For years, the Minnesota Vikings have gotten a lot of slack from their neighbors across the river for being a pipeline for washed-up players from the Green Bay Packers. What started with Darren Sharper crossing over in 2005 grew into Brett Favre jumping ship in 2009 and Greg Jennings signing with the Vikings in 2014. That may be a product of the Packers’ run of success during that time, but there’s a chance they could take a page out of the Vikings playbook this offseason.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Packers are one of the suitors for current free agent and (as of now) former Viking Everson Griffen. While there have been whispers that Griffen could eventually return, he remains on the market and as The Athletic’s Arif Hasan pointed out this could just be a simple game of leverage from his agent.
Besides, Griffen wouldn’t do that to the Vikings fan base… would he?
WHy The Packers would want to sign Griffen
There are several reasons why the Packers would be interested in Griffen’s services. Much like the Vikings were trying to keep up with Green Bay as they changed over from Favre to Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers may decide the best way for them to keep up with the Vikings defense is by poaching their players. Heck, they even took the step of hiring former Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to help with their secondary.
For Green Bay, looking toward the Minnesota defense is a great way to improve their own unit. Last year, the Vikings had five players grade as “elite” players, per Pro Football Focus, whereas the Packers just had one in Za’Darius Smith. While Griffen was not one of those players, he would have graded out as Green Bay’s third-best defender last season.
That overall skill set is something that would make him a nightmare in the current Packers’ defense. While Smith led the NFL with 105 pressures, there was a steep drop off from Kenny Clark, who finished with 69 pressures and Preston Smith, who finished with 62. Although Green Bay primarily runs a three-man front, the next best option was Kyler Fackrell, who had 26 pressures on 231 pass-rushing snaps.
Griffen’s 70 pressures on 596 pass-rushing snaps is roughly the same rate as Fackrell, who would have 67 pressures in the same amount of snaps, but the decision made by Mike Zimmer to move Griffen to the inside may have done more harm than good. With a dominating performance on the inside in a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, the Packers may feel they can add another versatile piece along the front line.
What If Griffen Actually goes to green bay?
Since Mike Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, there has been a sense of loyalty when it comes to the Vikings defense. Anthony Barr just about signed with the New York Jets in free agency, but then turned around to re-sign in Minnesota because he loved the culture that Zimmer has installed. Even Griffen felt that way, restructuring his contract prior to last season so the team had some cap flexibility.
So why would Griffen even want to go to Green Bay if there’s a sense of loyalty? Because the Packers are in a better position to give him what he wants.
Coming into training camp, the Packers have $11.5 million in cap space according to Spotrac, while the Vikings have $7.7 million. With both teams signing their rookie classes, this will be the number they have to work with. And the Packers have the added bonus of going to the NFC Championship Game last year, so the 32-year-old Griffen may decide he has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl in Green Bay than in Minnesota.
This would be an extremely tough pill for Vikings fans to swallow. Griffen is one of the most tremendous defensive players in team history, ranking fourth in franchise history with 74.5 sacks, but his most appealing quality is his personality and leadership. Just a look at his post-game interview after the Minneapolis Miracle shows why Vikings fans embrace his personality on the field.
Such a move may also be a turn-off in the minds of Vikings fans, who saw the franchise support Griffen as he went through a mental health episode during the 2018 season. For an organization that has had his back throughout his career, signing with a rival may be seen as a slap in the face, especially when Zimmer has remained consistent with his desire to have him on the team this offseason.
Is it conceivable that Griffen could actually be considering signing with the Packers? Sure.
Is there a chance this is a ploy by his agent in the same way that Griffen posted a goodbye to the Vikings on Instagram last April and still hasn’t signed with a team? Absolutely.
But signing on the dotted line could make Griffen the biggest jump between both sides of this rivalry since Favre put on a Vikings jersey about 11 years ago. While it’s not the same impact, it’s not a move that Vikings fans would enjoy seeing.