FRISCO - If this was all about a football team on paper, the Dallas Cowboys could start clearing the way for a sixth Super Bowl trophy on display here in the lobby at The Star in Frisco. Everson Griffen represents just the latest in a deep harvest of star-quality offseason "gets'' by the Joneses, Will McClay and (very importantly) new coach Mike McCarthy and his staff.
Indeed, McCarthy and the staff qualify themselves as "gets.''
But the latest prize, Everson Griffen, is a fine example of how football isn't just about "names'' and "paper.'' There are upsides to the four-time Pro Bowler's acquisition - three major ones ... and there are downsides.
Hopefully two minor ones.
The Upsides of Everson Griffen
1- "Prove It'': Griffen on Thursday, the day before the Cowboys started their on-field work in this "stay-at-home'' training camp at The Star, agreed to a one-year contract being billed as a $6 million deal. In fact, however, the base salary here is just $3 million.
No matter what goes wrong, the path to escapability is an easy one. the other $3 million is available in the form of roster bonuses. If for whatever reason (including a specific one we'll get to below) he isn't on the team ... he isn't getting paid.
It's almost too cheap for Dallas to say "no'' to.
2 - Star quality: Griffen is a star. In 10 years in Minnesota, he made the Pro Bowl four times, including last season. He's a perennial double-digit sack threat, with a career-high of 13 in 2017. ... after which time the Vikings gave him a six-year, $75 million contract.
Last year, Griffen recorded eight sacks, 41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 24 QB hits while playing right end - the opposite side from which Dallas' best defender, end DeMarcus Lawrence, roams.
This is an assemblage of stars - or, at least former stars. The D-line now features four new guys, joining Lawrence, with Pro Bowl credentials, including Griffen and fellow pass-rush ace Aldon Smith, and tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe.
3 - A beloved figure: Griffen is absolutely loved in the Minnesota locker room. George Edwards, a new defensive assistant for the Cowboys under McCarthy, was Griffen’s defensive coordinator in Minnesota for much of the player's career; he surely vouched for Griffen here, causing a skeptical front office to change its view.
The Downsides of Everson Griffen
1 - Behavioral issues: So, if he was so beloved, why isn't he still there? The money was too steep, for sure. (Though oddly, Griffen's contract reportedly allowed him an opt-out, which he exercised.) And Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did make an effort to bring Griffen back on a cheaper deal.
Griffen was an ironman in Minnesota, generally playing 15 or 16 games annually ... until 2018. That's when he checked out of football, really, checking into a hospital due to mental-health concerns and checking into a Sober House as well.
The Cowboys pride themselves on having experience in dealing with such matters and in helping with such problems. Every person and every issue is unique, but Griffen (to be mentored here by former coach Edwards) and Aldon Smith (to be mentored in Dallas by his former coach in San Francisco, Jim Tomsula) fit the "second-chance'' philosophy of owner Jerry Jones.
People close to Griffen suggest there are "mood'' issues here, but that along with his issue with alcohol, they can be managed.
Obviously, as a player accustomed to making $14 million annually who is now willing to take a fraction of that, Griffen is aware that not every NFL team wanted to deal with the issues and with the challenges of managing them.
2 - "A young man's game'': This may be a stretch, but Griffen turns 33 in December. McCoy is 32. Poe turns 30 this month. Smith (with a half-decade away from football maybe sporting "young legs'') turns 31 next month. Yes, they are guys with Pro Bowl resumes, but ... this is "a young man's game.''
The ridiculous affordability of Griffen, McCoy and Smith in particular speaks to a general belief that a player begins a decline in performance right about now.
Maybe that's a problem for these individuals next year. But for 2020, on paper? All ups and downs considered, Everson Griffen registers as yet another of the Cowboys' offseason "gets.''