Everson Griffen‘s reunion with the Vikings has already come to an end. The veteran defensive end was among the team’s cuts today.
Griffen spent his entire career with the Vikings up until 2020. Splitting time between the Cowboys and Lions, Griffen finished out with six sacks in total. Meanwhile, no Vikings edge rusher finished with more than five. His ten-year run with the Vikes saw four Pro Bowl appearances and 74.5 total sacks.
Running back Ameer Abdullah was among the other players to earn their walking papers today. The veteran spent the past two-plus seasons with the Vikings, collecting 313 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 55 carries.
The Vikings made the following moves to get down to 53 players:
Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.
Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:
49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.
Vikings offensive lineman Dru Samia has tested positive for COVID-19, per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network (via Twitter). Contact tracing is being performed, and Samia and anyone deemed a high-risk contact will not be permitted to travel with the team for tomorrow night’s game against the Bears.
Samia, a 2019 fourth-rounder, started four games for Minnesota earlier this year before returning to a reserve role. But the Vikings just releasedPat Elflein and now find themselves without their top backup at guard. Plus, there is a good chance that there will indeed be high-risk contacts given the nature of O-line/D-line play.
Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com suggests that Brett Jones, who is currently on the practice squad, and Oli Udoh could find themselves in the O-line mix if any of Samia’s fellow blockers are deemed high-risk contacts or if the team should suffer an injury during tomorrow’s game. Cronin also expects the Vikes to promote Aviante Collins from the practice squad (Twitter link).
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
Everson Griffen is one of the top two pass rushers still on the market, and we heard last month that he would probably not re-sign with the Vikings. However, Minnesota did not do much to add to its pass rushing corps in the draft, with South Carolina DE D.J. Wonnum representing the most notable addition. And while GM Rick Spielman acknowledged that his team’s cap space makes it difficult to bring Griffen back, he did not rule it out.
“It is hard to say right now where everything is at and where we are at, [but] until things become more normalized I will never say never on a player,” Spielman recently said on the #PFTPM podcast (via PFT’s Mike Florio). “[Y]our roster is never set.”
Griffen has expressed an interest in joining the Seahawks, but Seattle is still open to bringing back Jadeveon Clowney. If Clowney returns to the ‘Hawks, perhaps Griffen will settle for a one-year deal on a Minnesota defense that he will not have to learn on the fly.
Now for more from the league’s north divisions:
Of the three OTs the Vikings added in this year’s draft, only second-rounder Ezra Cleveland profiles as an immediate threat to incumbent LT Riley Reiff. The team could again entertain the notion of kicking Reiff inside to LG, but that’s only if Cleveland proves himself ready for starting left tackle duties, which would be a tall order given the COVID-19 restrictions. So as Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune suggests, Reiff will likely stay at LT for the time being, and 2019 fourth-rounder Dru Samia will compete with Pat Elflein for the starting LG slot. The team could also target a free agent for that role, including Josh Kline, whom the Vikings released in a cost-cutting move in March.
Bears WR Allen Robinson said towards the end of last season that he is interested in an extension with Chicago, but the two sides do not appear to be close to a new deal, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Robinson is ticketed for free agency after the 2020 campaign, and Biggs suggests that the franchise tag could be in play if there is no extension in place by the second month of the season.
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says both A.J. Green and the Bengals have interest in getting a long-term deal done, but it’s unclear exactly how much interest. He expects that nothing will come together prior to the July 15 deadline, which means Green will have to play out the 2020 season on his franchise tender. While there’s a better chance Cincinnati comes to terms with RB Joe Mixon on a new contract, that will not happen before a decision on Green is made. The Bengals are reportedly bracing themselves for a Mixon holdout.
In the same piece linked above, Dehner says the Bengals are unlikely to make any free agent additions to the O-line at this point. In a separate piece, he notes that Cincinnati made a free agent splash on cornerbacks in free agency because it did not like this year’s CB draft class. The team did not take a defensive back with any of its seven selections.
Now that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is out of the picture, the Patriots seem likely to go with Matt LaCosse are their top tight end in Week 1, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes. The Patriots made a minor splash by signing Ben Watson earlier this offseason, but he’ll have to sit on the sidelines for the first four games of the season due to his PED violation. That leaves LaCosse, blocking tight end Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck, and LaCosse is the best pass catcher of the bunch.
LaCosse hasn’t produced much at the pro level, but there’s reason to believe that he can be a late bloomer. LaCosse saw 38% of the Broncos’ snaps last year and he could be poised to take another step forward in 2019.
If LaCosse doesn’t cut it in camp, Volin speculates that the Patriots could explore a trade for Kyle Rudolph, though it would require some salary cap magic. The Patriots could also kick the tires on former Texans tight end Ryan Griffin, who would seem to be a fit for the system.
Here’s more from the East divisions:
Former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan got a little too cute in the draft and wound up losing out on one of his mid-round targets, Manish Mehta of the Daily News hears. The Jets had their eyes on Arkansas interior lineman Hjalte Froholdt with the third pick of the fourth round (No. 105 overall) before moving down to the No. 116 pick in order to add a fifth-round pick to their arsenal. Then, they traded down yet again to No. 121, allowing the Pats to scoop up Froholdt with the No. 118 pick. Maccagnan’s maneuvering also cost the club Oklahoma offensive lineman Dru Samia, another target of the team who could have helped at the center position. After all that movement, they wound up settling for West Virginia blocking tight end Trevon Wesco at No. 121 overall.
Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby is still aiming to play in Week 1 and expects to participate in training camp, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Darby has missed 17 games (counting the postseason) since joining the Eagles prior to the 2017 season.
The Vikings made more selections (12) than any other team in the 2019 NFL draft, but they’re nearly done signing their entire rookie class. Only first-round center Garrett Bradbury and seventh-round long-snapper Austin Cutting remain unsigned after Minnesota recently announced the following first-year players have inked their rookie deals:
Mattison was considered something of an over-draft at the end of the third round, but he could see a path to playing time during his rookie campaign, as he’ll compete with Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, and Roc Thomas for work behind starting running back Dalvin Cook. Mattison, who stands 5’11” and 211 pounds, surpasses 1,000 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons, scoring a combined 29 touchdowns on the ground during that time. His four-year contract should be worth $3.342MM and come with a signing bonus of ~$822K.
Samia was one of four Oklahoma offensive lineman selected in last month’s draft. The four-year starter was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2018, and also earned first-team All-Big 12 and second-team All-American nods. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com calls Samia a “very able zone blocker,” which could help him adjust to the NFL as the Vikings implement some form of new offensive consultant Gary Kubiak‘s zone-based scheme. Samia probably isn’t in line for starting work immediately, as Pat Elflein, Bradbury, and Josh Kline will handle Minnesota’s interior, but he’s likely penciled as the club’s top guard/center reserve.
First-round contracts often take a bit longer to work out, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Bradbury is still unsigned. But Cutting’s situations is tied to his status as an alum of the Air Force Academy. He hasn’t signed his rookie deal as he waits for the Air Force to decide if he’ll first need to fulfill his service requirement before playing in the NFL. President Trump is reportedly considering a waiver to allow service academy prospects to immediately play professional sports and delay their military obligations.