Two good reasons for Griffin extension

Cornerback Cedric Griffin and the Vikings both benefit from the contract extension he signed on Friday, and Griffin talked about it with Viking Update. See why it was important for Griffin and what kind of importance he carries for the Vikings defense. How much did he play in comparison to others?

Cedric Griffin was aware of the impending possibility that the lack of a long-term collective bargaining agreement could have had on him.

Without an extension to the CBA before the start of free agency in 2010, Griffin and any other players with fewer than six years of accrued seasons in the league whose contracts had expired would have become restricted free agents. Currently, players with expired contracts only need four seasons to become unrestricted, but the additional two years would be needed if an extension isn't reached before free agency next year.

It is possible Griffin could have spent the next two offseasons being a restricted free agent. In that case, the team would have held more leverage in contract negotiations. He avoided that possibility by signing a multi-year extension with the Vikings on Friday.

"I don't know how many years it would have been (as a restricted free agent), but I know for sure it would have been for next year. I'm sure between the players and the owners and the union, they're going to come to terms and everything is going to be alright," Griffin said.

"I don't think it entered my mind. It was there and it was an issue, but it wasn't an issue. I'm blessed. My family is blessed. God has blessed me. My family is happy with it. I'm happy with it. The Vikings are happy with it, so I think that's the major concern."

From the team's perspective, extending Griffin makes sense. With few big-name signings left in free agency and nearly $20 million in salary-cap space to spare earlier this week, front-loading an extension or two is wise. And with Antoine Winfield scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2009 season, the Vikings may have felt the need to lock down long-term at least one half of their starting cornerback tandem.

With one year remaining on his old deal, Griffin said he didn't let his contract status enter into his mind last season.

"I never was thinking about it. I was just leaving things to the man above, so I went out there and just played and took care of my business," he said. "I always do, try to get better every day and every week and every year. Hopefully this year I can improve again and we can be talking about something else later on."

That would be similar to the change in conversation Griffin created from the beginning of last season to the end. At the start of the season, the cornerback was being asked about quarterbacks who were perceived to be targeting his coverage responsibilities with their passes. By the end of the season, Griffin appeared to be playing better and tighter coverage.

"That's what every player experiences in the NFL. Some years or some games the quarterback is going to come at you no matter how you respond. I think I responded really well the last few years and that just set me up for experience and learning how to play," he said.

He certainly has been an integral part of the Vikings defense.

Griffin has started 38 of the 46 games he has played in with 223 total tackles, 170 solo tackles, three interceptions, 42 passes defensed and seven forced fumbles in his career. He is coming off a career season in 2008, when he led the Vikings secondary and ranked second on the team with 100 tackles, had 13 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one interception.

Last year, Griffin played on 99 percent of the team's defensive snaps – more than Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield and more than former Vikings safety Darren Sharper – according to a league source. In fact, Griffin played the most defensive snaps of anyone on the team. He also played in almost one-third of the Vikings' special teams snaps.

The relatively quiet player hopes his actions will help lead more than his words.

"I would view myself as a leader. I never viewed myself as a follower," Griffin said. "I just try to do right by the coaches, take their advice and apply it. … I try to go out there and lead by example. I'm not a big talker, so I like to try to do all my leading by my actions and my play. Hopefully guys can catch onto that. I'm not the one to speak up, but I think we have guys in the locker room to do that."

Griffin should be around for three or four more years to experience more of the same.

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