MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Everson Griffen's contract status was not the most pressing for the Minnesota Vikings.
His value to their pass rush and their locker room was still worth a proactive approach.
Griffen signed a four-year extension with the Vikings on Wednesday, a new deal that would keep the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end under the team's control through the 2022 season. He had two years remaining on the current contract.
Griffen has 48 sacks in seven seasons with the Vikings, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 out of USC. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has 30+ sacks, the fifth most in the league during that span.
''You don't let guys like that go,'' free safety Harrison Smith said, adding: ''A lot of times people just see sack numbers, and that's what sticks out, but he's just a complete player who dominates the game, run and pass.''
Beginning with quarterback Sam Bradford and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who are playing in 2017 on expiring deals, the Vikings potentially have several hefty paydays on the horizon.
Continued careful and creative management of the salary cap will be critical toward maintain competitiveness in the coming years. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, defensive end Danielle Hunter, nose tackle Linval Joseph and linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks also have contracts that are set to come up after the 2018 season. General manager Rick Spielman said new deals are being negotiated for ''a few guys.''
So why now for Griffen?
''To get some of this out of the way now, it's going to give us a lot more flexibility as we go forward into next year and future years because I do think we have some very talented young players,'' Spielman said. ''We want to keep this core of young players together as long as we can.''
Griffen signed his extension upon reporting to training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato, with the first full-team practice set for Thursday.
According to NFL Media, he'll get as much as $58 million in new money, with $34 million guaranteed. There is still $15.5 million remaining on his current contract.
''In light of the rising salary cap and exploding free agency market, we strongly believe that more veteran clients will be negotiating extensions with two years remaining on their contracts and applaud the Vikings for embracing this novel approach,'' said Brian Murphy, Griffen's representative with the Athletes First agency.
Griffen's tenure is the second longest on the team, behind defensive end Brian Robison. He will turn 34 before the end of the final season of the extension.
''I don't have all the wear and tear on my body like people that get thrown into the fire from the beginning,'' Griffen said. ''It shows that they have faith and tremendously high hopes for me as well.''
Even before he became an every-down player, the Vikings were confident enough in his skill and character in 2014 to give him a second contract worth as much as $42.5 million through 2018 that he's on track to fully earn.
That commitment raised some eyebrows around the league, given Griffen's part-time status then and his early career trouble off the field.
Twice in a three-day span in Los Angeles, the winter after his rookie season, Griffen was arrested for unruly behavior. The Vikings stuck by him, though, and wholly won him over with widespread support when his mother died suddenly in 2012.
Five years later, their faith is still strong.
''It means I'm a Viking for life,'' Griffen said, ''and my appreciation's high.''
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