What Griffen's Desire to Return Tells Us About the Vikings

Photo credit: Luke Inman

A major theme of this offseason for the Minnesota Vikings’ defense has been reunions with players who previously donned the purple and gold. Sheldon Richardson, Mackensie Alexander, and Stephen Weatherly all found their way back to Minnesota after signing with other teams.

Apparently, Everson Griffen also wants to follow this path.

The 33-year-old defensive end, who has the fourth-most sacks in franchise history, seemed keen on the prospect of returning earlier in the offseason. He posted videos of him working out next to the TCO Performance Center in Eagan and tweeted at the Vikings to bring him back in free agency. Coming off a season where the defensive line couldn’t get any pressure on obvious passing downs, fans seemed eager to welcome Griffen back even if he is past his prime.

Then, almost out of nowhere, Griffen went on a Twitter tirade where he trashed Kirk Cousins. He hinted at potential strife in the organization between the coaches and the front office, suggesting head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t want to bring Cousins in.

This outburst came out of left field. We have never seen Griffen go after Cousins before, and the only time he has hinted at any problems with Zimmer was earlier this season when Zimmer said that Griffen was a “good player” and not a great player.

But it would be hard to see Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman bring Griffen back after his Twitter outburst. However, it was interesting to note that Griffen told KFAN’s Paul Allen that he regrets leaving last offseason. Griffen said that he was upset when he tweeted and that he messed up. Allen also revealed that Griffen desperately wants to play for the Vikings again.

While I would love to see Griffen back as a pass rusher in purple and gold on Sundays, given his age and players like Melvin Ingram and Justin Houston still available for probably similar price points, I would lean toward the Vikings looking at one of them instead.

Though reunification with Griffen might be a bridge too far for the Vikings, his plea to rejoin the team does say something about the atmosphere they have created. We always hear about “winning cultures,” to the point where it becomes cliche. But what if the Vikings are actually a destination team for players?

Last offseason, Griffen decided to void the three years remaining on his contract. Originally it looked like he would be returning on a cheaper deal to save the Vikings cap space. Instead, he decided to try his hand with the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year, $6 million prove-it deal. This is surprising, given that Griffen reportedly turned down a better deal from the Vikings for a fresh start in Dallas.

He only spent seven games with the Cowboys before being flipped to the Lions for a conditional sixth-round pick. But Griffen was still able to rack up six sacks last year, which would have been the highest total on the Vikings last year.

Even though the Vikings finished 7-9 last season due to a rough start and a host of injuries that crippled them down the stretch, players who previously had left the team have returned. It isn’t like the Vikings are overpaying them to come back. Both Sheldon Richardson and Mackinsie Alexander reportedly eschewed better offers to return to Minnesota. Instead of chasing the money, they opted to return to the Vikings because they have faith in the organization.

Coming off a down year where Zimmer and Spielman face uncertainty with their future, it is interesting to see how these former players have all come back when they could have received more money elsewhere. Is that enough to turn this roster into a contender? We shall see.

But while fans would surely welcome back Griffen with open arms, the team and locker room might struggle to share the same enthusiasm given his opinions about the team’s leader on social media.

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