Some decisions in life are far easier than others. Would you like free guac on your burrito? How about a complimentary upgrade to first class? Want us to watch your kids for the weekend so you and your wife can get away? These are no-brainers: decisions that you have to make, yet shouldn’t have to think twice about.
The football version of a no-brainer is currently staring the Minnesota Vikings right in the face. His name is Everson Griffen.
The Vikings’ defensive line was beyond abysmal last year. I’m not going to waste your time loading this article up with the horrifying stats that prove how bad they were. You’ve seen them time and time again. This was the worst group of the Zimmer era, and it’s not even close.
It wasn’t unexpected, however, given the way things transpired. When your blue-chip free agent opts out, your all-world defensive end misses the season, your GM executes the worst trade of his career, and your superstar in waiting Ifeadi Odenigbo is a 16-game no-show, you’re bound to wind up at the bottom of the league.
The 2021 off-season brought solutions. Michael Pierce is back and they teamed him up with another blue-chip defensive tackle in Dalvin Tomlinson. Stephen Weatherly is back to provide some depth. Barring a contract situation going down the Aaron Rodgers path, Danielle Hunter will eventually be back in the building.
The important question: Is this enough?
Common sense says no. Defensive end depth is still one of the most glaring issues on the roster. Even if Hunter’s contract problem is resolved, what happens if he misses a couple of games this season? Or, heaven forbid, more?
Whether fans agree or not, Minnesota’s leadership clearly thinks this team is built to win now. There are large contracts all over the roster and important veterans on one-year prove-it deals. The Vikings might not be all-in on a Super Bowl run, but they are close in their minds. If that’s the sort of team that you believe you’ve built, depth is an extremely important aspect. After the quarterback position, edge rushers are arguably at the top of the priority list. You can’t go into a season where you believe you’ll make a playoff push with the same depth situation that sunk you last year.
There’s absolutely no learning curve with Griffen. It’s the same system and relatively same coaching staff in place from his time here. Do you think Andre Patterson would love to have one of his star protégés back in the mix, both performing and showing his young defensive lineman how to grow in this league?
For his entire tenure with the purple, Everson Griffen was known for his work ethic. He was a guy who got better every single year and grew from a questionable Jared Allen replacement into one of the best defensive players in the NFL. This is the sort of commitment and effort that the Vikings should want D.J. Wonnum seeing every single day. It’s the exact sort of commitment and effort that Danielle Hunter grew up watching. Every person in that defensive line room will be better off having Griffen around as an example.
Didn’t things get weird between Griffen and the Vikings last season, though? Great question. The answer is, who knows? The will-he-won’t-he social media saga at times feels like a Ross and Rachel situation. One day he is criticizing Kirk on Twitter, the next day he’s asking the Vikings to bring him back. One day he and Zimmer are in a feud, the next day they’re complimenting one another. The reality is that nobody knows the exact dynamic, but time and time again both sides seem open to a reunion.
The one thing we can say for certain is that Mike Zimmer doesn’t hold on to things. A few years ago his entire prized cornerback room staged a mutiny in the last game of the season. By the start of the next year, everything was hunky-dory. Zimmer cares about three things: Are you coachable? Do you work hard? Can you help the Vikings win? With Everson Griffen these are a check, check, and check.
Griffen is one of the best defensive players in a franchise whose history is rich with defensive superstars. Anyone who has sat in the lower level of U.S. Bank Stadium and watched him lead a pregame huddle or march up and down the sideline understands the emotion and energy Griffen brings to a team.
He makes sense on the field. He makes sense on the sideline. He makes sense in the salary cap. He just makes sense in purple.
Everson Griffen is an absolute no-brainer.