Standout defensive end Everson Griffen’s future with the Minnesota Vikings appears to be in considerable doubt after the team’s latest playoff failure.
With a potential cap hit of more than $13.8 million next season, whether Everson Griffen stays around or not will be another critical decision that general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer will have to make for the Minnesota Vikings during the 2020 offseason.
There is no doubting the influence that Griffen has had on the Vikings in recent years.
Griffen’s production on the field has been exceptional this term, which has now made his contract voidable due to him reaching the necessary targets and benchmarks, something that could potentially make him a free agent heading into the spring.
Playing 78 percent of Minnesota’s snaps throughout the 2019 season, Griffen totaled 9.5 sacks and played a considerable role in the team’s upset playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints after Zimmer moved him and Danielle Hunter to the defensive tackle spot to pressure Drew Brees from the interior.
Speaking about his future, Griffen recently expressed his desire to remain with the Vikings in 2020.
“I want to be here. I love this team. I love this organization. They took great care of me when I needed it the most. I want to be a Viking. We’ll see what happens.”
While that might seem like a generic reaction for anyone heading into contract talks, it bares more significance when you consider just what the former fourth-round pick out of USC has had to endure over the last two years.
Griffen has battled personal demons to not only play a huge role in the team’s success this season, but to also re-emerge as a locker room leader who has influenced younger members of Minnesota’s roster considerably.
The Vikings gave him the necessary time away from the game to improve his mindset and mental health, something which brought almost instant results upon his return to competitive action.
The NFL is a cutthroat business at times and acts of such care are not normally associated with franchises (see Josh Gordon). Griffen’s recent statement indicates he owes a debt of gratitude that may be reflected when negotiations regarding a possible stay get underway in the coming weeks.
Griffen’s influence on fellow Minnesota defensive end, Danielle Hunter, is also something that cannot be underestimated.
The explosive, young pass-rusher has stated on more than one occasion that Griffen has been one of the most influential figures in his rise to stardom, providing the 25-year-old with a strong role model and someone he can go to for advice about on and off-field issues.
Should Griffen and the Vikings decide to part ways this year, it would represent another blow to a locker room that could look very different by the time OTAs roll around in the spring.
Anthony Harris and Trae Waynes are free agents, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes may be released to ease salary cap concerns, and key role players such as C.J. Ham and Rashod Hill’s contracts are also up for renewal.
Add this to Dalvin Cook’s desire to get a lucrative new deal and the possibility of an extension to quarterback Kirk Cousins, it would appear that Griffen would have to take a considerable pay cut in order to extend his nine-year stay in Minneapolis.
Whether he would want to do that at this stage of his career or not remains to be seen, but Griffen owes the Vikings nothing.
His game came on leaps and bounds under the tutelage of defensive guru Zimmer, which elevated him from a situational pass rusher to an every-down lineman more dominant than most in the NFL operating in that position.
Football is a business and one that rarely rewards veteran players who have produced consistently over a prolonged period of time. But judging by the way Griffen performed this season, there is plenty of life in the veteran yet.
Minnesota is renowned for giving extensions to those that show they are capable of producing, but there is sure to be plenty of interest from the rest of the league in a player who could easily make a difference on a title-contending team in 2020.