Photo - Andy King (Getty Images)

By: Aj Mansour |

Minneapolis, MN - It's no secret that the Minnesota Vikings put a hard push in on free agent defensive end Michael Johnson when the market opened last week. The ties to Zimmer, the vacant defensive end position, it just made too much sense. But Johnson ended up choosing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Vikings.

On a radio interview with Paul Allen (KFAN) Thursday morning, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that the Vikings almost had Johnson, but in the end it was Johnson's desire to play closer to his family that won out.

"He wanted to be close to home is what it all came down to," Zimmer said on Johnson. "Michael is a very southern, country kid and grew up in Selma, AL. It had nothing to do with football. He wanted to be with me and I think that was the struggle he was going through whether to be with me in Minnesota or to be close to home. I lost."

Interesting, but we've buried the lead already. In the midst of the conversation, Zimmer made a very clear point that Johnson was not their first choice to fill Jared Allen's open defensive end spot. In fact, according to coach, it was Everson Griffen who was number one on the Vikings free agent "big board."

"We decided that [Everson Griffen] was our guy even though Michael had played with me," Zimmer continued. "I don't want to give the impression that Michael Johnson was the guy we were going after and Everson was the second guy. We felt like Everson was a guy that his career is starting to go up and he was the guy that we really put our eggs in his basket first. If it got too out of hand money-wise or something like that then we were going to move on Michael."

This quote could certainly be nothing more than coach speak in an attempt to not upset the player on your roster, or it could be a glimpse into the true potential that they see from Everson going into the future.

To date, Everson Griffen has started in only one game throughout his four-year career. A backup, role player so far, Griffen has 17.5 career sacks and 4 passes defensed. On the flip side, with a better opportunity to shine, Johnson started 45 games in Cincinnati accumulating 26.5 sacks and 26 passes defensed. Given these numbers, it's clear that Griffen has more to prove than Johnson, but it could also be argued that given the limited opportunity, Griffen has been more productive.

Sliding Everson into a starting role and getting him more snaps per game may be more beneficial for the Vikings in the long-run. And while the opportunity is great, it may be the confidence that the team has displayed that will really push Griffen to his full potential.

CLICK HERE to listen to the full interview with Coach Zimmer.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN