Project 2012: Cedric Griffin

I was planning on writing my weekly preview column tonight, but let's be realistic here. I know the Saints are going to pummel the Vikings tomorrow. You know the Saints are going to pummel the Vikings tomorrow. Everyone knows the Saints are going to pummel the Vikings tomorrow.

Hell, I'm halfway rooting for it. Don't get me wrong--I'll still be rooting for a Miracle at the Metrodome tomorrow above everything. But a blowout loss will ensure Minnesota a shot at a better draft pick, help out both of my fantasy football teams in the playoffs (Drew Brees is my starting QB in both leagues), and most importantly in my opinion, accelerate more much-needed change with this team.

Since most fans are focused on the future, I decided to forego my frustrating foray into forecasting this time around. I'll still provide my Week 15 picks at the end but I honestly don't think we need to evaluate the inevitable when it comes to the Vikings game. Instead, we'll continue our ongoing "Project 2012" feature tonight. Our first entry debated the future of Phil Loadholt. This time we'll focus on another young veteran that hasn't had the greatest season: Cedric Griffin.

There is one indisputable fact about Cedric Griffin: he's a fighter. Nobody in the history of the NFL has overcome what he has. Two blown ACLs. Two surgeries. Two bouts of long, arduous rehabilitation. And here he is, still a starting cornerback in the NFL.

However, I believe that if Cedric Griffin played for any team other than the Minnesota Vikings, that wouldn't be the case. In fact, I'm not sure he's even on the roster for some teams.

Griffin showed a lot of promise after being drafted by the Vikings in the second round of the 2006 draft. He started seven games his rookie season and was a mainstay in the Minnesota secondary the next three years, starting all but one game from 2007-2009. But then he tore his ACL in the NFC Championship Game in 2009. (Dammit, I keep bringing up that game lately! Sorry.) Then he tore his other ACL in just his second game back in 2010. Griffin has fought back and played every game in 2011, but the potential she showed in the first four years of his career has all but vanished.

The fact that Griffin has lost a step physically is both predictable and understandable. But he looks flat out lost way too often this year. It seems like he doesn't have the confidence to make the right cuts and it leads to making even worse decisions. The equally abhorrent safeties deserve some of the blame for the countless number of times Griffin has been beaten deep, but he's not even in the same zip code as the wide receiver half the time.

It sounds like Griffin will start Sunday's game on the bench behind Benny Sapp and Asher Allen. Unfortunately I think this is the beginning of a sad but necessary conclusion--Cedric Griffin shouldn't be a member of the Vikings next year. I admire the hell out of what Griffin has done to get to where he is, but the NFL is a bottom-line league. The bottom line: Griffin just doesn't have it anymore.

Read on after the jump to hear what the other DN writers have to say about Griffin's future, as well as my Week 15 NFL picks. Then let us know what you think in the poll and comments.

Chris: Cedric Griffin is a warrior, I can't deny that. To attempt to come back from two torn ACLs is a monstrous task for anybody, whether for a professional athlete or not. But when your coach has gone so far as to basically say that you wouldn't be out there if he had a better option to replace you with speaks volumes in my mind, and that's pretty much what Leslie Frazier did after the Vikings' game against the Broncos. Cedric Griffin, at one time, was a promising young cornerback for the Vikings, and then the injuries started. I know that it takes a certain period of time to recover from an ACL injury, and I would imagine that recovering from two ACL injuries would take even longer, but if the recent performance we've seen from Griffin is any indication, he's clearly lost a step.

I think the guy could still have a shot at safety if he's physically recovered enough to give it a go next season. . .and I know he's not technically "injured," but with the way he's looked this season, you almost have to hope something's wrong with him, because he's completely fallen off the map. So, if he's willing to try to make the transition to safety, I say give him a shot. If he insists on remaining at corner, then he can go attempt to play corner somewhere else.

Ted: Keep him. I know he's been terrible this year, there's no denying that. But the guy is coming off of two ACL injuries on different knees, in consecutive seasons. He's lost a step as a CB, but is it a terrible idea to give him a look see at safety?

See, if I say keep him, then ask about him playing safety, it's what we call a rhetorical question, because the answer should be obvious. YES, yes we should. The play of the safeties has been a napalm fire with a gasoline chaser, and you can't tell me that Griffin at safety isn't an intriguing idea. He's a good tackler, so I think he would be good in run support, and as a Cover-2 safety he'd be responsible for deep, over the top stuff, which he should be able to do effectively.

Skol Girl: After having both of his knees surgically repaired, it's hard to believe that Cedric Griffin would have the same abilities he had before, but just as concerning, it seems to have taken a toll on his confidence. Leslie Frazier has suggested that in recent statements to the press and it might explain some of the problems that Griffin has had this season.

I think that if Cedric Griffin will agree to restructure his contract, the Vikings might keep him on the roster. That might also involve switching him to safety. The Vikings have so many needs in the secondary that they might keep Griffin simply because it could be logistically too difficult to replace the entire secondary for next season.

Mark: I would NOT keep him at all. He is not going to get better and he has lost a step. That in and of itself is enough of a reason to NOT put him at safety. He would be responsible for half the field while having lost a step. Remember, he was not that fast to begin with. For $4.1 million it is not worth it. My plan would be to sign TWO free agent safeties (Tyvon Branch and Thomas Decoud) and one free agent CB. Then I would hope that Cook comes back. But he is an idiot so who knows.

Since the Vikings are rebuilding they should just go ahead and pull the pin and roll the grenade into the roster. I see no value in keeping old players who are on the decline or players who have unfortunately been injured and have not regained their old form. E.J. Henderson & Griffin are two in this category. Fortunately E.J. is a free agent and they can let him test the market.

Kyle: Personally, I've been touting the Griffin-to-safety move now for a bit. (I still say we throw Winfield in there too, but that's beside the point.) However, there's a bit of a caveat. After his benching last game, Griffin wasn't too happy, and his comments echoed the same post-game; he seemed more than OK with no longer being a Viking at that point. Whether or not that's something that's been simmering for a bit or just a spur-of-the-moment reaction, I don't know. But I listen to Frazier's blunt comments, including saying that essentially the only reason Griffin's been on the field is due to the non-existent depth at CB, and I can't help but wonder if something's going on. I mean, compare to Bernard Berrian--even when he was deactivated for a game, the two of them (BB and Frazier) said all the nice things about each other and all that...and Berrian was still released.

I know Griffin comes with a high price tag considering his playing quality, but as Mark has pointed out, it does seem like we're going to have to overpay a guy or two to get to the minimum salary cap, and if Griff's going to safety, I'm OK with him being the overpaid guy. The big question is, will he even want to do that? Perhaps he might take such a suggestion as more of an insult, maybe he still feels he can play corner at a top level and will balk at the suggestion.

Personally, I think we should approach Griffin and ask him if he's willing to move from corner to safety. If he says yes, we keep him for a year. If he says no, then I say we release him and let him join another team, as seems to be becoming his wish anyways.

For the most part, it sounds like safety or nothing among us DN writers. Do you agree or are there other solutions that you have in mind? Let us know in the comments.

Eric's Week 15 NFL Picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):

Saints over VIKINGS: I'll say 41-24 New Orleans. And may all touchdowns be thrown by Drew Brees or ran in by AP to benefit my fantasy football teams.

FALCONS over Jaguars
Cowboys over BUCCANEERS
Yeah, I know, both of these games are over already. But c'mon, who in their right mind would pick that pair of Florida dumpster fires against two teams fighting for the playoffs? Dallas was also my Survivor Pool pick of the week, which means I'm 12-3 on the season now.

Dolphins over BILLS: Tony Sparano has been fired, which means he went through his entire coaching career in Miami without doing one commercial for Ray-Ban sunglasses. Was that just too easy of a sponsorship idea?

Seahawks over BEARS: GO BEAST MODE! (Besides Brees, Marshawn Lynch is the only other starter I have on both of my fantasy teams.)

Bengals over RAMS: Sadly, there will be lots of draft pick scoreboard watching of this game at the Metrodome. Gross.

2007 Patriots Packers over CHIEFS: The Pats, er, Pack, will coast to victory even though GREEEEEG JENNINGS BROKE HIS F***IN' LEG!!! (OK, so it was only a sprained MCL, but that doesn't sound nearly as cool.)

Titans over COLTS: Indy should just remove the horseshoe logo from their helmet and leave it as plain white. Not to symbolize their lack of luck (pun intended) this year, but to symbolize the color of the flag they've been waving for the past 3+ months.

GIANTS over Redskins: This is an ironclad Trap Game for the G-Men, but I'm fairly certain that it's against the law to pick Rex Grossman on the road.

TEXANS over Panthers: Cam Newton hasn't been winning many games yet, but he's definitely winning fans all over the country. I was playing some backyard football today with my cousin's 8 year old kid. (Without a jacket, on green grass, in Minnesota, in December. It felt really weird. But I digress.) After he eluded the grown ups' "tackles" for a touchdown, he yelled to me "Hey Eric! Have you seen what Cam Newton does after he scores?!" He then proceeded to do a dead-on impression of Newton's Superman touchdown celebration. I wish I was as cool as Cam Newton.

RAIDERS over Lions: Sure, the Raiders are struggling. But I have a rule: any time you get six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns gifted to you yet you have to rely on a horrible non-call on the last play of the game to beat a 2-10 team at home, I'm not picking you to win the following week.

CARDINALS over Browns: John Skelton has won four times as many games as Christian Ponder this year. I will now attempt to trim my fingernails with an industrial band saw.

Patriots over BRONCOS: I'm blocking ESPN from my cable plan if I get this pick wrong.

EAGLES over Jets: I did way too well with my picks last week, so I have to throw in an inexplicable upset pick this week to get back to my usual mediocre self. And since I have nothing else, here's your Gratuitous Picture of the Week!

Fn-cheerleaders5_medium
E-A-G-...uh, what were we spelling?

Ravens over CHARGERS: Hopefully this game brings us one step closer to many, many fewer HD sideline shots of Norv Turner.

Steelers over 49ERS: I'm guessing Big Ben plays and I'm guessing that San Francisco can't get enough field goals to match Pittsburgh's deep scores.

Last week:14-2
This week so far: 2-0
Season so far: 133-77

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