I’m not panicking. Panicking is for teams with high expectations.
However, if I thought the 2012 Vikings could flirt with .500, I’d probably be losing sleep over Michael Jenkins starting opposite Percy Harvin. I’d be chewing my nails as I watched Rick Spielman patch together the cornerback unit with replacement-level talent. And I’d be popping Xanax like Altoids at the thought of two special-teamers (Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond) manning the deep halves of the Tampa 2 in the NFL’s best passing division.
The cold, hard reality is that 12 months from now, Vikings fans will likely be in a similar situation: breaking down top-five draft picks. Still, rebuilding this broken roster has to start somewhere, and the team is rich at exactly one position.
In Jared Allen (30) and Brian Robison (28), the Vikings have an elite starting tandem, which made finding snaps for the superbly athletic Everson Griffen a chore last season. The 2010 fourth-rounder managed to appear in just a quarter of Minnesota’s defensive plays in 2011, yet he tormented quarterbacks whenever he was on the field (4.0 sacks and 14 pressures). That’s a lot of talent to be standing on the sidelines of a 3-13 team, and the Vikings would be wise to explore his trade value in the coming weeks.
Make no mistake, the fact that Griffen fell to pick No. 100 in 2010 had very little to do with his on-field potential. His slide was primarily due to character and maturity issues, which he validated with a pair of alcohol-related arrests in a span of four days in January 2011.
As a prospect, Griffen was widely viewed as a first-round talent and a natural fit as a 3-4 rush linebacker. He put that talent and athleticism on film last season, which bodes well for his trade value. Moreover, he’s steered clear of the police blotter for a full 14 months and appears to finally have his head on straight. He’s just 24 years old, he’s ready to contribute immediately and he carries a team-friendly contract ($540K in 2012 and $575K in 2013).
For all these reasons, Griffen shapes up as a valuable trade asset. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that teams were scouting him as a first-round prospect. The Vikings aren’t switching to the en vogue 3-4, and they’re set at the defensive end position for the foreseeable future. Now is the time to kick the tires on Griffen’s trade value.
Griffen is merely overstock for the Vikings, and a needy 3-4 team could make much better use of his talents. If the Vikings could net an extra third-round pick to address their multitude of issues, the swap could turn out to be a win-win for both parties.