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Why the Packers should sign former Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen

Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen remains a free agent. The Packers should fix that.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is functionally over. For all intents and purposes, most teams have set their rosters and are now just waiting for the inevitable injuries and attrition of training camp and regular season to set in before they make any more roster changes.

But that’s not to say the Green Bay Packers shouldn’t be open to making moves. Indeed, Brian Gutekunst has shown a consistent willingness to churn his roster at all points of the NFL calendar, and he shouldn’t rest on his laurels now. The Packers roster still has its weak points, and while the offensive side of the free agency scrap heap is more or less picked over, there are still some capable defenders who could bolster some weak parts of the Packers roster.

One such player is Everson Griffen. After recording eight sacks in 2019, Griffen opted out of the final three years of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings in February. Though he’s drawn interest from the Seahawks and the Vikings haven’t ruled out a reunion, he remains a free agent today, and would be a good option for the Packers, whose defensive line group is seriously lacking difference makers outside of Kenny Clark.

Heading into his age 33 season, Griffen certainly isn’t the player he once was. After a 13-sack Pro Bowl season in 2017, Griffen was limited to 11 games in 2018 due to some troubling (at the very least) off-field incidents. For his part, he says he’s put those things behind him, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.

However, whether or not Griffen can be a Pro Bowler isn’t really the question here. The Packers should be asking if he (or someone like, say, Tim Jernigan) is better than Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, Gerald Willis, or Montravius Adams. The answer there is almost certainly yes.

In reverse order: Adams, once described as one of the most promising players on the 2019 Packers, barely got on the field last season. Willis played 17 snaps for the Dolphins last year. Lancaster is fine, but appears to have maxed out his abilities as a third or fourth rotational lineman. Lowry, the recipient of a handsome contract extension a year ago, posted a grand total of zero sacks and two quarterback hits, bringing his career total in those categories through four seasons to a whopping seven and 15, respectively.

Griffen, even at age 33, should be a marked improvement over each of those players, and he wouldn’t be counted upon to play a heavy snap count, either. The Packers have enough bodies up front that Griffen could be kept fresh for pass rushing situations.

And just imagine what one of those situations could look like. Mike Pettine loves his two lineman looks in passing situations. Imagine pairing Kenny Clark and Griffen on a third down. Za’Darius Smith kicks inside, giving the Packers a front of Griffen, Smith, and Clark. Preston Smith pressures from the outside, while Pettine’s preferred six or seven defensive backs drop into coverage.

It’s enough to make you want to open up your own wallet and get Griffen to Green Bay, and I hope Brian Gutekunst feels the same way.