Friday, April 18, 2008

The Jared Allen watch

The Kansas City Chiefs have begun talks to trade their franchise player, defensive end Jared Allen, and the Minnesota Vikings appear to be one of the interested parties. Allen has scheduled visits to both the Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the draft, and the Vikings, with more and better draft picks than the Bucs -- the likely compensation for Allen -- appear to be the front-runner.

To which I have to say: Excellent!

Allen is one of the premiere talents at his position, and a rising star in the league. He led the NFL in sacks last year, with 15.5, though playing on a 4-12 team limited his exposure. He's only just turned 26 and has averaged nearly 11 sacks per season in each of his four pro seasons while also averaging about 60 tackles a year each of the last three seasons -- a high number for a defensive end -- and forcing 14 (or 13, depending on what stat page you look at) fumbles. He's missed just three games in those four years, including two this year for...

...uh oh. A substance-abuse suspension. Danger, Will Robinson?

I think not. After his tussle with the law over a DUI, Allen has stated that he's "learned his lesson" and apparently even convinced Commissioner Roger Goodell, who reduced Allen's four-game suspension to start the season by two games. All things considered, Vikings fans probably would have preferred that Allen's suspension remained at four games, as his first game back in 2007 was against the Vikings, where he racked up eight tackles and teed off on the statue-like Kelly Holcomb twice for sacks and was a major factor in the Chiefs' 13-10 victory.

Assuming that Allen's troubles with the law are behind him, and I tend to think they are, he would be a great fit for the Vikings. Only 26 years old, his best years may still be ahead of him, and, after losing out on free agents Justin Smith and Antwan Odom, the Vikings are probably ready to offer the moon to sign Allen. As the Chiefs' franchise player, Allen is due about $9 million this year, but a long-term deal would probably be front-loaded, as they often are, so as to minimize the later cap hit. The Vikings were $32 million under the cap when free agency began, and the Vikings probably still have about $15-20 million left -- more than enough to sign Allen to a long-term deal, especially if they don't have to pay for a first-round pick.

Ah yes, there is that part: The Chiefs will likely want at least a first-round pick for Allen, and probably also another, later pick and/or players as compensation. Seeing as how the Vikings have two third-round picks, a first- and third-rounder would seem like the starting point for a negotiation, and if that's all it takes to land Allen, I'd consider it a fair deal. Assuming the team is targeting a defensive end in the draft -- probably Derrick Harvey or Philip Merling -- landing Allen would preclude any need to draft a defensive end this year. Plus, who would you rather have on your team: a fairly young, proven, possibly elite NFL player or a rookie whose never played a down in the NFL? If that's the choice, I'd up the bidding to three players/picks, if that's what it takes to snare Allen. Hey, maybe the Chiefs will even throw Tyler Thigpen back to us. He has to be a better backup QB than Gus Frerotte.

You don't often get the chance to land a player the caliber of Jared Allen, especially for the potentially low price of two draft picks. If this works out -- and we should know by the time of the draft -- then the failure to acquire another defensive end earlier in free agency might have actually worked to the Vikings' advantage. Let's hope so.

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