I didn’t show up when I needed to. I wasn’t a good leader. I wasn’t good in the community. I wasn’t good to people. I didn’t give my all in practice.’

“I’m able to leave and say, ‘I did all of those things.’ And I’m really proud of that.”

For four years, the native of Wiggins, Colo. got to live his lifelong dream.

“And I’m really just thankful that I was able to be a Bronco for four years. Thankful for John Elway for drafting me, man. Like, that’s a dream come true. I’m from an hour-and-a-half down the road. A town of 800 people. And every year, I get to be in the NFL, and on top of that, be a Denver Bronco? I grew up watching this team every single Sunday.

“I know you guys have probably heard it, and you’re like, ‘Dalton, we’ve heard this 100 times.’ But that’s a blessing for me. I’m so grateful for that.”

And while he admits he’s open to returning, there is a part of him that anticipates the unknown, too.

“If it’s the Broncos, and the Broncos want to keep me here, I’ll be so grateful to be a Denver Bronco. And I’d love to be able to do that,” he said.

“But it’s kind of a hard question to answer, right? Because at this point, you’ve just gotta be excited to see what comes. And whatever it is, you’ve gotta be able to be excited for. And me and (wife) Whitney are ready for that.”



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