The Minnesota Vikings made a move in the right direction when they signed defensive end Brian Robison to a contract extension midseason, but now they must finish the job and sign Everson Griffen to a long-term deal. Jared Allen has been the team’s right defensive end for six seasons now, but after seeing his production fall off this past season, the team will likely let him walk as his contract is set to expire.
This means they must replace one of the best pass rushers in team history this offseason, and doing so in-house would be the smartest move. Griffen has primarily been a second-stringer his entire four-year career, but he’s impressed in his limited playing time and has recorded 17.5 sacks in the last three years. Although his eight sacks last season were a career high, Pro Football Focus graded this past season as Griffen’s most productive as a pro.
According to PFF, Griffen was second on the team with 39 quarterback hurries, which is one of the most important stats to use when evaluating pass rushers. The only player who had more hurries than Griffen this season was Robison, who totaled 63, the most of any defensive end in the entire NFL.
This puts the Vikings is a great position to actually take a step forward by losing Allen to free agency and giving more playing time to one of their younger and more promising players.
Griffen is just 26-years old and is entering the prime of his career, and letting him walk would be a huge mistake by the Vikings. Coming up with a reasonable contract will be tough since Griffen hasn’t been a starter during his tenure with the Vikings, but a deal similar to Robison’s four-year, $28 million extension is what should be expected.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Vikings have roughly $28 million in open cap space this offseason, and signing Griffen is both mandatory and doable. The Vikings should also be looking to bolster their secondary with a smart free agent signing or two, but getting Griffen to sign a long-term deal should be the team’s main focus when the free agency period officially begins on March 11.