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Everson Griffen Opts Out of Final Three Years of Contract, Enters Free Agency

The Vikings' longest-tenured player may not return to the team next season.

Everson Griffen has voided the final three years of his contract with the Vikings and will enter free agency, according to ESPN's Courtney Cronin.

Griffen returned to the Vikings on a restructured deal in 2019, with three benchmarks that would allow him to opt out after this season: 6.5 sacks and playing on 57 percent of the team's defensive snaps. With eight sacks and 78 percent of snaps played, Griffen cleared those totals with room to spare. As expected, he has now chosen to void the remaining years of his contract and enter free agency. Griffen was one of only two players in the NFL last season to have a player-controlled void in his contract.

If he hadn't done so, the Vikings likely would've been forced to release Griffen, a well-liked defensive end who is their longest tenured player and serves as one of the team's primary emotional leaders. That's because the salary-cap troubled Vikings wouldn't have been able to afford the $13.9 million cap hit for the 32-year-old Griffen in 2020. With Griffen entering free agency, the Vikings save over $13 million, getting them under the projected salary cap for the first time this offseason, while eating roughly $800,000 in dead money.

This news doesn't necessarily mean Griffen won't be in a  Vikings uniform for an 11th straight year. According to Cronin, there is "a belief that Minnesota will work out a way to keep him around at a reduced price." Griffen has said before that he wants to be a Viking for life, and could return at a lower cap hit to give the Vikings stability on the defensive line. Griffen was productive even in his tenth season, finishing tied for 26th out of 108 qualifying edge rushers in PFF's grades.

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However, it's also possible Griffen ultimately decides to explore a change of scenery, especially if another franchise offers him more money than the Vikings. The Star Tribune's Ben Goessling mentioned the Seahawks as a possibility. Griffen, a fourth round pick by the Vikings in 2010, has reportedly had some interest in "bringing his career full circle" and playing for Pete Carroll, who was his coach at USC from 2007 through 2009. The Bills, with his former head coach Leslie Frazier at defensive coordinator, could be another possibility.

If Griffen were to leave, the Vikings would likely look to replace him with 2019 breakout player Ifeadi Odenigbo. Free agent Stephen Weatherly could also be brought back to compete for snaps at defensive end.

The Vikings still have plenty more moves to make to continue clearing up cap space, but this is the first domino to fall.