Every day we'll take a look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he'll be back with the club in 2014.
Free agent to be: Everson Griffen
Position: Defensive end
Years in the league: 4
What he made last season: $765,000 (cap number); $630,000 (cash value)
What he did last season: Griffen finished the year with 5.5 sacks, after collecting 2.5 in the Vikings' final two games, but for many who were expecting a breakout year from the 6-foot-3 end, his season qualified as a disappointment. He had dropped down to 266 pounds before the season, with an eye toward gaining some quickness as a pass-rusher, but was too often washed out of plays at the beginning of the season. Griffen showed flashes of the dynamic, versatile pass-rusher he can be, but never really turned into the force the Vikings were hoping he would be in 2013. That might still be coming.
His potential market value: Griffen could have an interesting market if he gets to free agency, because of the number of teams who would look at his size and speed (he ran a 4.65 40 coming out of USC) and see a possible 3-4 linebacker. If the Vikings want to incorporate elements of the 3-4 in their defense, Griffen could have additional value for them, too; he dropped into coverage more than any other lineman on their roster last season. He had an interception return for a touchdown when he dropped into coverage against the Rams in 2012. But because he's never put up the kind of season that says he's worth a premium deal, he might be better off taking a short-term contract that affords him another shot at free agency when he's 28 or 29.
Will he still fit the Vikings? Yes, especially if the Vikings let Jared Allen walk. Griffen has enough explosiveness, and can be used in enough different ways, that it's hard to see new coach Mike Zimmer not wanting to plug him in his aggressive defense. Griffen has said he wants to stay, and the Vikings had reached out to his agent to start preliminary contract talks last season. It seems likely they'll take care of him before he gets to free agency.
What happens: Griffen comes back to the Vikings on a "prove-it" deal -- a two-year contract for $8 or $10 million that will keep him hungry to really emerge and earn a big contract down the road.