Everson Griffen may be getting ready to cross the NFC North rivalry line.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday the Green Bay Packers are among teams who have expressed interest in signing Griffen, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Rapoport’s sources also said the interest between the Packers and Griffen is mutual.
Griffen, a 2010 fourth-round pick, has been a staple of the Vikings defense at edge rusher since he stepped into a full-time role in 2014, but divorce between the two sides became a reality when Griffen voided the remaining three years on his contract back in February.
Griffen played the 2019 season for the Vikings under a restructured contract that would allow him to opt-out if he met minimum performance benchmarks — 6.5 sacks and playing on 57% of defensive snaps. He achieved them with ease (eight sacks, 78% of defensive snaps) and opted to become a free agent February, later cutting contract talks in March.
Adding the veteran to a defense that already has Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith coming off the edge would be an interesting choice, but also one that would certainly provided Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with more pass-rush possibilities. The Packers are also counting on a significant jump from 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary in his second season.
The Packers have the space to sign Griffen with two spots currently available on their 90-man offseason roster, but adding him would mean finding nine other players to waive before the start of full-squad training camp practices, per the NFL’s new COVID-19 guidelines. The Packers already began the process Sunday when they cut second-year defensive tackle Gerald Willis III — who was signed off the waivers in February.
The Vikings also haven’t been entirely eliminated from Griffen’s possibilities, as head coach Mike Zimmer recently said he wants the veteran defensive end back in Minnesota.
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Packers’ Interest in Griffen Just for Show?
The Packers have about $8.68 million in unallocated cap space after signing all nine of their 2020 draft picks, according to numbers from salary cap guru Ken Ingalls, but his calculations also came with the notation that he expects remaining cap will be reserved for “in-season replacements, extensions and 2021 carryover” rather than any “significant external players.”
As Ingalls mentioned, the Packers’ reported interest in Griffen could simply be smoke and mirrors as it has been at times in the past. The Packers were linked to more than a dozen different free agents at times earlier in the spring but signed short-term deals with just three of them: inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, guard Rick Wagner and wide receiver Devin Funchess.
Should the Packers’ interest prove genuine, Ingalls said he would expect them to take a similar one-year route with Griffen; though, he wasn’t willing to guess on financials given how many months have past since 2020 free agency began.