Everson Griffen

NFL rumors: Everson Griffen seems interested in joining an NFC East contender

NFL rumors: Everson Griffen seems interested in joining an NFC East contender

Veteran pass rusher Everson Griffen had another solid year with the Vikings in 2019, making his fourth career Pro Bowl in his 10th season in Minnesota.

But heading into his second decade in the league, Griffen remains a free agent - and a possible Eagles target as Howie Roseman looks to bolster the pass rush.

And it's starting to sound like the interest goes both ways.

After a weekend of possible Jadeveon Clowney rumblings, Griffen took to Twitter on Sunday evening to tweet for the first time in two weeks. He responded to a tweet comparing himself to Clowney, and linking Griffen to... the Eagles.

Griffen's response was pretty telling:

Hmm.

A guy like Griffen, who's only tweeted 1,200 times in 10 years, chooses his tweets wisely, so this feels like a pretty clear message to GMs across the league, Roseman included.

The Eagles have been linked to Clowney, Griffen, and Yannick Ngakoue all offseason as they try to turn their defense into a unit that can straight up steal some games in 2020.

Jim Schwartz's defense tied for 13th in the league in sacks with 43 in 2019, a step up from 16th in 2018 but techincally a step down in volume from 44 in 2018.

Griffen rattled off 8.0 sacks in 2019, which would've been good for second on the Eagles, and has picked up at least 8.0 sacks in every season during which he's started at least 75% of his team's games.

Griffen, who turns 33 in December, is substantially older than Clowney and Ngakoue, but he's proven for years to be a reliable pass rusher who gets results. Plus, his age could bring the price down considerably, always a perk for Roseman.

It'll be interesting to see how things shake out, but it seems a partnership here would work.

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More on the Eagles

Of all players, Big V could be key to Eagles' victory

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AP Images

Of all players, Big V could be key to Eagles' victory

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is already a huge reason why the Eagles are playing for the NFC Championship. Now, he might be the key to reaching the Super Bowl.

The Eagles couldn’t have made it this far without Vaitai, who took over at left tackle way back in Week 7 when Jason Peters was lost for the season. But on Sunday, Peters’ replacement faces one of his stiffest tests to date in Vikings right defensive end Everson Griffen.

“He's a game-wrecker,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Griffen this week.

Recently named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl, Griffen set career highs with 13 sacks in 2017, finishing tied for fourth in the NFL. It was the third time in four seasons the eighth-year veteran went into double digits, and he’s still going strong, getting to the quarterback once more in the Vikings’ divisional round playoff win over the Saints.

Griffen is one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the league. Vaitai was a minimally experienced backup until mid-October. On paper, the matchup looks like a serious concern.

“Fast, strong guy,” Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks said of Griffen. “He’s played in this league for years now, got experience.

“But V is big and strong too. He has not as much experience but got more experience than a lot of younger guys his age with the games he started last year and games he’s playing this year, so I know V is up to the challenge.”

A fifth-round draft pick in 2016, Vaitai has 17 NFL starts under his belt and 11 this season, including playoffs. The results are somewhat mixed, though the Eagles have an 8-2 record since the 24-year-old stepped in at left tackle.

Vaitai hasn’t made anybody forget about Peters — a future Hall of Famer — but the second-year player is holding his own and improving steadily.

“He’s got a lot better, especially from last year to this year,” left guard Stefen Wisniewski said. “His technique has improved greatly. I think his football IQ has gone up. He’s really worked hard to get better every day, and his pass blocking has improved tremendously.”

This week perhaps more than any other, the Eagles can’t afford a liability at the tackle position.

The gravity of the situation is obvious, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Plus, in addition to Griffen, the Vikings boast the league’s No. 1 defense both in scoring and yardage. Points and positive drives will be hard enough to come by for the Eagles without consistent disruption at the line of scrimmage (see story).

Naturally, Pederson plans to provide assistance for Vaitai. However, the Vikings are also known for using exotic double A-gap blitzes up the middle and other overload pressure packages, and the Eagles can’t double-team one guy the entire game.

There will be occasions when Griffen is one-on-one, and it’s on Vaitai to shut him down.

“It's a lot of respect for him,” Pederson said of Griffen. “He can change the ballgame.

“He knows that tight ends are going to help over there, backs are going to help over there, slide protection. It’s not rocket science. But Big V has had a challenge all season. We've faced some tremendous defensive ends all season long, and this will be his greatest challenge in this game. I have a lot of confidence in V and what he's done this season.”

Whether out of comfort or necessity or resignation, at this point, the Eagles seem fine with the idea of Vaitai vs. Griffen. Right tackle Lane Johnson doesn’t see the potential mismatch as a big deal at all.

“We’ll have some chip [protections] and some slams tied in, but other than that though, I think he’ll be alright,” Johnson said. “Just another guy in there.”

Vaitai has often looked like “just another guy” this season, in varying senses of the phrase. He’s experienced his share of struggles, then been able to quietly blend in with a strong offensive line for long periods.

Whichever Vaitai the Eagles get on Sunday could go a long way toward determining the outcome.

NFL Notes: Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott interacts with fans, shuns media as issues swirl

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USA Today Images

NFL Notes: Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott interacts with fans, shuns media as issues swirl

OXNARD, Calif. -- Ezekiel Elliott stopped for a few moments to greet military personnel and pose for a few pictures on the opening day of training camp.

Just like that, the star running back of the Dallas Cowboys darted out of a large crowd of reporters and ran toward a fence to sign a few autographs.

Last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie isn't talking to media members because of lingering issues off the field, but Elliott is still hamming it up with adoring fans. And he's also going through complete workouts a year after a hamstring issue limited his time in camp.

"I'm not even worrying about Zeke because that guy loves football," said receiver Dez Bryant, who had his share of trouble upon entering the league in 2010.

"I understand it's more than football. He's got a great supporting cast and he can't lose with guys like us around him" (see full story).

Jets: Whitehead claimed off waiversafter identity snafu
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets claimed wide receiver-kick returner Lucky Whitehead on Wednesday, two days after the Cowboys cut him following a shoplifting charge in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

A man used Whitehead's identity to steal $40 worth of food and drink from a Virginia convenience store in June. Dallas released him Monday after reports that Whitehead was arrested and subsequently cited for missing a court hearing.

The Jets, desperate for help at receiver, claimed the three-year veteran and waived receiver Devin Street.

Whitehead appeared in 30 games the past two seasons with the Cowboys. He averaged 25.6 yards on 33 kick returns and 6.9 yards on 44 punt returns, and had nine receptions as a reserve receiver.

When the charges against Whitehead were announced, his agent, Dave Rich, contended that his client wasn't in Virginia at the time of the reported arrest. Police subsequently said they are seeking the person who used the identity of Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr., the receiver's given name.

Whitehead could file a grievance with the players' union about his release (see full story).

Browns: Top pick Garrett ready for camp
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns already have their first win: Myles Garrett is ready for training camp.

The rookie defensive end and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft has recovered from a foot sprain and will be on the field Thursday when Cleveland opens camp following a miserable 1-15 season.

Garrett suffered a left lateral foot sprain while rushing quarterback Brock Osweiler during minicamp in June. He was placed in a walking boot and there was some concern that he might be sidelined for an extensive period.

However, coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday that Garrett is "totally healthy" and will be on the field for the team's first workout. Garrett will be monitored during practices and it's possible he could be kept out of some drills.

"We will definitely monitor him but I think he's totally healthy, maybe hasn't done all the conditioning that you like to see right before training camp," Jackson said. "But I think he's up to speed and ready to go. And he's looking forward to it" (see full story).

Vikings: Pro Bowl DE Griffen gets extension
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have signed two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen to a contract extension.

Griffen's deal was done Wednesday, when veteran players reported to training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

Griffen's previous contract, which was signed in 2014, had two years remaining. Griffen has 48 sacks in seven seasons with the Vikings, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 out of USC. His tenure is the second longest on the team. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has 30 sacks, the fifth most in the league during that span (see full story).

Falcons: Divers search lake for Jones’ $100K-plus earring
GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- An NFL star's diamond earring valued at more than $100,000 is now presumed lost on the murky bottom of a Georgia lake.

WXIA-TV reported Tuesday that Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones lost it when he hit a boat wake and took a spill while jet skiing in Lake Lanier, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) outside Atlanta.

He resurfaced but his pricey earring didn't.

SCUBA divers have been searching the lake bottom, hoping to capture a flashlight's reflection off the jewelry amid old trees that have been submerged since the man-made lake's creation in the 1950s.

So far, no luck.

Falcons training camp begins Thursday and goes through Aug. 4. The first preseason game is Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals, the grand opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.