Reported Interest in Everson Griffen Appears Odd, But Possibly More to the Story

Howard Balzer

A report on ESPN over the weekend suggested that the Cardinals have interest in free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen, who had eight sacks with the Minnesota Vikings last season,

Color me skeptical. Extremely skeptical. With one big if ...

The question is whether the Cardinals truly are pursuing the 10-year veteran, who will be 33 in December, and if the alleged interest was made public simply to up the ante on a desired contract with other teams.

The reality is that Griffen has played as a 4-3 end during his career with the Vikings, and the Cardinals play a 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. To that end, the Cardinals signed linebacker Devon Kennard in the offseason and he had seven sacks with the Detroit Lions last season, also a team that plays a 4-3.

Kennard is expected to have more pass-rushing opportunities on the Cardinals coming off the edge opposite All-Pro Chandler Jones.

Certainly, a case can be made that a team can never have too many pass rushers, and adding a depth piece like Griffen for sub-packages on passing downs wouldn’t be totally out of the question ... if the price is right.

But is that what the 6-foot-3, 273-pound Griffen wants? Perhaps not, in a perfect world.

But it is almost June and Griffen is a man without a team.

Which brings us to the other “if.”

Perhaps the Phoenix-area native wants to go back to a time almost 15 years ago when he was a football and track star at Agua Fria High in Avondale.

There wasn’t an award he didn’t win or a college recruiting board he wasn’t near the top of after prepping two-way at defensive end and running back. In his senior season, Griffen had 16 sacks plus 1,251 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns (20 rushing).

At the conclusion of the draft last month after the Cardinals selected Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin in the seventh round, general manager Steve Keim talked about adding local players to the roster. Kennard also played high-school football at Desert Vista High in Phoenix.

“I love it, man, it’s special for me,” Keim said at the time. “Arizona is — being a kid from a small town in Pennsylvania and then going to college in North Carolina and then being out here for 10 years — this is my home. Arizona is my home and I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to take Arizona State players, Arizona local kids (like) Byron Murphy. ... It makes me really proud.”

Griffen ended up at USC under head coach Pete Carroll, who is now captaining the Seattle Seahawks, a team that is reportedly also interested in Griffen.

There could be an intriguing competition going on, with the Cardinals trying to add depth while also hoping to keep him away from Seattle.

And Keim can feel "really proud" once again.