Zimmer expects Vikings to re-sign DE Griffen

NFL

INDIANAPOLIS — Upon choosing to void the final three years of his contract, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen put himself in line to become a free agent at the start of the new league year. However, it doesn’t appear the 32-year-old pass rusher will make it very far on the open market.

According to Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings anticipate re-signing Griffen for the 2020 season, which would undoubtedly come at a reduced price.

“We met with his agent, yesterday I think it was,” Zimmer said Wednesday at the NFL combine. “Everson’s a terrific person for us. I think our situation is the right one for him, and we expect him to be back. I think he wants to be back, so those kinds of things usually work their way out.”

Griffen restructured his deal last offseason, signing a four-year extension that was set to keep him under contract in Minnesota through 2022. As one of two NFL players last season with a player-controlled void written into his deal, per a league source, Griffen had the option to void the remaining three years of his contract if he totaled at least six sacks and played 57 percent of his team’s snaps. The veteran defensive end finished 2019 with eight sacks and played 78 percent of defensive snaps.

By exercising his right to void the remainder of his deal, Griffen avoided becoming a cap casualty. The move created $13.1 million in cap space for Minnesota, which is now estimated to be $2.4 million under the cap, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System.

Griffen was drafted in the fourth round by Minnesota in 2010 and is currently fourth in franchise history with 74.5 sacks. He is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl season, and Zimmer called the defensive end’s play “excellent” in 2019, “maybe as good as I’ve seen him play since he’s been here.”

“I thought Everson played really well, especially early in the year,” Zimmer said. “As we’re going back through the cut-ups and watching some of the pass things, he’s still a really good pass-rusher. There’s that as far as on the field. Off the field, number one, he’s got a great relationship with [co-defensive coordinator] Andre [Patterson]. He loves the guys here in the locker room, and I think he understands that we’re going to do the best for him all of the time.”

While the Vikings anticipate being able to retain one of their defensive staples, they are also faced with a handful of difficult decisions concerning other pending free agents, including safety Anthony Harris. The former UDFA turned starter is among the top safeties in this year’s free-agent class and is expected to command a high salary, which may force the Vikings to let him walk in free agency and find his replacement elsewhere.

“I think the biggest thing is that whoever that is has to have some smarts because those guys do a lot on the back end,” Zimmer said. “I love Anthony. If he doesn’t come back, I think he’s earned whatever he’s gotten, but if you put up the positions that are the most important on defense, it’s probably not going to be safety. We’ll figure out a way if he’s not back. He stepped in for [Andrew] Sendejo when Sendejo got suspended or hurt, whatever it was, and never [went back out of the starting lineup].”

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