The prevailing sentiment around the Vikings retaining some of their own free agents has gone something like this: after extending DE Brian Robison during the 2013 season, they would let fellow DE and veteran Jared Allen leave in pursuit of one more big contract while trying to retain a presumably cheaper, younger and more versatile DE in Everson Griffen.
A list from NFL.com -- keep in mind, just a list -- ranking the top 101 free agents in the NFL this offseason, however, might give us a reason to at least wonder how easy all of that will be.
The site lists Griffen -- not Allen -- as the most coveted Vikings free agent for all of those reasons we listed above. Allen had a wonderful six-year run with the Vikings, reaching double-digit sacks in all six seasons, but he will be 32 in a month and might not fit into as many schemes as he once did with a lot of teams playing the trendy 3-4 defense. Griffen is just 26 and has played well in a variety of roles in the past couple of seasons, totaling 13.5 sacks between 2012 and 2013.
NFL.com says Griffen is the No. 22-ranked free agent in the NFL, the highest ranking bestowed any Vikings player, and classifies him as an "impact starter." Allen is No. 33, one designation lower under "starters with questions."
Of Griffen it is written: Though never a starter, Griffen has flashed dominant pass-rushing ability as a highly athletic and versatile nickel-package specialist.
Of Allen: Don't discount Allen's endurance. He's not the pass rusher he once was, but he can still credibly play more snaps than practically any other player.
Our take is that it certainly makes more sense for the Vikings to pursue Griffen at this stage of his development and the team's progress even though Allen has productive seasons left in him. That said, if NFL GMs are thinking the same way, it could be harder (or at least more expensive) to retain Griffen than some of us might have guessed.