If Everson Griffen, with 17.5 sacks and one start in four seasons, is worth $42.5 million to the Minnesota Vikings, what are the more proven pass rushers in free agency going to be worth?
It's hard to blame the Vikings for handing out that deal, which is for five years with $20 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports including NFL Network. Getting pressure on the quarterback has never been more important in the NFL. The Vikings are presumably losing Jared Allen, who posted double-digit sacks in each of his six seasons in Minnesota.
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And really, if the Vikings didn't pay Griffen that, someone probably would have.
Griffen will see an expanded role after coming off the bench in 58 of his 59 career games. He'll have to be a cornerstone of the defense, because he's being paid like one of the top pass rushers in the game now. Griffen, who was a fourth-round pick out of USC four years ago, had five-and-a-half sacks last season, and eight sacks is his high mark for a season. The Vikings are obviously expecting a big jump from those numbers now that they've invested heavily in him.
Griffen has played a significant role for the Vikings the past few years, even though he wasn't a starter. He played 623 snaps last year according to Pro Football Focus and graded 36th among 4-3 defensive ends in PFF's rankings. He is athletic with good size (6-foot-3, 273 pounds), has shown the ability to rush the quarterback and he's just 26 years old . The hope of what he can do with more playing time was what led to the rumors that he would be a hot commodity on the free-agent market, and the Vikings giving him a huge contract.
Whether Griffen lives up to the gamble the Vikings are taking on his potential will be seen over the next few years, but it's clear that a new market has been set for pass rushers in free agency. Players like Michael Bennett and Michael Johnson probably had to recalibrate their demands after hearing what Griffen received.
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