To say that, by signing former Kansas City Chiefs' defensive end Jared Allen, the Minnesota Vikings have solved all of their off-season issues in one fell swoop would be a falacious overstatement. To say that the Vikings instantly improved one of the more moribund pass rushes in the NFL, would not be, however.
Late Tuesday evening, the Vikings completed terms of the deal set in motion late last week, finalizing the team component of a a pre-draft trade that required the Vikings to reach terms with Allen as well as with the Chiefs. Allen gets lots of money--just shy of what the Indianapolis Colts are paying their stalwart defensive end, Dwight Freeney, and the Chiefs get three draft picks.
The downside to the deal is marginal for the Vikings. In exchange for a player already established as a Pro-Bowl caliber end--the type of player most NFL teams find it difficult to locate and the Vikings have found nearly impossible to find--the Vikings will relinquish to Kansas City the rights to their first-round pick and two third-round picks in this year's NFL entry draft. That's one more third-round pick than the Vikings originally offered Kansas City for Allen and a small increment to concede for a proven player.
The money, as well, should be of marginal concern, as long as the Vikings invest a sizeable portion of the cap hit under the 2008 salary cap. With $28-31 million in guaranteed money and approximately $20 million left under the cap, that figure should be close to $12 million, leaving the Vikings with a manageable cap number after 2009.
The sole concern in this deal for Minnesota is that they are taking on a player who is only one infraction away from a full-year NFL suspension. The Vikings can say what they will about having done their due diligence, but all that really means is that the team believes that Allen will live up to his pledge to stay out of trouble--at least the kind for which the NFL doles out suspensions. And, as anyone who drinks can attest, that's a far easier pledge to make than it is to maintain, no matter an individual's intentions.
Where the Vikings are to be commended is both in seeing the writing on the wall and deviating from the Minnesota sports franchise norm. The move is a necessary one for a team that cannot afford to enter the 2008 season with substantial question marks on both the offensive and defensive lines, particularly when the team is angling to boost the fan base and put pressure on at least some significant government entity to provide funding for a new stadium in the midst of a recession. Adding Allen solidifies the defensive line and assuages concerns about a sometimes suspect secondary.
The move also offers a departure from the Minnesota sports franchises' standard of standing pat rather than taking even the slightest of gambles. This is a slight gamble with potential downside. But the prospective payoff arguably outweighs the risk factor. That's a smart gamble. It's trading prospective assets for a known asset. It's what the New York Mets did to the Minnesota Twins and numerous other Minnesota teams have declined to do to others in the name of not wanting to mortgage a future that seems always destined to remain in the future. For once, it is the Minnesota team that is seizing an opportunity and making itself better while its trading parter rebuilds.
Up Next: The NFL Draft.