Last week, Everson Griffen opted out of the remainder of his contract. He’s now set for free agency in March, but head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday that he still expects to keep him (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin).
Griffen earned the right to turn down the last three years of his pact by hitting a pair of statistical benchmarks. The rest of the deal would have paid him nicely, but there was no guarantee that the Vikings would have kept him at the same rate. By opting out, Griffen simply opened up his options – he says he’d like to stay in Minnesota, but he can also gauge the market for other offers.
The Vikings met with the veteran defensive end’s agent on Tuesday night, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The team also stood by him after he spent time away because of a mental health issue during the 2018 season. Griffen missed more than a month of action that season but bounced back in 2019. The 10-year veteran registered eight sacks and 24 quarterback hits. He will enter the 2020 season as the franchise’s fourth all-time leading sacker (since 1982).
Griffen returning will also continue a pattern for the Vikings. They have opted to keep their defensive core together for years, doing so despite annually being up against the cap. Minnesota’s $1.3MM in cap space ranks last in the league. While it cannot be ruled out Griffen departs, the Vikings have established continuity on defense for years now and have managed to maintain it while paying out Kirk Cousins‘ three-year, fully guaranteed contract.
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