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The Packers Have Interest in Former Vikings DE Everson Griffen

Mike Zimmer wants Griffen back in Minnesota, but could the veteran head to his former rival?

With NFL training camps about to begin, former Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen is still without a team. However, the last few days have brought some news when it comes to the future of Griffen, whose home for the 2020 season will likely be determined soon.

On Saturday, in a conference call with local reporters about his new contract extension, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he would love to have Griffen back.

"[Griffen] texted me the other day telling me congratulations and things like that," Zimmer said. "I’d love to have him back. He’s always been one of my guys, so if that happens that’d be great. I don’t know where that’s at right now.’’

On Monday, a very interesting twist to the story was reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapaport. He tweeted that the Green Bay Packers are among the teams showing interest in Griffen.

"As long-time Vikings DE and current free agent Everson Griffen narrows down his choices, the rival Packers are among the teams to express interest," Rapaport said. "That interest is mutual."

Wouldn't that be something? Griffen heading across the border to Green Bay would be a lot to take in for Vikings fans, especially because he's become a fan favorite during his decade in Minnesota. The Packers already have edge rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith at outside linebacker, but Griffen could presumably play defensive end in their 3-4 defense and make their pass rush even more deadly.

The key part of Rapaport's tweet is that the "interest is mutual." Griffen is open to the possibility of playing for the Packers, so this is something that should be taken seriously. I would assume that a veteran of his caliber is frustrated by still being without a team as August approaches and won't be too picky about where he ends up.

Griffen opted out of the final three years of his contract in February. He had a rare player-controlled void in his contract based on incentives that he cleared in 2019. Opting out was a logical move given that the salary cap-strapped Vikings would've almost certainly been forced to release him otherwise.

A month later, Griffen announced that he wouldn't be returning to the Vikings by saying a public goodbye on social media. His agent announced that the two sides had broken off talks. 

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That was over four months ago, and Griffen still doesn't know where he'll be playing next. Obviously, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a major reason why he has gone unsigned for so long. Prospective suitors generally want to meet face-to-face with free agents to do a physical and an interview before giving out big-time contracts. That might be even more important with Griffen, who dealt with some scary mental health struggles in 2018. The pandemic resulted in team facilities shutting down, which meant Griffen couldn't have those necessary in-person meetings.

But with training camps beginning this week, I wouldn't be surprised if Griffen sat down with some teams and found a home soon. In addition to the Packers, the Cardinals and Seahawks have previously been rumored to be interested in Griffen. 

A return to Minnesota is also a legitimate possibility, even after he said goodbye. He's familiar with the coaches, players, and system, so it might be the most logical fit for Griffen. Ifeadi Odenigbo is set to replace him in the starting lineup, but the Vikings would absolutely benefit from bringing back the veteran Griffen.

Griffen has spent the first ten seasons of his career with the Vikings, who drafted him in the fourth round out of USC in 2010. He has 74.5 sacks during that time, which places him fourth on the franchise's all-time leaderboard. Griffen also became an emotional leader for the team and an important figure in the Twin Cities community.

He turns 33 in December, but Griffen still has plenty of football left in him. He had eight sacks last season and received the second-best grade of his career (77.6) from Pro Football Focus.

Griffen has 12.5 sacks in 21 career games against the Packers, including playoffs. That trails only his 16 career sacks against the Detroit Lions for his most against any team.

The Vikings and Packers are set to meet in Week 1 of the 2020 season at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 13th.

Check out all of our Vikings 2020 season preview content right here.

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