Lions bolster pass rush, swing trade for DE Everson Griffen
After consecutive wins to climb back to .500, the Detroit Lions turned into buyers ahead of next week's NFL trade deadline. On Tuesday, the team addressed one of its biggest needs, swinging a deal for veteran pass rusher Everson Griffen.
According to ESPN, the Lions only had to give up a sixth-round pick in 2021 to acquire Griffen from the Dallas Cowboys.
News of the trade broke while reporters were virtually meeting with Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin.
"Uh, breaking news to me," Undlin said when informed of the deal. "I'll probably go back to the staff room and see what we've got on the board there. We'll take a look at it. I'm not really going to comment on it. Obviously, you just told me.
"I knew there was some stuff going on, but I had no idea until you just told me," Undlin said. "We'll be excited just like we are when any new player comes in here. We'll welcome him with open arms, see what we can do and put him in the best position to help all us."
An 11-year veteran, Griffen spent his first 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, where he terrorized the Lions, racking up 16 of his 77 career sacks.
"He’s long, he’s a little bit stouter, a little bit thicker," Lions coach Matt Patricia said about Griffen last year. "Does a good job with the power off of the edge, really some of those in the passing game. Some of the softer sets that he gets, he’s able to kind of push those guys back into the middle of the pocket and create a lot of stress and tension for the quarterback."
A highly durable defender, Griffen has only missed more than one game once in 11 seasons, when he took a leave of absence from the team in 2018 to address his mental health.
"I'm happy that 2018 happened, because I wouldn't be sitting here today, being able to tell my story and showing teams that I am strong, I am healthy and there's nothing really that you have to worry about, because I'm doing all the right things," Griffen said in an interview earlier this year. "There's nothing I'm doing behind the scenes that they should be worried about."
A free agent after opting out of his contract with the Vikings this offseason, the 6-foot-3, 273-pounder signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys worth $6 million. The Lions will be on the hook for a prorated portion of that contract, including a $187,500 per game bonus.
In seven games so far this season, he's tallied 20 tackles and 2½ sacks.
Due to league safety protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Griffen won't be eligible to play for the Lions this weekend, when the team hosts the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) at Ford Field. That paves the way for his debut to come against his former team, the Vikings, on Nov. 8 in Minneapolis.
Griffen joins a Lions defense that's been hitting its stride following its bye week. Still, he will provide a much-needed boost to a pass-rush that ranks 28th in the league with eight sacks. He'll also help replace the loss of rookie Julian Okwara, who recently was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury.
The addition of Griffen marks the third consecutive year, Lions general manager Bob Quinn has made at least one midseason trade leading up to the deadline.
In 2018, Quinn acquired dominant run-stuffing defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison from the New York Giants in exchange for a fifth-round pick. A week later the GM shipped wide receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, netting a third-rounder in return.
Last year, Quinn sent safety Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round selection. He flipped that pick this offseason to acquire Duron Harmon from the New England Patriots.