Everson Griffen

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/23/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Everson Griffen Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Lions placed Everson Griffen on their reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday and did so because of a positive test, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

An in-season trade acquisition, Griffen is now set to miss the next two Lions games. The veteran defensive end was one of three players whose most recent coronavirus test came back positive, joining Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin and Rams linebacker Jachai Polite.

Playing on a one-year deal, Griffen has five sacks this season. He has recorded 2.5 of those in his five games with the Lions. Should Griffen avoid complications from the season-defining virus, he could return in Week 16 to make a final impression for another run at free agency. Griffen is a half-sack away from 80 in his 11-year career.

This will leave the Lions thin on the edge, with Trey Flowers and rookie Julian Okwara on IR. Detroit also is down cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah. Griffen, however, is the only player on the team’s COVID list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Trade Everson Griffen To Lions

Shortly after Everson Griffen trade rumors emerged, the veteran defensive end is on the move. He will return to the NFC North.

The Cowboys are trading Griffen to the Lions for a draft choice, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Griffen spent 10 seasons with the Vikings and will now be headed to Detroit to help the 3-3 team’s pass rush. The Lions will send the Cowboys a conditional sixth-rounder for Griffen, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). The pick would top out as a 2021 fifth, per ESPN.com’s Todd Archer.

Griffen signed a one-year, $6MM deal with the Cowboys during training camp. But Dallas’ defense, despite featuring several veterans, has experienced consistent struggles this season. One of the 2010s’ best pass rushers, Griffen will head to a Lions team that just placed the younger of its two pass-rushing Okwaras, Julian, on IR. The Lions will be responsible for nearly $2MM of Griffen’s base salary.

With the Vikings from 2010-19, Griffen accumulated 77 sacks. He did so after spending the 2010-13 seasons as a backup. The ex-Viking cog registered 2.5 sacks in seven games as a Cowboy this season.

Griffen, 32, will need to pass six days’ worth of coronavirus tests before practicing with his new team. This will stand in the way of a 17-game season for the acclaimed edge defender. The Lions have already had their bye week, meaning Griffen’s first game with the team would be against the Vikings next week.

Although the Lions gave Trey Flowers a lucrative deal last year, they rank 28th with only eight sacks this season. Flowers and veteran Romeo Okwara have combined for six of those. Griffen finished with eight sacks and 24 QB hits for the Vikings last season and took his time choosing his next team in free agency. The Cowboys, however, will deal away one of their veteran defenders after a 2-5 start. The team recently redeployed Randy Gregory after his latest suspension ended, and Aldon Smith has produced for the Cowboys despite being out of the NFL for nearly five years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Shopping Everson Griffen?

The Cowboys are still only a half-game back in the race for the NFC East and could move into sole possession of first place with a win this weekend, but might they be packing it in already? Dallas has “made it known” that veteran defensive end Everson Griffen is available for trade, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

Rapoport’s tweet makes it sound like the Cowboys are looking to unload the roughly half of his $6MM salary left on the books to a contending team. It’s perhaps the biggest sign yet of just how disastrous things have gotten for the Cowboys in such a short amount of time. Just a few weeks ago the notion of Dallas being sellers at the trade deadline would’ve been unfathomable. If this report is true, then it’ll be interesting to see what other moves they might make before next Tuesday.

For a team that entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations, it’s a pretty dramatic admission of defeat. Obviously the impact of Dak Prescott‘s injury can’t be overstated, but the defense has been a complete mess and the coaching staff led by Mike McCarthy appears on the verge of losing the locker room.

Griffen, 33 in December, signed with the Cowboys in August looking to compete for a title. He’s been playing a little over half of the defensive snaps this season, racking up 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks through seven games. Griffen has made the Pro Bowl in four of the past five seasons, including last year when he had eight sacks with Minnesota, so a number of contenders could be interested despite his relatively advanced age.

There are a handful of suitors that make sense, as teams like the Seahawks and Cardinals look in line for playoff spots but don’t have much of a pass-rush. We heard the Cardinals were interested in him as a free agent earlier this offseason and they’re now without star pass-rusher Chandler Jones for the rest of the year, so they could make a lot of sense. The Packers were another team engaged in discussions with the USC product as recently as late July.

All of this being said, the report is apparently news to Griffen himself. Griffen said “I don’t think the Cowboys want to trade me. I haven’t heard that,” when asked by Josina Anderson of ESPN (Twitter link). Meanwhile a source told Anderson that teams have called, but the Cowboys haven’t “shopped him officially.” Assuming he is shipped out it would mean more playing time for Randy Gregory, who only played six defensive snaps this past weekend in his first action since 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Sign Everson Griffen

Not long after the NFL lifted its ban on free agent tryouts, the Cowboys landed one of the biggest names left on the market. As the NFL.com crew of Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Jane Slater were first to report (via Twitter), Dallas is signing longtime Vikings edge defender Everson Griffen.

It will be a one-year deal for Griffen worth up to $6MM. According to Kimberly A. Martin of ESPN.com (via Twitter), $3MM will come in the form of a base salary, and the remaining $3MM is comprised of roster bonuses. There are no performance-based incentives, but if Griffen suits up for all 16 games, he will pocket $6MM.

The Cowboys have loaded up on defensive firepower this offseason, adding Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Aldon Smith to the front seven. The team did see Robert Quinn defect to the Bears via free agency, but Griffen will replace Quinn for a fraction of the $70MM that the latter will receive over a five-year term with Chicago. Griffen makes an excellent bookend to fellow DE DeMarcus Lawrence, and his presence will allow Dallas to be less reliant on Smith — who hasn’t played since 2015 — and Randy Gregory, who is still seeking reinstatement. The Cowboys seem likely to remain in a 4-3 scheme, with Lawrence and Griffen sandwiching Poe and McCoy as part of a stout, veteran-laden front.

Though we heard back in March that the Cowboys were unlikely to sign Griffen, that was not long after free agency opened, and it could be that Griffen’s price has come down considerably since then. Indeed, Todd Archer of ESPN.com says Dallas has had Griffen on the radar most of the offseason, and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com thinks the salary cap space created by Dallas’ COVID-19 opt-outs may have made the team more willing to pull the trigger (Twitter link).

Griffen, 32, boasts 74.5 sacks over his ten seasons with the Vikings, to go along with four Pro Bowl bids. He earned one of those Pro Bowl trips last season in an eight-sack campaign that proved he still has plenty left in the tank.

Minnesota did not do much to bolster its pass rush this offseason, and it was beginning to look like the team would ultimately reunite with Griffen, whose market was seemingly slow to develop. Indeed, Rapoport tweets that the Vikings and the Seahawks were vying for Griffen’s services, but both lost out to Dallas, whose interest had not been publicly reported at all.

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune confirms that Minnesota was making a push to re-sign Griffen in recent days, with head coach Mike Zimmer spearheading the sales pitch (Twitter link). The Vikings hoped that Griffen’s familiarity with the only pro team he has ever known, as well as the fact that his permanent home is in Minnesota, would tip the scales in their favor. Though he doesn’t have exact numbers, Darren Wolfson of KSTP says (via Twitter) the Vikes made a competitive offer, but Griffen has elected to start the next chapter of his career in Jerry World.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mutual Interest Between Packers, Everson Griffen

Despite having made two big signings to fortify their edge rusher positions last year, the Packers are interested another impact pass-rushing talent.

The Packers are among the teams to express interest in free agent edge defender Everson Griffen, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The longtime Vikings defensive end is interested in a Green Bay deal as well, per Rapoport. This marks the second team Griffen has identified as a preferred landing spot. He pegged Seattle as a potential destination months ago.

This news comes shortly after Mike Zimmer indicated he would love to have Griffen back for an 11th season in Minnesota. The seventh-year Vikings HC, however, was not sure where that process stood.

I know that he texted me the other day telling me congratulations and things like that,” Zimmer said regarding his recent contract extension. “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.”

The Vikings have been believed set to move on from Griffen this offseason, but they did not make a notable investment to replace the Pro Bowl pass rusher. The Packers, however, already have Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, along with 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary. Adding Griffen at this juncture would not cost Green Bay the kind of money it shelled out for the Smiths — $16.5MM and $13MM on average, respectively — and it would certainly bolster one of the league’s best pass-rushing groups. Though, Griffen — Minnesota’s No. 4 all-time sack leader — would seemingly have a better chance to see significant playing time elsewhere. The Packers hold nearly $12MM in cap space; the Vikings have almost $10MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Aren’t Interested In Everson Griffen, Clay Matthews

The Browns are still showing interest in Jadeveon Clowney, but they’re not quite as keen on the market’s other top edge rushers. Everson Griffen and Clay Matthews do not seem to be on their radar, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Top 10 Available Edge Rushers]

Griffen’s market has been slow to develop so far. Earlier this summer, he was linked to the Cardinals, but there hasn’t been any movement on that front, to our knowledge. Griffen, 32, has 74.5 sacks to his credit over ten NFL seasons. And, since Clowney came into the league in 2014, Griffen has registered 55 sacks. Still, Clowney is six years younger and the Browns likely see him as having better upside for 2020.

Matthews, 34, racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts) last year, despite missing some time with a broken jaw. In the interest of equal time, the sacks may not tell the whole story – Matthews had just 11 QB hits in 2019, similar to his 12 QB hits in 2018 with the Packers. In his final season with Green Bay, Matthews finished out with just 3.5 sacks.

Ultimately, it sounds like the Browns are open to replacing Olivier Vernon as their No. 2 DE, but only if they can find an edge rusher who represents a clear upgrade. And, from the sound of it, Clowney is the only available pass rusher who fits the bill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Edge Rushers Still Available

Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback is critical to a team’s success in today’s NFL, and there are a number of players still languishing on the free agent market who are capable of doing just that. While the pandemic has understandably made teams leery of authorizing big-money contracts, some of the available talent can be had for a fairly minimal commitment, and it would not be surprising to see them come off the board as we get closer (hopefully) to training camp.

So let’s take a look at the best of the unsigned pass rushers.

  1. Jadeveon Clowney: Not many players have been in the news more than Clowney this offseason. By now, everyone knows that Clowney was seeking a multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $20MM when free agency opened, but he has had to modify his demands in a big way. The Browns are believed to have two offers on the table: a one-year pact worth $15MM, and a multi-year contract worth around $12MM/year. Cleveland does not seem to be high on Clowney’s list of preferred destinations, but the club does have the makings of a postseason contender. It will be interesting to see if another team tries to top the Browns’ proposals to land a potentially game-changing talent.
  2. Everson Griffen: Back in May, Griffen was rated as our No. 3 best available free agent, and he would be the No. 2 talent on that list today now that Cam Newton has signed with the Patriots. Shortly after the list was published, we heard that the Cardinals may be interested, but nothing has transpired on the Griffen front in the last six weeks. The 32-year-old showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019, and the fact that he is still unsigned may indicate that his contract demands are too high right now.
  3. Ezekiel Ansah: The Seahawks paired Clowney with Ansah in 2019 with the hopes of creating a true two-headed pass-rushing monster. That did not exactly work out as planned, as Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted 2.5 while playing in 11 games. Ansah just couldn’t regain the form that he displayed during his best years with the Lions, and it certainly seems as if he does not have another double-digit sack campaign in him. Still, he is another year removed from the shoulder injury that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, so he will surely get a chance to be a part of someone’s pass rush rotation in 2020.
  4. Michael Bennett: Bennett wants to play in 2020, but thus far, it doesn’t sound as if there has been much interest in his services. The three-time Pro Bowler enjoyed a nine-sack effort with the Eagles in 2018, but he was traded to the Patriots in March 2019 and clashed with New England brass. In October, the Pats shipped him to the Cowboys, for whom he posted four sacks in nine games. In total, he collected 6.5 sacks last year while playing fewer snaps than he is accustomed to. He may very well start to attract more interest once camp gets underway.
  5. Markus Golden: No one other than the incumbent Giants has expressed interest in Golden since free agency began, and it seems like the 29-year-old will be back with Big Blue in 2020. The Giants put the rarely-used UFA tender on him, which means that he will only be eligible to play for New York if he does not sign another offer prior to the start of training camp (presently scheduled for July 28). Though Golden posted 10 sacks in 2019, he did so off of just 26 pressures, which teams likely see as an unsustainable conversion rate. The UFA tender would pay Golden $4.125MM this season.
  6. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, and the 8.5 sacks he totaled in his rookie season in 2011 remain a career high. But he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year career, and he still looks the part of a starting DE. Fresh off a reasonably productive three-year stint with the Colts, Sheard has not yet been connected to any club this offseason.
  7. Clay Matthews: Matthews opened the 2019 campaign with his hair on fire, posting six sacks in the first five games of the season. It appeared that the two-year, $16.75MM contract the Rams gave to the longtime Packer in March 2019 was going to pay off in a big way, but Matthews suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. He picked up two more sacks the rest of the way, and LA cut ties with him earlier this year. There have been no public reports of interest in the 34-year-old, but he could be a valuable veteran presence if deployed in the right way.
  8. Vinny Curry: Curry has always been a situational pass rusher. Even when he started all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2017, he played in just over half of the club’s defensive snaps. His one year in Tampa Bay in 2018 was not a smashing success, but he returned to Philadelphia in 2019 to reprise his role as a player who can come in on passing downs and who represents a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. The Jets were said to be interested in him in March, and Gang Green could still use pass rushing help, but the two sides have not yet come together on an agreement.
  9. Terrell Suggs: Suggs’ career accomplishments stand head and shoulders above those of most everyone else on this list. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and seven-time Pro Bowler has 139 career sacks to his credit, but he finally started to slow down in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and he looked the part of an aging defender during his 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2019. Arizona cut him late last season and he was scooped up by the Chiefs, which allowed him to collect his second Super Bowl ring. It’s unclear if T-Sizzle has any interest in continuing his playing career, but he has nothing left to prove.
  10. Cameron Wake: Another player that would be higher on this list if not for his age, Wake was released by the Titans in March. The 38-year-old has said he wants to keep playing, but after a terrific run with the Dolphins from 2009-18, Wake’s one year with Tennessee did not go according to plan. He registered just two sacks in nine games and missed the final stretch of the season with a back injury. He might well be healthy now, but we are unaware of any teams with interest at this point.

Cardinals Interested In Everson Griffen

Everson Griffen has spent two months in free agency, but the longtime Vikings defensive end does have a market. Strong interest has emerged, with the Cardinals being a new team in the mix for Griffen, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

Although a Vikings return cannot be ruled out, with the team not doing much to fill its need opposite Danielle Hunter, Griffen is not believed to be a good bet to return to Minnesota. While the 10-year Viking expressed interest in signing with the Seahawks, they may still be monitoring Jadeveon Clowney. Griffen is staying patient, Fowler indicates, and other teams are looking into the 32-year-old edge player.

The Cardinals did not draft an outside pass rusher this year. They signed Terrell Suggs to play opposite Chandler Jones last year but waived him late in the season. Arizona intended to give time to some of its younger edge defenders but may be eyeing a more proven option at this point. Griffen’s 74.5 career sacks are the fourth-most in Vikings history. He booked his fourth Pro Bowl invite last year after an eight-sack regular season.

Jones continued his dominance last season by registering 19.5 sacks. Suggs recorded 5.5 with the Cardinals. No other Cardinal recorded more than three sacks last year. The team did sign Jordan Phillips — who led the Bills with 9.5 sacks in 2019 — but he will operate as an interior pass rusher. The Cardinals have been busy fortifying their front seven this offseason, in also signing De’Vondre Campbell and then drafting Isaiah Simmons eighth overall, but are in the mix to continue adding to the group.

The Cards currently hold just less than $9MM in cap space — much of which will be needed to sign their draft class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Remaining Free Agents

While most of the top free agents in this year’s cycle have long since signed with new clubs, there are plenty of potential difference-makers still available. Those players remain on the market for various reasons — price tag, injury concerns, etc. — but they all could be a key factor in the fortunes of whatever team they ultimately join. Let’s take a look at the best of who’s still out there:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney: If you think you’ve been reading a lot about Clowney over the past couple of months, you’re right. That’s what happens when a former No. 1 overall pick and a young dynamic talent is still up for grabs this late in the offseason. Clowney’s high asking price, originally said to be $20MM per year, certainly scared some teams off, as did his recent core muscle surgery. Some will also point to his relatively low sack totals as evidence that he is not the dynamic pass rushing force that he believes himself to be. But he undeniably has the chops to be a game-changer against the run and pass, and he is content to wait for the right situation to come along. Once teams have the opportunity to evaluate him themselves, his market should heat up rapidly.
  2. Cam Newton: Here’s another former No. 1 overall pick that we have written a great deal about recently. Like Clowney, the 2015 MVP may be signed by now if interested teams could have their own doctors examine him, and Newton is willing to be patient and wait for that to happen if waiting will allow him to secure a starting gig somewhere. But at this point, it looks like only an injury or major underpeformance will open the door for a QB1 role in 2020, so he may have to settle for a top backup job for now and hit the free agent market again in 2021. He is reportedly warming to that idea.
  3. Everson Griffen: Like Clowney, Griffen is a talented pass rusher, but unlike Clowney, Griffen has multiple double-digit sack campaigns under his belt. The 32-year-old posted eight QB takedowns in 2019, and it is a little surprising to see him unsigned this late in the process. A reunion with the Vikings may be in the cards, and the Seahawks are the only other club to be connected to Griffen at this point.
  4. Jason Peters: The only reason Peters isn’t signed yet is because of his age (38). He turned in a typically terrific season in 2019, and he has been connected to a number of clubs over the past couple of months. The problem is, many of those teams have filled their needs at the offensive tackle spots, so even though Peters has said that he is willing to play on the left or the right side, his options are now more limited. The Chargers could still be in play, and another year with the Eagles may also be a reality.
  5. Logan Ryan: Unlike several of the players ahead of him on this list, Ryan doesn’t have any notable health concerns, but his asking price — he’s seeking around $10MM per year — could be depressing his market. He turned in a productive 2019 season with the Titans and has the versatility to move around the defensive backfield, which has apparently led to multi-year offers. Given the need for quality corners in today’s game, Ryan will likely land a lucrative deal soon, it just may not be as lucrative as he wants. The Jets and Dolphins are involved in the bidding.
  6. Markus Golden: Golden enjoyed what appeared to be a breakout season with the Cardinals in 2016, posting 12.5 sacks in just his second year in the league. But injuries limited the edge rusher over the 2017-18 seasons, and he had to settle for a one-year prove-it deal with the Giants in 2019. He perhaps thought that he proved it, recording 10 sacks for Big Blue, but those 10 sacks came from just 26 total pressures, which is probably an unsustainable conversion rate. So far, only the Giants — who put the rarely-used UFA tender on Golden — have been publicly connected to him.
  7. Devonta Freeman: We haven’t heard a peep about the two-time Pro Bowl running back since the Falcons released him in March. The fact that Atlanta replaced him with Todd Gurley and his frightening injury concerns isn’t a good sign, and Freeman’s 3.6 YPC average in 2019 certainly isn’t helping matters either. Freeman’s own injury problems limited him to two games in 2018, so he is now two years removed from his last effective season. It’s nonetheless a bit of a surprise that there have been no rumors of interest in his services.
  8. Delanie Walker: The best tight end left on the market, Walker has battled injuries over the past two seasons and will turn 36 in August, so it makes sense that we haven’t heard too much about him lately. But while he may not be a TE1 anymore, he could still be a useful weapon in the passing game, and he also has a history of being a strong blocker. The Colts, Packers, and Redskins were said to be interested in him in March, and those teams continue to look like good fits even after the draft. The Ravens, who rely heavily on TEs and who traded Hayden Hurst to the Falcons this offseason, also make some sense.
  9. Eric Reid: The 28-year-old safety turned in what appeared to be a strong year in 2019, starting all 16 games for the Panthers and posting a career-best 130 tackles. The problem is, he may have had so many tackle opportunities because he allowed over 77% of throws in his vicinity to be completed. Still, he is an experienced and generally solid back-end defender, and the Texans — who employ his brother, Justin Reid seem like a logical fit.
  10. Darqueze Dennard: Dennard, a former first-round pick of the Bengals, thought he had a deal with the Jaguars in March. But Jacksonville backed out of the deal, and while there was no word on why that happened, it could be that health concerns made the Jags skittish. Dennard missed the first few weeks of the 2019 season due to a knee procedure, but he did play every game from Week 10 forward and graded out well in terms of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. He has been Cincinnati’s primary slot corner over the past several seasons, but there has been no reported interest in him since the failed Jaguars pact.