The Minnesota Vikings were supposed to sign George Iloka in free agency. When general manager Rick Spielman had his shot at the Bengals’ star strong safety and passed, fans groaned. “But Harrison Smith needs a star player next to him,” they said. “We can’t survive another year with Andrew Sendejo back there,” they complained.
It was a surprising turn of events for the Vikings, who used the free agency period to shore up deficiencies along the offensive line and re-sign key veterans; one of those being Sendejo. The oft-criticized, muscle-bound safety has started 26 games for the Vikings since 2013 and returned on a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason.
He joined Antone Exum and Anthony Harris on the depth chart, leaving Smith without his long-sought-after partner in crime. Spielman simultaneously addressed the scarcity at the position and raised eyebrows by signing Michael Griffin, a nine-year veteran, off the street. Griffin, who’d spent his entire career with the Tennessee Titans, was released after the 2015 season and didn’t have a ‘home’ prior to March.
But Spielman took a chance, and now, the 31-year-old veteran has a real shot at starting opposite Smith this season. While he’s not the answer at the position, Griffin is a proven commodity with the specific skill set and experience to do two things for the Vikings: create competition at strong safety and open the playbook for the limitless Smith.