Cowboys sign Everson Griffen

Iamtdg

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Why new DE Everson Griffen could be Cowboys’ best one-year difference-maker yet


By Bob Sturm Aug 14, 2020

Everson Griffen is a fantastic football player. In case there is any uncertainty in that sentence, allow me to make myself even clearer. I didn’t say he used to be a fantastic football player (although he has been for some time). I also didn’t say he will be in a few more years (because it is tough to forecast a player’s future into his mid-30s). I am saying he is one at this moment in time — precisely when the Dallas Cowboys have pounced. And for the Cowboys to grab a player of this magnitude in mid-August to step right in and probably start every game in 2020 is something that should be strongly appreciated for what it is: a stroke of brilliance.

There was a time, long ago, when Dallas was in on everybody who was available or might be. What the Rams seem to be doing as their new normal (Jalen Ramsey trade, Brandin Cooks trade, etc.) used to be the way the Cowboys would do business. They need a wide receiver? Well, Terrell Owens is available for three years at $25 million in 2006 (back when that was a ton of money). Still need a WR? Well, it looks like Detroit is getting ready to deal Roy Williams in 2008. They would pay their credit card bills with other credit cards and worry about tomorrow when it gets here. And if you can keep kicking the can down the road, maybe tomorrow never becomes today.

Then, from about 2009-2013, Dallas didn’t get too crazy in veteran player acquisitions aside from the massive signing of Brandon Carr. Instead, it adopted the “grow your own, pay your own” model that we see to this day. It is cheaper, and it also works on the premise that “young talent wins, older talent supplements,” rather than the old days of going to get Charles Haley or Deion Sanders at whatever the cost because maybe that is the piece to take you to the next level and grab a trophy.

By 2014, the Cowboys front office was starting to feel the “Romo window” closing, and acted accordingly. Dallas felt a few bold strikes might get the team to the top, but was reluctant to add much in veteran talent because it had to pay its own picks once the Cowboys had picks actually worth paying. Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones and Will McClay started looking for moves like Rolando McClain in a trade or Henry Melton on a deal that wasn’t too huge — veterans with the substance to play a significant role, if not become outright starters. Sometimes they worked; sometimes they flamed out very quickly. Going year by year:

2015: Darren McFadden and Greg Hardy in free agency, plus a trade for Matt Cassel. Meh.

2016: Mark Sanchez, an offer sheet on Benson Mayowa and a huge four-year deal for Cedric Thornton. Thornton would hardly impact the roster and left after one year. Again, not much.

2017: A number of veteran backups via free agency, and to be frank, nothing worth mentioning. Nolan Carroll was signed for three years with the idea of starting at corner and hardly lasted two games before his career ended in Denver. Again, nothing.

2018: This is the year they tried to replace Dez Bryant and Jason Witten with Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, a trade for Tavon Austin and magic beans, before a midseason bold strike for Amari Cooper. As you can tell, Cooper might be the first veteran addition to affect this franchise in an actually meaningful way since … Rolando McClain in 2014? But the cost was dramatic and not something you can do very often, especially with the implied knowledge of a massive extension coming.

2019: Some relatively small moves are surrounded by two significant veteran additions. Randall Cobb comes to town on a one-year deal for very cheap ($5 million), fully rebuilds his value with his best year in the last five and ends up getting three years and $27 million from Houston. Robert Quinn does something nearly identical (one year at $8 million) with his best year in six seasons; 12 months later, he gets a five-year, $70 million deal in Chicago. Michael Bennett would be added midseason, and immediately reinforced the defensive line.

That’s the pivot point. Suddenly, the light goes on for both the Cowboys and veteran players who are not getting offers that they thought would be available for them on the open market: They realize how much they can use each other for a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The Cowboys can seize immediate upgrades with plug-and-play fixtures at very reasonable prices, while players can benefit from the national exposure the Cowboys provide along with a meaningful role in the lineup to potentially turn a cold market into one of the belles of the ball the next time free agent windows open. Dallas knows this is just a player passing through who is unlikely to reap a mega-deal here, but that is fine. The Cowboys are looking for the small difference-makers that one-year deals provide at small amounts of cash to find that missing ingredient to the long-term building they have attempted for a decade. The players now have Cobb and Quinn as templates for their own path.

Now, in 2020, the group of notable names Dallas added this offseason all seem to be one-year additions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe, Andy Dalton, Aldon Smith and now Griffen. The one exception appears to be Gerald McCoy, who they hope plays well enough to stay for three years, but even he has a deal that is easy to break next spring. They could all be part of next March’s NFL free agency frenzy if things go a certain way in 2020. And that certain way could win Dallas a lot of football games

So, why did Dallas’ potential best acquisition of the offseason happen so late in the game? If Griffen is this good, what the heck is the deal with the market?

First, allow me to share with you my thoughts on the player. If you read my work, you may know one of the things I value most is an attempt to evaluate a player before he joins the local team. This is how we get an objective look free from hopeful bias, or even engrained faith or the lack thereof in the decision-makers who got him here. So, allow me to share with you exactly how I felt about Griffen late last season from another job, where I write up each player for FOX’s NFL crew before the games are broadcast. Here is what I shared with my boss about Griffen before he destroyed the Saints in the Vikings unlikely playoff win in January:

DE – 97 – Everson Griffen – ‘10/4th – He definitely came on slowly in his career and wasn’t a full-time starter until his 5th season in 2014 (when Mike Zimmer was hired). But, his three 10+ sack seasons since 2014 were quite a statement on their own. He will turn 33 this year. Very few can turn their speed into power or power into speed at his level. Top-notch player worthy of the Pro Bowl most each year. On 4/$58m deal, but most of the guaranteed money was in 2018, so it will be a “pay as you go” deal for almost all of it as the Vikings usually write very smart contracts. He had a very bizarre “mental health” absence for a good part of 2018, but returned and seems to be the same basic force vs even the best left tackles. Missing some tackles this year for some reason, but nothing too significant. Has dropped to 2nd best edge here (Danielle Hunter), but still very, very good. USC.

I think the world of this player, and nowhere in that summary have I mentioned his go-to move: a slippery spin to the inside of so many tackles. I also think it is important to know his 2018 incident/absence is a mystery to most of us. He suggests it really helped him get his life together, and that he is better for having endured it, and his 2019 seemed quite smooth.

But I promise you the Cowboys now have a few people that even think more highly of him than I do. One is Mike McCarthy, who coached against Zimmer in the NFC North and has years of experience dealing with Griffen. I am sure that McCarthy fears him as much as he does any other edge rusher in the sport; during the last decade, Griffen has 14 tackles for loss against the Packers and 11.5 sacks. Those 25.5 explosive plays against McCarthy teams are far in front of anyone else that the new Cowboys head coach has had to deal with, and you can imagine McCarthy is celebrating having Griffen on his team as much as Aaron Rodgers is celebrating the edge rusher no longer playing in his division.


The other guy is someone you may be less familiar with, but new Cowboys senior advisor George Edwards is the one who likely made this deal happen. Edwards was the defensive coordinator with the Vikings from 2014 through 2019, and those six seasons represent the best years of Everson’s 10-year career. I can scarcely imagine anyone has a better relationship or comfort level with Griffen than Edwards. And if the rest of the NFL was leery of the baggage or details of Griffen’s last few years, well, I am confident that Edwards would know more. He also knows not to recommend a problem to a new situation, and that gives me great comfort.

McCarthy knows the issues Griffen creates on the edge against even the best left tackles; Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari is the Tyron Smith of his organization. The two are widely considered two of the very best in the business and Griffen has given them both fits. Edwards knows how much trouble might be involved. If they both saw a chance to grab a difference-making bargain, that should be all we need to hear.
To be fair, the Cowboys were really hoping that Aldon Smith or Randy Gregory could have a huge 2020 despite neither playing a down in 2019. But either would be considered a leap of faith; Griffen requires none of that. When last we saw him, he was a problem in the NFL playoffs for Terron Armstead and Larry Warford, overpowering both Saints linemen to get in on 1 1/2 sacks in that playoff win. He has been doing this for years.

He is better than Robert Quinn, in my estimation. I am not trying to be unfair to Quinn, who had a big year — I just don’t think he is in Griffen’s league. Griffen can dominate against the run or pass, while Quinn doesn’t do much versus the run game. Quinn wins on speed, whereas Griffen can win with power or speed. Quinn was very good, but perhaps as a secondary weapon when DeMarcus Lawrence is being keyed upon. Griffen, on the other hand, has been the best rusher off the RDE spot in the NFL for years at a time.


In short, by my standards this is a ridiculous bargain. There is little chance it is more than a one-year deal, but having him opposite Lawrence raises the defense’s ceiling to a very high level — a significantly higher one than what existed to begin the week. Combine that with the Cowboys’ best defensive tackle situation in the last several seasons, and we can squint to see a defense that is much better than we expected.
 

Bill Shatner

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We are gonna be so damn good this year.

All you debbie downers saying, yeah, we are better on offense, but that defense....

That defense nothing. Lawrence will bounce back and Griffen was a Pro Bowler. We might be better at DE this year than we were last year with Quinn.

And we have two real DTs now.

And we are way deeper in the secondary.
We could be.....but I look at the borderline catastrophe that major league baseball has been so far and I don't hold much hope for a true contact sport like football.
 

ravidubey

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The “Cowboy exposure” discount. Boys cleaned up here. We fing had to have this and the stars aligned perfectly.

Didn’t know about Griffen’s mental health break in 2018...probably a major factor besides his age as to why he wasn’t signed yet.

Windfall for Dallas
 

Genghis Khan

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We could be.....but I look at the borderline catastrophe that major league baseball has been so far and I don't hold much hope for a true contact sport like football.

Hockey is a true contact sport and hasn't had any problems so far. Meanwhile baseball is not a contact sport and has had problems, having to shut down two teams for a week. It might not come down to whether it's a contact sport. Hockey is in a bubble and baseball is not. Hopefully football can learn some lessons here.
 

Bill Shatner

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Hockey is a true contact sport and hasn't had any problems so far. Meanwhile baseball is not a contact sport and has had problems, having to shut down two teams for a week. It might not come down to whether it's a contact sport. Hockey is in a bubble and baseball is not. Hopefully football can learn some lessons here.
My bad, I forgot hockey had a league.
 

Iamtdg

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Mike McCarthy saw Everson Griffen enough in the Green Bay-Minnesota battles to know he can help the Cowboys. “He was always the primary focus for us offensively, going up against him,” the coach said. “He’s a relentless player. He brings it every down, has great passion for the game. I have an opportunity to visit with him and he’s extremely excited. He’s a big personality so I think he’s going to be a great fit for our football team.” Griffen is going through COVID testing before practicing.



Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
 

Simpleton

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Just watched the all-22 from the Vikings/Cowboys game last year and Griffen was a terror against Smith, beating him cleanly with a spin at least 2-3 times for a free run at Prescott. He also held up well in the run game, he wasn't dominant exactly but he was able to hold the point against Smith and contain the edge.

It's mind boggling that we got the guy for 6 million when Quinn just signed a deal averaging 14, I just hope the games are played so we can see it in action.
 

Stasheroo

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Just watched the all-22 from the Vikings/Cowboys game last year and Griffen was a terror against Smith, beating him cleanly with a spin at least 2-3 times for a free run at Prescott. He also held up well in the run game, he wasn't dominant exactly but he was able to hold the point against Smith and contain the edge.

It's mind boggling that we got the guy for 6 million when Quinn just signed a deal averaging 14, I just hope the games are played so we can see it in action.
I agree on both counts.

Griffen stood out when I rewatched the Vikings game from last year. And if anyone told me we'd get this guy for $6 million, I wouldn't have called them a liar.

I think all of the defensive linemen contracts have been steals this year. Why'd we continue to waste the same amount of money as all if them combined on an injured backup baffles me.
 

p1_

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I agree on both counts.

Griffen stood out when I rewatched the Vikings game from last year. And if anyone told me we'd get this guy for $6 million, I wouldn't have called them a liar.

I think all of the defensive linemen contracts have been steals this year. Why'd we continue to waste the same amount of money as all if them combined on an injured backup baffles me.
they obviously love Crawford, they way overpaid him a long time ago. For whatever reason, they didnt force him to renegotiate to free up cap space. And apparently, they didn't need to, they signed Griffen anyway. They sincerely believe Crawford will actually contribute to this line in a meaningful way until proven otherwise.
 

Stasheroo

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they obviously love Crawford, they way overpaid him a long time ago. For whatever reason, they didnt force him to renegotiate to free up cap space. And apparently, they didn't need to, they signed Griffen anyway. They sincerely believe Crawford will actually contribute to this line in a meaningful way until proven otherwise.
And you and I both know that they have been wrong about it for years now.

For as much deserved praise as I will heap on them for the stellar offseason they have had - and they have - I will bash them for this continued asinine decision-making when it comes to this player.

Included for laughs, keep an eye on that 98. I can;t believe Belichick didn't mention him? :
 
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