Big changes are likely in store for the Vikings’ defensive line come the end of 2013. Brian Robison has been locked in on a long-term contract, but his fellow defensive ends Jared Allen and Everson Griffen are both set to become free agents, as is recently resurgent defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
The thinking has been that the Vikings would try hard to lock up Griffen, who is young and just coming into his own, while letting aging veterans Allen and Williams walk. That would leave the Vikes with a solid-yet-youthful core of Robison, Griffen and Sharrif Floyd around which to build.
But it seems the Vikings are not entirely ready to close the door on their older linemen after all. Sid Hartman says that, contrary to assumptions, the Vikings do wish to bring back Jared Allen at least for 2014. According to Allen, the Vikes have not yet approached him about hashing out a new deal.
Allen seemed a little wistful when speaking about his impending free agency and the possibility of no longer lining up alongside his long-time running mate Kevin Williams. “Not knowing if we’re going to be together or not next year is one of those things that always weighs on your mind,” Allen said. “It’s going to be different if Big 93 isn’t next to me. I have all the respect in the world for him. I love him like a brother, honestly.”
That sounds like a guy who wants to stay, but obviously money will be big factor in whether or not a new deal can be struck. Allen reportedly nixed a recent trade to Seattle because he refused to renegotiate his contract. If Jared is really that focused on chasing the money, he will almost certainly be on his way out of Minnesota. The Vikes may wish to bring Allen back, but no way is Rick Spielman overpaying for a guy his age.
It’s fair to ask at this point if Jared is really worth bringing back at anything but a bargain price. Allen’s performance has been spotty in 2013 so far; he’s had a couple good games, but he’s also had some games where he’s disappeared. Pro Football Focus has graded him out at sub-par levels on multiple occasions, hitting him with “Had a Bad Day” honors two separate times.
Despite Hartman’s report – and far be it from me to question Sid’s ironclad sources – you have to wonder what the Vikings’ real level of enthusiasm is for Allen’s return. Do they truly want him back or do they just want to keep him in the picture in case their other options fall through and they’re forced to go to plan B?
Plan A right now should be re-signing Everson Griffen and making him the starter at right defensive end. But Griffen has rejected early contract overtures from the Vikings and seems intent on testing free agency. The Vikes may be concerned that someone will make a big play for Griffen after the season, stealing away one of their intended core defenders.
That’s where Allen might become an attractive alternative, even at his advanced age. Were I wagering I would still put my money on Jared walking, but you never know. Jared may test free agency and find the market not as vigorous as he expects. The same could happen to Kevin Williams too. That youth movement on the defensive line may not be moving forward quite as quickly as we thought.