Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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jared allen

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Free agency is sneaking up on us and the Vikings have been quiet, as usual, regarding their plans to re-sign their own free agents.  Almost certainly, there will be some of our own guys signing new contracts prior to the March 11th opening of the market, but this is as good of a time as any to participate in some good old fashioned speculation.

I tend to view the NFL Draft as a time to amass talent, with less regard for immediate need than is displayed in the opening days of free agency, so I have narrowed in on five guys that I think could help make an immediate impact on the opening day roster.  Of course, free agency is highly unpredictable and we fans seldom get what we want, but this slow time in the offseason is the perfect time for us dreamers to dream.

With a head coach hired, and both coordinator positions filled, we have as clear of an indication as to what direction this team is headed as we will get for quite some time.

On offense, the hiring of Norv Turner suggests that the development of a quarterback and bulking up of the O-line are going to be top priorities, as he will likely want to feature power running and deep routes throughout 2014 and beyond.  The defense will likely be a less-bland version of the 4-3 than what we have seen in Minnesota of late and talent is needed pretty much across the board.

The Vikings have a number of larger contracts set to expire this offseason which frees up a bunch of cap space and will allow them to make some moves.  The first wave of roster movement comes in the form of re-signings as teams try to lock up their own players, at least the ones they want.  The releasing of some some players (like, perhaps, Erin Henderson) might make this list grow, but here is an attempt to prioritize targets within the Vikings own roster.

THE TOP TIER

MATT CASSEL, QB:  Technically, Cassel is not a free agent… yet.  He has the ability to opt out of the second year of his contract which pays him $3.15 million with the Vikings.  Jay Cutler has already been retained by Chicago and this year’s free agent quarterback class leaves a ton to be desired.  It could be really tempting for Cassel to shoot for bluer (more lucrative) waters this offseason and the Vikings really need to convince him to stick around.  Without Cassel on the roster this team appears stuck without a plan A, B, or even plan C.

EVERSON GRIFFEN, DE:  Everson Griffen didn’t impress in 2013 the way he did in 2012, but then again either did just about anyone on this roster.  It remains to be seen how he can hold up playing full games over a full season, but the young, athletic defensive end has shown his ability to be disruptive in the backfield.  It would really be disappointing to see the Vikings let him leave without a fight as they are headed for great transition along the defensive line.

TOBY GERHART, RB:  Gerhart is most likely heading for a team willing to pay him to be a starter, or at least a key part of a rotation, instead of staying with the Vikings where Adrian Peterson is cemented as the top running back.  Running backs are no longer “a dime a dozen” as they were a few years back, so Gerhart actually stands to sign a decent sized contract as an unrestricted free agent.  The Vikings would probably love to sign him back, but logic indicates it is a long shot.

JARED ALLEN, DE:  It would be nice to see the Vikings get creative and structure a deal with Allen that sees him play out his career with the Vikings like they did with Antoine Winfield.  The problem with that is that the Vikings didn’t honor their end of the bargain and jettisoned Winfield after he earned incentives the hard way, thus burning up any goodwill they might have had with their veteran leaders.  Allen has noted how much Minnesota means to him, and maybe bringing Mike Zimmer to town changes things, but it seems unlikely that Minnesota will be the top bidder for his services at this point in his career.

I mentioned during our Monday night live chat that I didn’t think the Vikings could manage to swing a trade that sent Jared Allen to a contender while stockpiling draft picks for the upcoming offseason.

My reasoning was simply that there were too many obstacles standing in the way of a deadline deal.  Allen’s age (31), dipping production, and price tag would make potential suitors balk before shelling out anything lucrative.  In addition, Allen could really only be considered by teams running the 4-3, which eliminated roughly half the league right off the bat.  The demand is also just not there, as evidenced by how long aging defensive ends with big names sat on the open market this past offseason.

Now, the Vikings were undoubtedly willing to listen to offers today despite all of the obstacles, and a roller coaster ride of reports indicated Allen was drawing at least some interest.  All of the various reports essentially culminated to the following: The Seahawks and Broncos expressed interest, and the Vikings wanted a second round pick or possibly a third rounder, but a deal couldn’t get done.

Thus, Jared Allen will be a Viking for the remainder of this season as expected, and is likely to move on to another team after his contract expires and free agency opens.

Now, a lot of people have been providing bad information regarding a potential 2015 compensatory pick the Vikings could get for Allen’s departure.  The Vikings will not be eligible for a third round pick.  Allen is over 30 years old and has ten years of NFL experience, which means the best pick the Vikings could receive for letting him walk is a fifth rounder.  This little known rule apparently has some NFL reporters confused, but the Steelers learned this lesson the hard way when Alan Faneca bolted as a free agent, and it even impacted the Vikings back when Jerry Ball departed Minnesota.

Jared Allen has provided us with some of our favorite memories in recent years, and he will be missed, but at this point it seems like he will be leaving for good and the Vikings will get very little in return for letting him.

The Vikings are currently negotiating a contract extension with defensive end Everson Griffen and recently completed a four-year contract extension with defensive end Brian Robison.

What about All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen?

There are currently no contract talks between the team and Allen’s camp.

It is apparent here that Minnesota is attempting to lock two of its younger pass rushers. Robison, 30, received a four-year deal worth a reported $22.4 million. Griffen, 25,  recently rejected a contract offer by the team, but that is likely just a part of the contract negotiation process.

Allen, 31, isn’t much older than Robison, but would likely seek a contract much more lucrative to Robison’s $5.6 million per year average. Allen is currently earning $14.3 million for the 2013-14 season.

The door is not completely shut on Allen returning, but the writing is on the wall.

 Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers down to the 6-yard line in the final drive looking to tie the game with a touchdown. With 19 seconds left in the game and the Vikings clinging to a 34-27 lead, Everson Griffen strip-sacked Big Ben and Kevin Williams recovered the ball to seal the first win of the season for Minnesota.

 The 83,518 fans that packed Wimbley Stadium in London saw a hard-fought exciting football game that was full of big plays.

Greg Jennings made two touchdown grabs, Adrian Peterson had two touchdown runs, Matt Cassel was 16 of 25 for 248 yards and no turnovers, and the defensive line lead by Jared Allen’s 2.5 sacks put pressure on Roethlisberger all game.

It’s hard to get excited after just one win in four tries, but the Vikings took five important steps forward:

 A) The defense got the monkey off their back by making a play late in the game to preserve a win.

B) The offense didn’t turn the ball over or make costly mistakes.

C) The offensive line looked more like the O-line from last season.

D) The wide receivers finally found the end zone.

E) The defense was able to consistently put pressure on the QB.

 

 If the Vikings can continue to do those things well… they will be a very difficult team to beat.

 

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