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Vikings Bring Back DE Everson Griffen


EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have added a familiar face (and animated voice) to their defense.

Minnesota announced Monday it has signed defensive end Everson Griffen, who previously spent a decade with the organization.

The 33-year-old Griffen provides depth and special skills along the edge of the defensive line, where Danielle Hunter is entrenched as a starter. Stephen Weatherly and D.J. Wonnum have battled for the other starting spot the past few weeks.

Minnesota also has rookies Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson on the roster, along with Jalyn Holmes, Hercules Mata'afa and Kenny Willekes.

Griffen, a four-time Pro Bowler, has an extensive knowledge of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's defense and could also be used in pass-rushing situations if he makes the 53-man roster.

He was among the league's most dynamic pass rushers from 2014 to 2019, recording 57 sacks in 87 starts. He recorded a career-best 13 sacks in 2017 — including at least one sack in the first eight games of the season — to help Minnesota's defense rank first in the league in total points and yards allowed.

"If I didn't think he could help us, we wouldn't sign him," Zimmer said Monday before adding that the Vikings are likely to deploy Griffen as a "situational player" this season.

A fourth-round draft pick in 2010, Griffen ranks seventh in franchise history with 74.5 career sacks. He also added 93 tackles for loss, nine forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and two interceptions in 174 career regular-season games in Purple.

Griffen also has three touchdowns on his résumé — a 2012 interception return for 29 yards, a 43-yard return of a blocked punt in 2014 and a 20-yard fumble return during the 2017 season.

A former captain in Minnesota, Griffen also brought an emotional energy to the locker room, as he was usually the go-to player for an amped-up pregame speech.

Griffen began the 2020 season with Dallas before he was traded to Detroit in late October. He played in 14 total games (seven with each team), recording 2.5 sacks with the Cowboys and 3.5 sacks with the Lions.

"We kind of watched him [last year], but we weren't studying him. He had 6.0 sacks," Zimmer said. "I think the way we rush would be more beneficial to him than the way he tried to do it last year, so he probably recognizes that as well."

Defensive linemen Griffen, Weatherly and Sheldon Richardson have all chosen as free agents to reunite with the Vikings this offseason, and so has cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson, who coached Griffen from 2014-19, referenced Griffen last week before his tryout when describing how he coaches players to avoid jumping from a quarterback's hard count.

"With [Griffen], it was more about me getting him to breathe. It really wasn't the quarterback making him jump offsides," Patterson said. "It was just him in a cannon ready to explode and come out. … In a high-pressure situation, when he felt like, 'I had to get a good get-off to go sack the quarterback,' those were when those times would come."

Griffen spent the first four seasons of his career as a backup who started one of the 59 games he played from 2010-13, but when Zimmer arrived, he advanced to the starting lineup and started 87 of a possible 96 games in the next six seasons.

Griffen and Hunter were integral to Minnesota's defensive game plan that led to an upset of the Saints in New Orleans in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs that followed the 2019 season. The edge rushers kicked inside multiple times for matchups against Saints interior linemen and totaled 1.5 sacks apiece.

The 2019 season marked an impressive comeback for Griffen, who needed to take time away from the team in 2018 for a personal matter.

"We talked to him for quite a while the other day, and I think it seems like he's in a good place," Zimmer said. "Hopefully he continues to do that, and if he does, he can help us."