Friday, April 18, 2008

Vikings Look to Play Role of the Mets

When the Minnesota Twins traded perennial All-Star and Cy Young Award candidate Johan Santana to the New York Mets last off-season for what could only generously be described as a handful of prospects, most objective Twins fans acknowledged the deal for what it was--a salary dump for prospects. Those fans familiar with the Calvin Griffith era, merely shrugged. It seemed a standard in Minnesota made possible by ownership groups having long played the poverty and small-market ownership card with little dissent from the fan base.

We've heard similar laments, at times, from the Minnesota Vikings' ownership group, though, with a salary cap and floor in place in the NFL, the tactic has centered not on payroll issues but on inadequate revenue streams. Of course, the canard in the argument is that while wildly spending MLB ownership groups operating in small markets actually can lose the shirts off of their backs, NFL teams, at worst, stand only to make less money than do their NFL cohorts.

That's what makes this week's revelation that the Kansas City Chiefs are shopping defensive end Jared Allen all the more puzzling. Nearly $30 million under the NFL salary cap--and considerably more should the team trade Allen for draft picks--the Chiefs appear ready to make a run at outdoing the Twins by trading their best defensive lineman, the team's current franchise player, all to save money in the future.

Allen's saga began to unfurl last year after the NFL suspended him as a repeat offender after accumulating two DUIs. When Allen, in a contract year, lobbied for a lucrative, long-term deal approaching the $72 million, six-year deal of the Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Freeney, the Chiefs balked.

Instead of a long-term deal, the Chiefs settled on slapping Allen with the team's franchise tag. Allen responded by making clear that, without a long-term deal by July of this year, he would walk next year, leaving the Chiefs with nothing in exchange.

Rather than accede to Allen's demands, the Chiefs gave Allen permission to shop around for a suitor. Two teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Vikings, quickly emerged as having both cap space and relatively good draft picks. The former being necessary to lure Allen, the latter being necessary to entice the Chiefs into making the deal.

As of late Friday, Allen and his agent were in Minnesota negotiating the terms of a deal. That offer is said to be near $68 million over 6 years with $28 million in guaranteed money, including a $12 million roster bonus. The deal would make Allen the second highest paid defensive end in the NFL behind only Freeney.

The financial terms of the Allen deal would make sense for Minnesota on several fronts. To begin with, the team is still flush with cap space and must still spend a few million more this year just to reach the salary cap floor. By fronting Allen large money this year, the Vikings would bring the guaranteed value of the contract down to just over $3 million for the remaining five years of the contract and well in line with the salary cap through the remainder of the current collective bargaining agreement.

By spending over the salary cap floor, Zygi Wilf also would send the message that he intends to make good on his oft-heard promise of returning the Vikings' to championship contention. That pledge might only last as long as it takes for the Minnesota state legislature to ratify funds for a new stadium, but it's more than Vikings' fans have received from any previous ownership group and is, in that respect, at least positive in the short-term.

The sticky wicket in the deal, however, is not the money that Allen is requesting, but the compensation that the Chiefs will request to let Allen go. It is a near certainty that the asking price will be less than two first round picks. For, if that were the asking price, the Chiefs simply would have waited for a team to tender their franchise player before taking the two first round picks as due compensation. Instead, the Chiefs opted to pursue a trade.

In Minnesota, fans are wringing their hands about the prospect of having to give up something close to two first-round picks--say, a first- and a second-round pick in this year's draft--to obtain Allen. In Kansas City, meanwhile, fans and media are hoping that the Chiefs do not settle merely for a first-round pick, all the while wondering why in the world the Chiefs are even considering trading Allen.

That only Kansas City team officials seem to be interested in trading Allen, while Kansas City players, fans, and media grouse, suggests one of two things--either the Chiefs know something about Allen about which nobody else, including his teammates, is privvy, or the Chiefs are simply dumping what would otherwise be a large salary.

Why Kansas City would be looking to dump salary when they already face the daunting prospect of even reaching the salary cap floor is anyone's guess. But given the comments of his teammates, it appears that the answer to that question has little to do with Allen. And that suggests that a deal for Allen would be a good deal for a Vikings' team in desperate need of a defensive end since John Randle last lined up for the Purple.

Up Next: Signing. Plus, the draft.

9 comments:

John said...

Nice analogy VG. And like the Mets this almost seems to have fallen into the Vikes laps from out of the blue.

Bonnes

DC said...

VG:

Welcome back. Although Randle may have lined up outside the odd time, he was a DT not a DE. However, your basic point still stands - the Vikings need to find someone along the defensive line who can get more than five sacks a year.

What do you think about the Vikings signing Allen to an offer sheet that the Chiefs cannot match and then giving up a first round pick in 2009 and 2010 as Pro Football Talk is suggesting?

J. Lichty said...

They have to make the trade if it presents himself. Allen is an elite player who is a few years away from 30. The defense is aging. The league and division are weak. Now, in the era of expanded cap, there is little chance to land a top flight free agent. Even impact rookies at 17 and the third round (which I expect will be the comp) will not have the immediate impact at a glaring area of need.

This is a no brainer trade, and one that could make the purple the best defense in the NFC.

Cabrito said...

I agree with those who think this "trade" is a great deal for the Vikings. Look on it this way. In a normal draft year, the Vikes would have 7 draft choices. This year, they would ideally give up their first and one third for Jared Allen. So the first round pick would equate to Allen, a proven player (not a DE risk like Udeze or James), and they would still have picks in rounds 2 to 7. Yes, this is indeed a no-brainer. And though it's hard to be overly optimistic about a team without a star quarterback, we've seen in the last few years that anything can happen in this league. Two of the last three Super Bowl winners were wild card teams that won all their playoff games on the road. If the Giants, whom the Vikes clobbered last year, can win the whole thing, why, a miracle might occur yet.

Vikes Geek said...

Thanks John. It looks like a good deal--if it actually happens.

VG

Vikes Geek said...

DC,

Thanks. Good to hear from you.

Two first-round picks would be too rich for my liking. Despite the Vikings' woes in the draft several years in this current decade, a forward-thinking plan has to assume that those making the selections not only know what they are doing but also that they will not be unlucky. The former is on the team to have a solid GM. The latter is left much to chance--as would be, for example, Allen's likelihood of staying healthy were he to sign with the Vikings.

VG

Vikes Geek said...

Lichty,

Long time...

VG

Vikes Geek said...

As I noted in the column, this deal doesn't make much sense for KC. They undoubtedly will become younger but with the loss of a young, cornerstone defensive end. For a team flush with cap space and no apparent place to spend it, why make such a move?

There are at least three possible answers. The first is that the Chiefs know something about Allen that the Vikings do not. The second is that the Chiefs have no intention of trading Allen, using Allen's foray into the market to gauge Allen's current market value before extending him. And the third is that the Chiefs simply are inept.

The jury remains out.

VG

Virginia Viking said...

VG,

I've heard it floated around the interweb that Allen and Carl Peterson simply don't like each other very much. Could it be that Allen simply wants out of KC? I don't think that's all that unreasonable, what with Herman 'Herm' Edwards as the coach.

I'm in favour of signing Allen to an offer sheet immediately after we draft the best tackle available at #17. Give the Chiefs our high, likely-to-be-even-more-ungodly-expensive first-rounders of 2009 and 2010; take advantage of a talented draft class of offensive tackles. In my mind, this resolves needs 1a and 1b on Saturday.

- VV