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.