The Vikings have got their man.
According to people with knowledge of the situation, the team has reached an agreement to acquire Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen from the Kansas City Chiefs and also have agreed to a multiyear contract with Allen. The NFL Network also is reporting what amounts to a trade-and-sign for the Vikings.
The trade will be finalized Wednesday; Allen will return to the Twin Cities either late tonight or early Wednesday. It’s not certain yet if the Vikings will hold a news conference on Wednesday.
Although terms of the agreement haven’t been revealed, the Vikings are expected to send their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) and their first selection in the third round (No. 72) in this weekend’s NFL draft to the Chiefs. The Vikings had acquired the later pick in a trade with the Denver Broncos. It’s also possible the Vikings could send another pick to Kansas City.
Allen, who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season, spent last Friday and Saturday visiting the Vikings’ Winter Park facility along with his agent, Ken Harris.
The Chiefs had designated Allen as their franchise player – that tag would have earned him $8.8 million next season, the average salary of the NFL’s five highest-paid defensive ends – but Allen wanted to leave Kansas City and was allowed to talk to other teams. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia also expressed interest but the Vikings appeared to be the best fit.
Former 49ers and Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who is an analyst for the NFL Network, talked about Allen earlier Tuesday.
“He’s not Bruce Smith or Reggie White and never will be,” Mariucci said. “But he brings things to the table with his production and has the motor in practice. He’s one of those guys you like on your team. He’s a high energy guy. He comes to work with his lunch pail every day, he’s a hard worker and he stirs it up a little bit.”
The Vikings could have signed Allen to an offer sheet, but the Chiefs would have had the right to match or been entitled to two first-round draft picks. Working out a trade was Minnesota’s desire throughout this process.
Allen’s contract is expected to rival the record deal the Colts gave defensive end Dwight Freeney last summer. Freeney is due to make $72 million over six years and received $30 million guaranteed.
Defensive end has been considered the Vikings’ biggest area of need this offseason. Erasmus James, a first-round pick in 2005, has been slowed the past two seasons by knee injuries and it’s uncertain exactly when he will be ready to go in 2008. Starting left end Kenechi Udeze, meanwhile, was diagnosed with leukemia in February and is expected to sit out the coming season.
The Vikings had hoped to sign an end in free agency but their top choice, Justin Smith, ended up joining San Francisco. Antwan Odom jumped from Tennessee to Cincinnati and Jevon Kearse decided to return to the Titans rather than visit with the Vikings.
“The Vikings have a pretty darn good defense already and could be dominating with a guy like him,” Mariucci said. “He is young and the prime of his career is ahead of him. He will require help on occasions in pass protection. … But to have a dominating defense in that division could be very advantageous because you’re not playing against a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. You have [most quarterbacks] trying to prove themselves.”
Minnesota had very quietly targeted the 26-year-old Allen for several months. He will be used at the right end spot, meaning he will be rushing from the blindside of most quarterbacks. Ray Edwards, the starter for the majority of last season at right end, could shift to the left side.
The lack of a first-round pick won’t be a huge issue for the Vikings considering it was expected they were going to take a defensive end with that selection. Florida’s Derrick Harvey was believed to be their top choice, but Clemson’s Phillip Merling also could have ended up being in the mix.
Allen’s biggest issue has been his off-the-field behavior. He was suspended for the first four games of 2007 after being arrested twice for drunken driving the previous year. That suspension was later reduced to two games and Allen has said in interviews that he no longer drinks alcohol.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Friday the team has done a significant amount of checking into Allen’s background.