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Thread: What's next for Vikings' D after Griffen deal?

  1. #1
    Season Tickets, First Deck
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    What's next for Vikings' D after Griffen deal?

    By Ben Goessling | ESPN.com
    March 9
    4:05 PM ET

    MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings retained another one of their free agents on Sunday, giving defensive lineman Everson Griffen a whopping $42.5 million over the next five years, including $20 million guaranteed, according to a league source.

    Now what?

    In the past five months, they have signed Brian Robison and Griffen to contract extensions, committing a combined $33.15 million in guaranteed money to the players. That would seemingly set their defensive end tandem up for the next few years, with Griffen replacing Jared Allen on the line. But wait, there's more!

    Once the NFL's three-day negotiating window opened on Saturday, the Vikings made it one of their first priorities to express interest in former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and put themselves in the middle of what will likely be a heated race for Johnson. The 27-year-old stood out at right end for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, and the Vikings would have been working on Griffen's deal while calling about Johnson. But wait, there's more!

    They also called about former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray while he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee and who has to be feeling emboldened today after news that Sam Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers. While the Vikings had more than $41 million in cap space last week, they have since signed Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel, not to mention restricted free agent cornerback Marcus Sherels. They also reportedly brought back linebacker Jasper Brinkley for his second stint with the team, and according to a league source, they will host former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit on Monday.

    While the pertinent question might be, "Who can the Vikings afford?" a better one might be, "On what does it make sense for them to spend their money?"

    Without having seen the full breakdowns of the new deals yet, let's assume they account for about $16 million of cap space. That would still leave the Vikings with about $25 million of room for next season, with the cap likely to go up over the next few years. Paying both Johnson and Verner would be doable, but it could also chew up another $16-20 million in cap space for 2014, meaning the Vikings wouldn't have much leeway to sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to an extension, pursue other needs like a big-bodied nose tackle, or pay their draft picks. And in the case of Johnson, there is also the question of where the Vikings would use all their toys if they signed him.

    Let's say Johnson came to Minnesota, filling the right end spot he played for Zimmer in Cincinnati. If Robison stayed at left end, the Vikings would be looking to move Griffen around again. He played 60.1 percent of their defensive snaps without starting a game last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Vikings aren't giving him $20 million guaranteed to use him in a part-time role. I think it's possible they could experiment with him at linebacker -- Zimmer likes his linemen to occupy blockers and allow his linebackers to run free, which isn't that different from a 3-4 scheme and could actually utilize Griffen's talents well -- but the previous regime tried a similar experiment, and the Vikings would have to see if Griffen could hold up in pass coverage. And with cornerback being a bigger need at this point, the Vikings might be better-served using their money to ensure they get an upgrade there.

    It's also worth considering what Zimmer said last week, arguing for a reasoned approach to free agency while stating his preference for something with the dependability of a Ford F-150 over the flashiness of a Maserati. To this point, all the Vikings have done -- in fact, all they have been allowed to do by NFL rules -- is retain their in-house free agents. While they have expressed interest in two of the top defensive players on the market, that hasn't cost them anything yet. They could always clear more room by restructuring the contract of 31-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway, who is to make $8.7 million next season, and the Vikings still have enough room to do some contract gymnastics and sign a couple free agents while staying well under the cap, but for a team that has gone back to a draft-and-develop philosophy after years of shelling out for free agents, it might make sense not to get too carried away.

    Could the Vikings still sign both Johnson and Verner? Yes. Would they have checked in with both of them so early, knowing Griffen's deal might get done, if they didn't have a scenario where they could land them? Probably not. But the size of Griffen's deal does mean the Vikings would have some pieces to fit in place if they were to get aggressive on the open market, particularly at defensive end.

  2. #2
    they overpaid...but we were between a rock and a hard place. my guess is we get the guy from the titans and stock up on bit players for depth as we have no depth at all.

  3. #3
    Season Tickets, First Deck
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    I kind of thought the Vikings overpaid for Griffen also, but after reading this article below I'm not so sure.

    MARCH 9, 2014,by ARIF HASAN
    The Minnesota Vikings have inked their current defensive end Everson Griffen to a new, “huge,” 5-year deal according to Ian Rapaport.

    Ian Rapoport ✔ @RapSheet
    DE Everson Griffen is re-signing with the Vikings on a huge 5-year deal, per source
    1:21 PM - 9 Mar 2014
    Ian Rapoport ✔ @RapSheet
    The 5-year contract for #Vikings DE Everson Griffen is for $42.5M with $20 guaranteed. Pass-rushers are getting paid, too, along with CBs
    1:54 PM - 9 Mar 2014
    This is obviously enormously good news for Everson Griffen, and I think it should be said good news for the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the fact that the contract might be large, the Vikings may have gotten away with a lot in signing Griffen to a relatively long-term deal, with a high guaranteed salary and an average of $8.5 million.

    With this signing, a few dominoes fall, as well. This makes it massively unlikely that the Vikings pursue or sign Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and also resolves some of the issues with the 2014 NFL draft, pushing defensive end further down the needs chart.

    The bigger story is what this means for Griffen, both on and off the field.

    In the past two years, Everson Griffen has come into his own in a big way, and left USC in 2009 for the 2010 NFL draft with massive emotional maturity issues. Scouting reports across the board pegged him as high-second, low-first round pick, but he fell to the Vikings in the fourth because of poor interviews and questionable competitiveness.

    At USC, his freshman year, Griffen got into a fight with a veteran defensive end on the squad, and had been involved in a number of off-field fights, though no charges were ever filed against him. He also had been involved in a few incidents of disturbing the peace as well. Consistently, there were questions about his drive and inconsistency on the field, and despite good play against the run and the pass at USC, he couldn’t convince NFL teams to take him early.

    In 2011, Griffen had been arrested twice in three days and tasered by police after grabbing an officer in the groin. He incurred a felony charge for battery. A few days later, held a party in Las Vegas for USC football players—a party that USC banned its players from attending.

    It’s difficult to tell when Griffen turned a corner; it may have been the fact that he was nearly cut by the Vikings for his offseason antics in 2011 or the fact that he was suddenly confronted with the tragic death of his mother in 2012 during the season. Beat reporters have remarked on the fact that Griffen had seem a little more reserved since then and that trying year probably changed Griffen in a big way.

    The next January also saw Griffen become a father to Grayson Scott Griffen (his mother’s name was Sabrina Scott) with his fiancee.

    It could be any one of those three events, a combination or include a different set of events that may have changed Griffen’s outlook on life, but it is clear that the young defensive end had matured and grown into his own. The fact that the Vikings were willing to sign him to a long deal proves that they believe in his maturity as well, particularly with his high salary and guaranteed money.

    In the past two seasons, Everson Griffen ranks 17th of the 50 4-3 defensive ends who have rushed the passer at least 350 times at the DE position (as opposed to LB or DT) in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Rusher Productivity metric, which not only adds sacks, but weighs hits and hurries, too. In just pressures per snap, he also ranks 17th, which implies that his production so far has been sustainable.

    That means that his numbers on a per-snap basis beat out Jared Allen, Cliff Avril, Michael Johnson and Rob Ninkovich and are extremely similar to Lamarr Houston. Brian Robison ranks 14th in both metrics. If they only ranked rushers who have had 750 pass-rushing snaps, Griffen would rank 13th in both categories while Robison would rank 11th (out of 27).

    After an excellent 2012 where Griffen notched 8 sacks, 2013 saw his numbers go down a bit, in part due to natural regression (his eight sacks were unsustainably high, given that he only rushed the passer 400 times and had fewer hurries than you’d expect) but also because opponents were getting rid of the ball a little quicker (his total pressures increased, but his hits and sacks went down). His Pass Rusher Productivity increased despite fewer sacks.

    Remember, disruption is production.

    Griffen gets a bad rap as a run-stopper, but that’s not fair either. Mostly he gets this reputation as a pass-rushing specialist on Minnesota’s nickel-downs, but he’s been stout stopping the run the last two years and rarely misses a tackle or drops his contain/force assignments. In the past two years, he’s missed four tackles with 49 made tackles to his name (7.5%). Jared Allen has missed 8 with 76 made tackles (9.5%) and Brian Robison has missed 8 tackles with 65 made tackles (12.5%).

    More than that, Griffen had a reputation as a stout run defender at USC to go along with his pass-rushing adeptness and led all Minnesota defensive ends in “run stop percentage,” a measure that figures out how many tackles in the run game constitute offensive “failures.” This means he functionally led Vikings DEs in effective “tackles for loss” per opportunity in the run game.

    The potential and production is there for Griffen to be a complete defensive end, and despite the big numbers may already be a steal for Minnesota.

  4. #4
    Coach in Training
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Upper Michigan
    I have really high hopes for Griffen so I'm not too worried about the large contract. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't produce double digit sacks in his first full season and as long as he's doing that his contract won't be a worry in the least. $8.5mill/year still keeps him out of the top 10 cap hits depending on structure. Personally, I'd rather have him than Johnson and Johnson will get more than that almost guaranteed (probably over $10mill actually).

    I'm not sure about Brinkley. I'd heard they looked at him but, not that they resigned him. I don't really get the resigning unless they are pretty sure on taking an OLB with the first pick (that they are confident can stay on for nickle situations while sitting Brinkley). Hopefully it's on the dirt cheap (it is a one year deal) and the plan is a solid backup option or camp fodder.

    One more suggestion I read somewhere that I like (doubt will happen though) is that the Vikings could bring in Darren Sproles. That would be incredibly exciting but, I highly doubt they will pay to get him as a utility guy.

    Verner would be highly preferential for me. We need to spend some money and he'd be a huge immediate upgrade. Pair him up with Soliai (if that rumor was true) and we have a good shot of turning that defense around in one season. Soliai might be too pricey though given his age. 30 isn't super old for a defensive end but, he's definitely not what someone would call a "long-term" plan.

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