A potential reunion could be in store for the Vikings and a player who was one of their great pass rushers and emotional leaders for much of the last decade. Minnesota is hosting free agent defensive end Everson Griffen for a tryout on Wednesday, according to KSTP's Darren Wolfson and Chris Long.
Griffen has wanted to return to the Vikings for a while now. There have reportedly been multiple discussions between the two sides about bringing him back in the year and half since he was nudged into opting out of the final few years of his deal back in February 2020.
From a football perspective, this makes a ton of sense. Griffen turns 34 in December, but he still has gas left in the tank. He played in 14 games for the Cowboys and Lions last season, recording 33 pressures, 19 quarterback hurries, and 6.0 sacks. That's significantly more production than the Vikings' current primary competitors for their second starting DE job — D.J Wonnum and Stephen Weatherly — had last season.
Griffen would bring a veteran presence, proven ability, and a deep knowledge of the Vikings' scheme, if he ends up getting signed. The question is what he has left athletically, but it sounds like he's been working out all offseason and is in good shape.
This might be an indication that the Mike Zimmer, Andre Patterson, and the Vikings aren't thrilled with what they've seen from Weatherly and Wonnum thus far. While I was mostly impressed with Wonnum in training camp, neither played particularly well against the Broncos in the preseason opener. Rookies Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson need plenty of development, and the other options at DE (Hercules Mata'afa, Jalyn Holmes) are on the roster fringe.
If Griffen does well at his tryout and looks like a player who can help the Vikings this year, they'll presumably sign him. The Vikings are all-in on winning in 2021 and have a defense that is stacked with talent, with one of the biggest question marks being at the DE spot opposite Danielle Hunter. Depending on how you feel about Anthony Barr, Bashaud Breeland, and Patrick Peterson, you could argue that DE is the team's only real weakness on the defensive side of the ball.
The other question with Griffen is where he's at mentally and in terms of his relationships with other key people in the Vikings' building. He has dealt with some mental health issues throughout his career, which infamously surfaced during the 2018 season. He also got mad at Zimmer last November for calling him a "good player" — a very standard and innocent descriptor from Zimmer — and then bizarrely insulted Kirk Cousins on Twitter in January.
There may be some fences that need mending. But if Griffen can help the Vikings win games, that shouldn't be a major issue.
Griffen was selected by the Vikings in the fourth round out of USC in 2010. He racked up 74.5 sacks and nearly 500 pressures in ten seasons in Minnesota, reaching four Pro Bowls. From 2014-17 and again in 2019, Griffen had at least 8.0 sacks and 60 pressures every year. He posted the third-best pressure total of his career in 2019 at 32 years old, with 66. He also had the second-best PFF pass rush grade of his career that year.
Griffen can still play. We'll find out soon enough if this tryout leads to a contract.
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