The Minnesota Vikings have inked their current defensive end Everson Griffen to a new, “huge,” 5-year deal according to Ian Rapaport.
DE Everson Griffen is re-signing with the Vikings on a huge 5-year deal, per source
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2014
The 5-year contract for #Vikings DE Everson Griffen is for $42.5M with $20 guaranteed. Pass-rushers are getting paid, too, along with CBs
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2014
This is obviously enormously good news for Everson Griffen, and I think it should be said good news for the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the fact that the contract might be large, the Vikings may have gotten away with a lot in signing Griffen to a relatively long-term deal, with a high guaranteed salary and an average of $8.5 million.
With this signing, a few dominoes fall, as well. This makes it massively unlikely that the Vikings pursue or sign Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and also resolves some of the issues with the 2014 NFL draft, pushing defensive end further down the needs chart.
The bigger story is what this means for Griffen, both on and off the field.
In the past two years, Everson Griffen has come into his own in a big way, and left USC in 2009 for the 2010 NFL draft with massive emotional maturity issues. Scouting reports across the board pegged him as high-second, low-first round pick, but he fell to the Vikings in the fourth because of poor interviews and questionable competitiveness.
At USC, his freshman year, Griffen got into a fight with a veteran defensive end on the squad, and had been involved in a number of off-field fights, though no charges were ever filed against him. He also had been involved in a few incidents of disturbing the peace as well. Consistently, there were questions about his drive and inconsistency on the field, and despite good play against the run and the pass at USC, he couldn’t convince NFL teams to take him early.
In 2011, Griffen had been arrested twice in three days and tasered by police after grabbing an officer in the groin. He incurred a felony charge for battery. A few days later, held a party in Las Vegas for USC football players—a party that USC banned its players from attending.
It’s difficult to tell when Griffen turned a corner; it may have been the fact that he was nearly cut by the Vikings for his offseason antics in 2011 or the fact that he was suddenly confronted with the tragic death of his mother in 2012 during the season. Beat reporters have remarked on the fact that Griffen had seem a little more reserved since then and that trying year probably changed Griffen in a big way.
The next January also saw Griffen become a father to Grayson Scott Griffen (his mother’s name was Sabrina Scott) with his fiancee.
It could be any one of those three events, a combination or include a different set of events that may have changed Griffen’s outlook on life, but it is clear that the young defensive end had matured and grown into his own. The fact that the Vikings were willing to sign him to a long deal proves that they believe in his maturity as well, particularly with his high salary and guaranteed money.
In the past two seasons, Everson Griffen ranks 17th of the 50 4-3 defensive ends who have rushed the passer at least 350 times at the DE position (as opposed to LB or DT) in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Rusher Productivity metric, which not only adds sacks, but weighs hits and hurries, too. In just pressures per snap, he also ranks 17th, which implies that his production so far has been sustainable.
That means that his numbers on a per-snap basis beat out Jared Allen, Cliff Avril, Michael Johnson and Rob Ninkovich and are extremely similar to Lamarr Houston. Brian Robison ranks 14th in both metrics. If they only ranked rushers who have had 750 pass-rushing snaps, Griffen would rank 13th in both categories while Robison would rank 11th (out of 27).
After an excellent 2012 where Griffen notched 8 sacks, 2013 saw his numbers go down a bit, in part due to natural regression (his eight sacks were unsustainably high, given that he only rushed the passer 400 times and had fewer hurries than you’d expect) but also because opponents were getting rid of the ball a little quicker (his total pressures increased, but his hits and sacks went down). His Pass Rusher Productivity increased despite fewer sacks.
Remember, disruption is production.
Griffen gets a bad rap as a run-stopper, but that’s not fair either. Mostly he gets this reputation as a pass-rushing specialist on Minnesota’s nickel-downs, but he’s been stout stopping the run the last two years and rarely misses a tackle or drops his contain/force assignments. In the past two years, he’s missed four tackles with 49 made tackles to his name (7.5%). Jared Allen has missed 8 with 76 made tackles (9.5%) and Brian Robison has missed 8 tackles with 65 made tackles (12.5%).
More than that, Griffen had a reputation as a stout run defender at USC to go along with his pass-rushing adeptness and led all Minnesota defensive ends in “run stop percentage,” a measure that figures out how many tackles in the run game constitute offensive “failures.” This means he functionally led Vikings DEs in effective “tackles for loss” per opportunity in the run game.
The potential and production is there for Griffen to be a complete defensive end, and despite the big numbers may already be a steal for Minnesota.