Vikings break bank to retain Griffen
Versatile pass rusher Everson Griffen agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract to remain with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
Griffen, who lined up at defensive end in the nickel package but also saw spot duty at “under tackle” as an inside pass rusher in former head coach Leslie Frazier’s defense, had 13.5 sacks the past two seasons (5.5 in 2013).
He is expected to expand his role under new head coach Mike Zimmer, especially if the Vikings don’t retain veteran defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
Griffen, 26, can earn up to $20 million in guarantees over the lifetime of the deal but has never been a full-time starter since being a fourth-round pick out of Southern Cal in 2010. He did not start a game last season while playing 60 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps.
The guaranteed money was a bit of a surprise, with the Seattle Seahawks re-signing defensive end Michael Bennett, a more renowned playmaker, later in the day to a four-year deal reportedly worth $28.5 million and including $21 million in guaranteed money.
“First off, I just want to thank God for this blessing. My family wants to thank the Minnesota Vikings for believing in me,” Griffen wrote on his Twitter account Monday.
“Also, we want to thank Wilf family for allowing me to stay apart of this amazing organization. Let’s go to the promise land.”
Despite his role in the rotation, Griffen was rated as the 11th-best pass rusher and 12th-best run defender among 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 60 percent of their team’s snaps last season by ProFootballFocus.com. He was rated No. 13 overall, with his primary weakness being in coverage (23rd).
“The money is always a good thing, but at the same time I finally get to be used,” Griffen told the Star Tribune. “Coach Zimmer, yeah, coach Zimmer is going to use me. The Minnesota Vikings are going to use me in every way possible. The only thing you guys can do is wait, just wait for this to erupt.”
Minnesota re-signed left defensive end Brian Robison last season but has shown interest in former Zimmer protege Michael Johnson, a 27-year-old defensive end with the Cincinnati Bengals officially becomes a free agent Tuesday.
Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is also expected to sign with the Vikings. Brinkley started at middle linebacker in 2012 in Minnesota but signed with the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Allen’s days as a disruptive force from the right side of the Minnesota defense likely ended over the weekend. His agent, Ken Harris, told media outlets that five teams are bidding for Allen and Minnesota was not among them.
Quarterback Matt Cassel agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal on Friday and, barring a surprise transaction or draft selection, enters training camp as the Vikings’ starter.
The Vikings also re-signed linebacker Larry Dean on Monday, keeping the reserve from becoming a restricted free agent. Dean has played all 48 regular-season games and one playoff contest since joining the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Primarily playing on special teams, Dean has 48 overall tackles.
The Vikings have a total of 14 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday. Joining Allen and Williams will be: offensive linemen Joe Berger, Charlie Johnson and J’Marcus Webb, linebackers Desmond Bishop and Marvin Mitchell, cornerback Chris Cook, defensive tackle Fred Evans, quarterback Josh Freeman, running back Toby Gerhart, wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb and defensive end Justin Trattou.