The Minnesota Vikings were busy in free agency yesterday, with the big news being a deal with defensive end Everson Griffen:
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 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.
They also brought back middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley after a year in Arizona:
The Vikes, likely for cap reasons as much as anything, let the former starter Brinkley walk before the 2013 season. The linebacker landed in Arizona but didn’t do enough to convince the Cardinals to bring him back.
Now with the Vikings seeking linebacker depth, Minnesota has elected to go with the known quantity.
What we know about Jasper Brinkley: He’s decent against the run and can play downhill. In coverage he is brutal.
As a middle linebacker ranging around and making plays? I’m not feeling it. We’ll see what Zimmer’s plan is for Brinkley, but my feeling here is that this was a depth signing and more moves will be coming at linebacker, possibly in the draft.
Brinkley is a backup, and that’s all he is.
Update: Earlier today, the Vikings also re-signed linebacker Larry Dean (who’s valued for his special teams contributions).
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 10, 2014