The Minnesota Vikings are expected to say goodbye to several familiar faces over the next couple of weeks, but if you ask Mike Zimmer, he doesn't believe that Everson Griffen will be one of them.
The long-time Vikings defensive end opted out of his contract last week, making him a free agent and creating speculation that he would be on his way out of town. However, when speaking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Zimmer wasn't ready to throw in the towel on Griffen's return.
“I think he wants to back and those kinds of things usually work its way out,” Zimmer said. "...Everson is a terrific person for us. I think our situation is the right one for him and we expect him to be back."
Griffen came to Minnesota as a fourth-round draft pick by the Vikings in the 2010 NFL Draft. After a rocky start off the field, he became one of the greatest pass-rushers in Vikings history, ranking fourth all-time with 74 1/2 sacks in 147 games.
His ties to the Vikings may have become even stronger in the past couple of seasons, however, as he battled a mental health issue in 2018 before restructuring his contract to return last season.
Although Griffen regained some of his form by recording eight sacks, there's still a question if the 32-year-old will return to Minnesota. Griffen was due to make $13 million last season, but the Vikings couldn't afford that number as they entered the offseason roughly $12 million over the league's salary cap.
With Griffen's decision to decline his option, the Vikings are $736,556 under the cap but have several big decisions to make such as retaining free agents Anthony Harris and Trae Waynes while also deciding what to do with other veterans such as Riley Reiff and Linval Joseph.
For now, the Vikings will have to play the waiting game to see if they can come up with a way to retain Griffen in 2020. If not, they'll have to hope the younger players such as Ifeadi Odenigbo (who had seven sacks in 2019) can step up and fill another hole on the Minnesota defense.