The Minnesota Vikings had two key free agents on the defensive line this offseason, Jared Allen and Everson Griffen. That list has been cut in half, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports the team has inked Griffen to a five-year contract two days before he would have hit the market:
DE Everson Griffen is re-signing with the Vikings on a huge 5-year deal, per source— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter followed up Rapoport's report with the specifics of Griffen's new deal with the Vikings:
Vikings re-signed DE Everson Griffin, as @rapsheet reported. Told it's a 5-year, $42.5 million deal that includes $20 mil gtd, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2014
While Allen's age (31) makes it hard for the Vikings to invest multiple years and big dollars in him, Griffen is a 26-year-old whose presence on the edge of Minnesota's line became increasingly vital as the 2013 season wore on.
According to Pro Football Focus, Griffen was the No. 8 edge rusher eligible for free agency this year. The site noted his consistent play over the season and stated that he should interest any team "looking for depth" on the defensive line.
New head coach Mike Zimmer previously suggested the team was intent on securing a long-term deal with Griffen and was not considering using the franchise tag, via NFL.com's Marc Sessler:
On the Everson Griffen front, Mike Zimmer told me the #Vikings 'haven't talked about (franchise) tags at all.'— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) February 21, 2014
The Vikings have paid a whole lot of money for "depth" in this case. Griffen seems likely to be the focal point of the defensive line in Minnesota with Allen potentially out of the mix. This deal also bodes well for top-tier defensive ends like Michael Bennett.
Being the face of a unit comes with added pressure. Griffen has spent the first four years of his career as a piece of the pie. Now he will be paid to carry the bulk of the load. He's never been a full-time starter, with just one start under his belt, but he's stayed healthy enough to play in all 16 games each of the last three years.
When dynamics change, strengths and weaknesses of a player tend to shine brighter. Griffen is under more pressure and scrutiny than ever before thanks to this deal.
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