Everson Griffen didn’t want to be anywhere besides Minnesota and he wanted the chance to be coached by Mike Zimmer.
Griffen got his wish on Sunday.
Griffen and the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms on a new five-year, $42.5 million contract on Sunday, keeping Griffen with the team that made him a fourth-round draft pick in 2010.
"I’m happy," Griffen said. "It’s a blessing. I think that’s what I deserve and at the end of the day, I’m taking care of my family and everybody else. So, I’m very excited."
Griffen, 26, has 17.5 sacks in his four NFL seasons, spent mostly as a situational pass rusher. He had a career-high eight sacks in 2012, but followed up with a five-sack 2013 with a career-high 27 tackles.
But Griffen will have a chance for more playing time and be able to assume a starting position next season at defensive end with Jared Allen becoming an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. Griffen’s athleticism has been a tantalizing offering that has led Minnesota’s previous coaching staff to move him all over the field, even experimenting with him at linebacker.
At 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, Griffen has even played inside along the defensive line in pass-rushing situations, though he hopes to be able to focus on defensive end and is excited to see what Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer and the new staff can do to bring out his potential.
"Zimmer is a mastermind on defense," Griffen said. "I’m ready to work. I’m a Minnesota Viking for life. I’m ready to take this thing to the next level. I’m not talking about losing. I’m talking about winning. I’m so excited. I’m ready to be a leader. I’m ready for people to follow and I’m excited to take this journey."
Minnesota’s defensive line is in the midst of a big transition, with Allen a free agent along with defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Fred Evans. The team also released starting defensive tackle Letroy Guion last week.
The Vikings signed defensive end Brian Robison to a contract extension during the season and will likely have 2013 first-round pick Sharrif Floyd man one of the starting defensive tackle positions.
Minnesota had reportedly reached out to the agent for defensive end Michael Johnson, who played for Zimmer the past five seasons in Cincinnati.
Griffen was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday when the new league year begins, but he was also hopeful to stay with the Vikings. Griffen agreed to terms with Minnesota during the NFL’s three-day negotiating window and said he had interests from other teams.
"I’m thankful and I’m very excited," Griffen said. "I couldn’t ask for more. I’m not a greedy type of guy. At the end of the day, it’s a business and we did the business aspect part of it and now I’m a Minnesota Viking for the next five years of my life and I couldn’t be happier. My family, my son, my fiance, we’re getting married July 5 and I couldn’t be happier."