It was less than a week ago that criticism rained down on Field Gulls and myself as an author for spreading doom and gloom regarding the potential for the Seattle Seahawks to trade for Stefon Diggs. However, according to reports this morning, it appears as though my understanding of leverage and predicting the behavior of others regarding financial and valuation matters are being shown to reign supreme.
Per Courtney Cronin, who covers the Minnesota Vikings for ESPN, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has elected to opt out of his contract and will become a free agent in March.
The Vikings' defense is undergoing a transformation. Everson Griffen opted to void the remainder of his contract (2020-22), per source, which creates significant cap space, but there’s more work to be done. A look at other moves to possibly come: https://t.co/XvQGYyEBB1— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) February 20, 2020
Griffen opting out of his contract puts Minnesota in compliance with the salary cap without any futher moves required. This news has been anticipated since earlier in the week when Field Yates, also of ESPN, tweeted out a list of the teams with the most cap commitments for 2020.
The 5 teams with the most cap commitments currently for 2020:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 17, 2020
1. Jaguars: $216.9M
2. Chiefs: $210.1M
3. Steelers: $206.8M
4. Bears: $202.3M
5. Falcons: $199.1M
All teams must be cap compliant by March 18, which means plenty of activity between now and then.
The numbers Yates provides in that tweet are key, as Yates has a source that consistently provides him with the official league salary cap numbers. Thus, combining the above numbers with the fact that the salary cap is expected to be in the $200M range in 2020 before the Vikings roll over a few hundred thousand dollars in cap space, it is safe to operate under the assumption Minnesota is not in a position where it is forced to have a fire sale in order to have cap space for 2020.
The Vikings are likely to make further moves for cap purposes, including releasing expensive players like Xavier Rhodes. However, in a market where wide receivers command top dollar and Diggs is under contract at extremely attractive salaries relative to the market for the next four years, the Vikings are not about to give him away in a salary dump.
Returning focus back to the part of this report that is extremely relevant to the Seahawks, however, Griffen will now become a free agent whose pass rushing skills will be heavily sought after once he hits the market. As noted in the piece last Saturday, there are several comps for Griffen in recent seasons.
Ziggy Ansah was able to get $8.531M coming off a 2018 lost to injury just five months after the surgical rebuild of his shoulder. Justin Houston landed $23M over two years, including $15M guaranteed with the Indianapolis Colts coming off a less productive 2018 than Griffen’s 2019 season. Both Ansah and Houston were younger than Griffen is set to be, but Cam Jordan and the New Orleans Saints signed a three-year, $52M contract extension that covered Jordan’s age 32, 33 and 34 seasons, and Griffen will be 32 for most of the 2020 season. Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles signed a three-year, $40M contract last spring that covered his age 31, 32, and 33 seasons. Cameron Wake signed a three-year, $23M contract that included more than $10M in guarantees, with the Tennessee Titans heading into his age 37 season.
So, while the Hawks work to try and retain the services of Jadeveon Clowney, if he prices himself out of their market, don’t be at all surprised to see the team in the bidding to bring in Griffen. Griffen represents the type of player whose price tag in free agency should not be overly exorbitant because of his age, such as has been seen with Ed Dickson, Mike Iupati and Al Woods, and would help address a major area of concern for the team in 2020.