The Minnesota Vikings have long had a strong defensive line to spearhead their defense, and in recent years defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams have been the leaders of that group. But both are getting older and are entering the final year of their contracts, so the team will be faced with finding replacements for them very soon.
Defensive end Everson Griffen had the best season of his career in 2012, with eight sacks during the regular season (three in Week 17 against the Green Bay Packers), a forced fumble and a notable interception return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 15. His NFL career appeared to be going off the rails after a TMZ-worthy run in January of 2011 that included multiple arrests, but he has turned things around and become a key contributor with 12 sacks over the last two seasons.
Allen played through multiple injuries last season, and underwent surgeries on his shoulder and knee during the offseason, so his snap count has a good chance to be reduced in 2013. Left end Brian Robison was also banged up for a lot of last season due to elbow and shoulder issues, so Griffen could see more time at both end spots in an effort to keep the two starters fresh.
Barring a significant injury to Allen or Robison, Griffen will not move into a starting role during training camp and the preseason. But at age 25 and entering the final year of his contract himself, Griffen can start to make a case for a lucrative contract extension from the Vikings with a strong performance when offseason work turns up another notch next month.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.