There might not be a lot left on the NFL’s free agent market, but the players who remain could come at bargain basement prices on short-term contracts. That became clear Wednesday when former Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with Dallas that includes a $3 million base salary and incentives that could add another $3 million.
That’s not exactly breaking the bank for a 32-year-old who had eight sacks last season and 74.5 in his 10-year career. You have to wonder if Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer saw what Griffen did not command on the market and started making calls on Thursday.
The Vikings’ defense could use some short-term help at a few positions, including defensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback and there are some notable veterans still available at each of those spots. The Vikings have $12.7 million in salary cap space, putting them 22nd in the NFL.
Griffen recently topped a CBS Sports list of the 10 best free agents still available. There were a few guys on the list who might make sense for the Vikings. This includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney; defensive back Logan Ryan, who is trying to sell himself as a safety as well as a cornerback; and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, coming off a disappointing season in Detroit, didn’t make the CBS list but also remains unsigned as does defensive tackle Marcel Dareus. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a one-time standout in Green Bay who went through an injury plagued 2019 with the Lions, signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati on Wednesday that, according to ESPN, is worth up to $2.7 million.
These are the types of deals that should interest the Vikings and come with little risk. Defensive tackle wasn’t a pressing issue until free agent Michael Pierce decided to opt-out because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pierce had signed a three-year, $27 million free agent deal with the Vikings in March and his decision to sit out this season opened up $2.7 million in cap room for Minnesota, or exactly what Daniels stands to get from the Bengals.
Clowney isn’t going to come cheap and Ryan wanted a big payday as well, but, just like Griffen did, these guys are going to have to realize that unless a team completely panics, they are going to have to accept below market value for this season. That or sit out.
The Vikings would be a good fit for a veteran on defense because not only could they present an opportunity for playing time, but that opportunity would be presented in a Zimmer-run scheme that is one of the most respected in the NFL. There doesn’t have to be any concern about joining a team late and wondering if the coach knows what he’s doing.
Clowney could benefit by stepping into the role playing opposite Vikings standout defensive end Danielle Hunter. Griffen’s backup last season, Ifeadi Odenigbo, could remain in that spot but that would still come with significant playing time. Clowney didn’t have a great season in 2019, finishing with only three sacks, as he was limited to 13 games in part because of a core muscle injury.
Playing on a one-year contract in Minnesota, Clowney would get a chance to have a strong bounce back season and then shop his services elsewhere. That worked out pretty well for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who turned a one-year, $8 million contract with the Vikings in 2018 into a three-year, $37 million contract with the Cleveland Browns that included $21 million in guarantees.
Ryan, who reportedly was looking for $10 million per season at cornerback, is another guy who could help himself while helping the young Vikings corners.
Maybe the Vikings don’t have an interest in going down this path, but it sure seems as if there could be potential bargains that work well for both team and player.