Friday, July 31, 2015

everson griffen

The excitement of free agency has yet to wear down, but the details of certain contracts are starting to be revealed.  Yesterday we looked at the hefty deal given to defensive end Everson Griffen and most of you thought it was worthy of an “A” or “B” grade.  Now we’re looking at the guy we had listed as the top Vikings free agent of the offseason (Griffen was number two).

Quarterback Matt Cassel had leverage the minute he voided the second and final year of his contract with the Vikings.  It was arguably impossible for the Vikings to find a free agent better than Cassel and Christian Ponder was the only quarterback left on the roster.  Thus, he was able to gain more money and slightly more long-term security by doing so.

Cassel, who had a hand in each of the Vikings wins from last season, remains with the team under a new two year deal worth up to $10.5 million.  According to Spotrac, Cassel’s deal $5.65 million in guarantees and he will a $5.75 million cap hit this season.  The Vikings could cut ties next season with minimal impact to the cap situation.

Cassel still isn’t any sort of long-term franchise quarterback at 31 years old, but Rick Spielman would have been totally hanging his neck out there if he went into May’s Draft with Christian Ponder as his only viable option at the league’s most important position.  The Cassel signing gives the Vikings a playable quarterback, a trustworthy veteran mentor, and some much needed flexibility in the Draft.

Adam’s Grade:  A

The sudden increase in the league-wide salary cap has resulted in a number of startling contracts through two days of free agency, but one has to keep in mind that the pot of gold has increased quite a bit, but NFL rosters have stayed the same size.  It only makes sense that contracts handed out today will be larger than their three year old equivalents.

Anyways, one of those contracts that might have prompted a few audible gasps was the one the Vikings handed out to defensive end Everson Griffen.  The initial numbers reported included a five year duration, $42.5 million total salary, with $19.8 million guaranteed.  These numbers seem steep for a relatively unproven commodity, but the Vikings claimed they are paying for the future, not the past.

They did, however, build in a little insurance.  By guaranteeing the first two years of salary, along with his $6 million in signing bonus, the Vikings can cut ties with Griffen after two seasons with minimal cap exposure.  The mainstream media has picked on the re-signing a little bit, mainly because Griffen officially only has one career start, but that stat is very misleading as his snap count and in-game impact has exceeded the expectations of most backups.

After the signing, word emerged that the Denver Broncos had been in contact with Griffen’s camp, and were prepared to offer him a contract in the neighborhood of $9 million per year.  Like the Bears did with Phil Loadholt last year, the competitive pressure may have forced the Vikings to quickly up the ante, but that’s the risk you run when you don’t lock up your own players sooner rather than later.

The defensive end market is pretty deep right now.  Who would have thought we’d ever see Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and DeMarcus Ware all unemployed at the same time?  Still, I think the Vikings got one of the better speed rushers available, and he’s about the youngest option that was available.  With plenty of run stopping ends still available for cheap, and a need to build off of youth, I think Spielman made a decent call here as long as Griffen keeps himself out of trouble.

Adam’s Grade:  B

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Free agency is sneaking up on us and the Vikings have been quiet, as usual, regarding their plans to re-sign their own free agents.  Almost certainly, there will be some of our own guys signing new contracts prior to the March 11th opening of the market, but this is as good of a time as any to participate in some good old fashioned speculation.

I tend to view the NFL Draft as a time to amass talent, with less regard for immediate need than is displayed in the opening days of free agency, so I have narrowed in on five guys that I think could help make an immediate impact on the opening day roster.  Of course, free agency is highly unpredictable and we fans seldom get what we want, but this slow time in the offseason is the perfect time for us dreamers to dream.

With a head coach hired, and both coordinator positions filled, we have as clear of an indication as to what direction this team is headed as we will get for quite some time.

On offense, the hiring of Norv Turner suggests that the development of a quarterback and bulking up of the O-line are going to be top priorities, as he will likely want to feature power running and deep routes throughout 2014 and beyond.  The defense will likely be a less-bland version of the 4-3 than what we have seen in Minnesota of late and talent is needed pretty much across the board.

The Vikings have a number of larger contracts set to expire this offseason which frees up a bunch of cap space and will allow them to make some moves.  The first wave of roster movement comes in the form of re-signings as teams try to lock up their own players, at least the ones they want.  The releasing of some some players (like, perhaps, Erin Henderson) might make this list grow, but here is an attempt to prioritize targets within the Vikings own roster.

THE TOP TIER

MATT CASSEL, QB:  Technically, Cassel is not a free agent… yet.  He has the ability to opt out of the second year of his contract which pays him $3.15 million with the Vikings.  Jay Cutler has already been retained by Chicago and this year’s free agent quarterback class leaves a ton to be desired.  It could be really tempting for Cassel to shoot for bluer (more lucrative) waters this offseason and the Vikings really need to convince him to stick around.  Without Cassel on the roster this team appears stuck without a plan A, B, or even plan C.

EVERSON GRIFFEN, DE:  Everson Griffen didn’t impress in 2013 the way he did in 2012, but then again either did just about anyone on this roster.  It remains to be seen how he can hold up playing full games over a full season, but the young, athletic defensive end has shown his ability to be disruptive in the backfield.  It would really be disappointing to see the Vikings let him leave without a fight as they are headed for great transition along the defensive line.

TOBY GERHART, RB:  Gerhart is most likely heading for a team willing to pay him to be a starter, or at least a key part of a rotation, instead of staying with the Vikings where Adrian Peterson is cemented as the top running back.  Running backs are no longer “a dime a dozen” as they were a few years back, so Gerhart actually stands to sign a decent sized contract as an unrestricted free agent.  The Vikings would probably love to sign him back, but logic indicates it is a long shot.

JARED ALLEN, DE:  It would be nice to see the Vikings get creative and structure a deal with Allen that sees him play out his career with the Vikings like they did with Antoine Winfield.  The problem with that is that the Vikings didn’t honor their end of the bargain and jettisoned Winfield after he earned incentives the hard way, thus burning up any goodwill they might have had with their veteran leaders.  Allen has noted how much Minnesota means to him, and maybe bringing Mike Zimmer to town changes things, but it seems unlikely that Minnesota will be the top bidder for his services at this point in his career.

The Vikings are currently negotiating a contract extension with defensive end Everson Griffen and recently completed a four-year contract extension with defensive end Brian Robison.

What about All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen?

There are currently no contract talks between the team and Allen’s camp.

It is apparent here that Minnesota is attempting to lock two of its younger pass rushers. Robison, 30, received a four-year deal worth a reported $22.4 million. Griffen, 25,  recently rejected a contract offer by the team, but that is likely just a part of the contract negotiation process.

Allen, 31, isn’t much older than Robison, but would likely seek a contract much more lucrative to Robison’s $5.6 million per year average. Allen is currently earning $14.3 million for the 2013-14 season.

The door is not completely shut on Allen returning, but the writing is on the wall.

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