The Minnesota Vikings were expected to have a changing of the guard along their defensive line this offseason, with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams both becoming free agents, and a big step in that direction came on Sunday with the news they’ve agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million deal ($20 million guaranteed) with defensive end Everson Griffen.
Griffen excelled in a reserve role over the last two seasons, totaling 13.5 sacks, and he is now sure to move into a prominent role and may be first in line to replace Allen as the Vikings’ starting right end. His signing would seem to eliminate Minnesota’s interest in free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, but Griffen has played some defensive tackle on passing downs during his career and he could even see time at linebacker if Johnson is brought aboard.
Griffen has only started one game in his four NFL seasons, but he appears to have matured off the field after being arrested twice in a three-day span in January of 2011. It’s clear Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer sees his untapped potential, and without Allen to block his path to playing time Griffen will be put in a position to be a difference maker by the new coaching staff no matter what his ultimate role is.
Time will tell if Griffen lives up to his new contract, but at 26 years old keeping him in the fold is a justifiable risk for the Vikings and the deal is slated to pay him $27 million over the first three seasons. The specifics of the final two years of the contract are not totally clear right now, but it looks like the Vikings can cut ties without having to take a significant hit financially if Griffen fails to fulfill his potential early in the deal.