GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers are interested in signing Everson Griffen, the longtime Minnesota Vikings star who remains a free agent.
“That interest is mutual,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said. “Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer had recently said he wants Griffen back, as well.”
At first blush, the Packers’ interest might seem unlikely. Griffen, whose 74.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons include 70.5 sacks the past eight years, was a defensive end for the Vikings and presumably would play on the edge for Green Bay. The Packers are strong at outside linebacker with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and former first-round pick Rashan Gary, along with former third-round pick Tim Williams and seventh-round rookie Jonathan Garvin.
Where the Packers are thin is on the defensive line. It was an “Achilles heel” last season, to use defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s words, and consists of only seven players after the release of Gerald Willis on Sunday.
At 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, Griffen has the size to play in a hybrid role but, at age 32, it’s fair to wonder whether he would welcome a new challenge and the rigors of life on the interior. Then again, Kyler Fackrell played 415 snaps last season and the Packers might want more of a sure thing to take up some of those snaps instead of counting on the development of Williams or Garvin. Lining up with the Smith Bros., Gary, Griffen and defensive tackle Kenny Clark on passing downs would be a potential nightmare for offenses given the versatility of Za'Darius Smith, Gary and Griffen to play up and down the line.
“I do think at times where Preston and Z probably played maybe a little too much, that we do want to take some off their plate,” Pettine said in May. “I do know Rashan is certainly built to handle giving those guys a break. I just think because of his skill-set, we can use him more like we used Z, on third down especially. He can kick down inside and rush from a tackle spot as opposed to always being on the edge.”
Combined, the Smiths, Clark, Gary and Griffen had 41.5 sacks last season.
Griffen had eight sacks last season. Of 58 edge defenders to rush on at least half of the passing plays, Griffen ranked 31st in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-rushing productivity, a metric that measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari has long sung the praises of his nemesis to the west.
“I think it’s fun,” Bakhtiari said before last year’s Week 2 game. “We’ve built an interesting relationship over the past years. I’ve got an immense amount of respect for him. I’m excited for the time he eventually gets out of our division, if that’ll ever happen. It’s always fun going against him because the one thing with our relationship, we both know that we both bring it, four quarters, 60 minutes and it’s just a heavyweight battle. It’s fun. There are times we always lock eyes at certain points. We get in the game, give each other a little head nod. It’s like, ‘OK.’ When boxers get in the ring, it’s mano-y-mano. Let’s go. Let’s have some fun.”
Perhaps Pettine’s defense is going to go with more hybrid looks this year. Or, perhaps Griffen’s agent is trying to ratchet up the pressure on the Vikings to re-sign a player before a rival strikes.