How the Vikings Should Persuade Everson Griffen to Return to Minnesota

Photo credit: Cary Edmondson (USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota Vikings fans have come to love Everson Griffen over the past decade. The 10-year pro has been both entertaining and productive during his NFL career, all of which has been as a member of the Vikings.

Unfortunately, Griffen and the Vikings seemingly parted ways a few months ago as the NFL’s free agency period took shape. He posted a lengthy message on Instagram thanking the Vikings organization and Minnesota fans for the support over the years.

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When I came to Minnesota as a fourth-round pick out of USC, I had no idea how much my life would change over the next 10 years. I realized my dream of playing in the NFL, went to four Pro Bowls and came within one game of playing in the Super Bowl in front of the best fans in the country. More importantly, I became a husband, a dad, and met teammates who became brothers for life. I also stumbled a few times on my journey and could not be more grateful for the unconditional support and love I received from SKOL Nation. While it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye, I leave Minnesota in the best physical and mental shape I have ever been and have many Pro Bowl seasons to come! Wherever my next stop is, I will always be grateful to and cheering for the Vikings. Thank you all for the love, support and memories.

A post shared by Everson Griffen (@eversongriffen) on

This was posted on March 20, which is now over three months ago. Griffen has still not signed with a team. Could a return to Minnesota still be possible?

Roughly a month later, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman spoke to local media on a conference call and said he has had “some great conversations” with Griffen — not necessarily about joining the Vikings, however.

It would appear that Griffen and the Vikings have built a fantastic relationship over the years. And it makes sense. Griffen was a star talent at USC, but some off-the-field issues dropped his draft stock, and Minnesota was the team to take a chance on him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

Clearly, that decision by the Vikings has worked out for both sides. Griffen was able to learn from veterans Jared Allen and Brian Robison for a few seasons before stepping into his own starting role in 2014. And once he had starting role, his talent and his relentlessness as a pass rusher shined. Griffen earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 with the Vikings.

Griffen now has his sights set on another big payday, which he rightfully deserves as one of the most effective edge players in the NFL. However, the Vikings aren’t in a position to offer the payday Griffen seeks. Hence, Griffen’s goodbye Instagram post.

Three months have passed since then. Griffen is still unsigned. It’s important to note that this is likely not due to a lack of belief in Griffen throughout the NFL. Jadeveon Clowney‘s contract will likely set the market for Griffen, who would be the next-best edge player available in free agency.

Could the Vikings persuade Griffen to return to Minnesota? It’s impossible to know what the communication has been between the two sides behind closed doors. Perhaps the Vikings have already tried. Perhaps not. At any rate, one last try to persuade a Pro Bowl defensive end to return is probably worth it.

Currently, the Vikings are expected to start Ifeadi Odenigbo at defensive end on the opposite side of Danielle Hunter. While Odenigbo showed significant promise in an increased role in 2019, Griffen’s efficiency could surely be useful for a Vikings defense that will be littered with young cornerbacks that need any help they can get.

Spielman and salary cap guru Rob Brzezinski could probably work out a one-year offer that would pay Griffen less than what he ultimately wants in 2020. However, it would offer Griffen the opportunity to hit the market once again next offseason without COVID-19 complications and another contract stalemate, such as Clowney’s, prolonging the process.

Should Griffen consider another offer from the Vikings? He’s already renegotiated his contract multiple times to help the Vikings with salary cap restrictions. He has certainly done his part in Minnesota’s pursuit of a Super Bowl during the Mike Zimmer era. Perhaps that’s what all of this is about. Maybe he just wants a Super Bowl, and he doesn’t see himself winning one as a Viking. At this point, given how Minnesota’s 2020 offseason has unraveled, it would be tough to blame him.

The only reason Griffen would consider another contract offer from the Vikings, which would likely be for considerably less money than he would get elsewhere, would be the relationship he has built with the Vikings organization, the Twin Cities community and the Vikings fan base.

He certainly does not owe the Vikings organization anything. He’s been a tremendous leader and role model during his tenure in Minnesota. And the on-field production speaks for itself. Even considering the mental health issues Griffen worked through in 2018 and the way the Vikings organization helped him through it, Griffen has done much, much more than has been asked of him in Minnesota.

One other note that Griffen has surely considered is the potential salary cap reduction next season. If Griffen agrees to a one-year deal in Minnesota (or anywhere else, for that matter) and hits the market again next offseason, the reduced salary cap will hurt the offers he will receive from teams.

His best chance to get one more payday is this offseason with a team other than Minnesota. He probably shouldn’t return to the Vikings, for his own sake.

Unless, of course, Spielman and Brzezinski can pull off something magical and bring back one of the best defensive ends in the league. Vikings fans, players, coaches and front office members probably wouldn’t mind another season of Griffen in purple.

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