Craig: Bears' GM wouldn't be the first to win bet on Jared Allen
- Blog Post by: Mark Craig
- April 2, 2014 - 10:37 AM
Jared Allen turns 32 years old on Thursday.
That'll make him six years older than his former understudy, Everson Griffen, which is the primary reason Allen is now a former Viking and current Chicago Bear dreaming of pretend calf-roping his way up and down TCF Bank Stadium this fall.
Allen's departure, which took place without so much as a preliminary discussion between the Vikings and Allen's agent, was universally accepted as making perfect sense. After all, there are only so many starting jobs and piles of money to go around in the NFL. Plus, the Vikings have a new coaching staff, a different defense and, let's be honest, they probably aren't going to win the NFC North, let alone the Super Bowl, before Jared celebrates birthday No. 33. The timing and circumstances made it a natural NFL split.
Griffen's age and expired contract made him the logical choice to receive the starting right end job and the 5-year, $42 million pile of cash. Had the Vikings clung to Allen, they would have lost Griffen because, well, four years and one NFL start was the extreme limit of Everson's patience as a promising heir apparent.
Given the same pick of players, the Bears probably would have made the same choice for the same reasons. But -- and this is a big but that seems to have been lost -- let's stop just assuming that Griffen at 26 will be better than Allen at 32. Even Griffen has admitted that his career to this point still comes with the label of great potential. Allen may have made 10- to 15-sack seasons look routine, but they're not.
Also, the Vikings know better than anyone that Jared Allen has a history of making gambles pay off. The Chiefs took a chance on him when he was a nobody at Idaho State. That paid off. The Vikings took a chance on Allen during his wild-child, one-step-from-a-lengthy-suspension phase. That paid off massively even though the cost was $73.26 million over six years and a package of draft picks that included a first-rounder.
For the Chiefs, Allen developed from fourth-round draft pick to elite defensive end. For the Vikings, Allen grew up and kept his nose out of trouble while progressing to potential Hall of Fame defensive end. For the Bears, Allen has to fight his toughest battle: Age.
Bears General Manager Phil Emery believes in Allen to the tune of up to $32 million over four years.
On Monday, Emery talked about how he always goes back and tries to confirm that his major decisions are going to be right decisions.
"After [a] signing has happened or after the choice has happened, I do a little transaction check," Emery said. "You can call it buyer’s remorse check if you want. But I always watch one more tape after it’s happened to make sure that I had all the ducks aligned and that we are getting the person and the player that we thought we were."
Here's how that process went with the Allen signing, according to Emery:
"With Jared [Monday morning], before he came in to talk, I randomly went through his games and I looked and I said, ‘I need something at the end of the  season,’ to see where his motor was at that part of the year, and I need something against a good opponent. Somebody that was in the playoffs. So I grabbed the Eagles tape [a 48-30 Vikings win]. I did not remember at the time that they put it on the Eagles pretty good.
"Let’s see what this guy’s got against Jason Peters, who went to the Pro Bowl. Two sacks, tackle for loss, two hits on the quarterback, two pressures, felt pretty good. Feel real good about him being here, so you passed the test Jared. Relentless player, high-energy player, successful in all areas of his life. He’s greatly grown through his time in the league. This is a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time all-pro. ... But he continues to have productivity and that’s why we were interested. At this point in his career with 11 ½ sacks last year, 52 tackles, in the top end of rushers in this league and the top end of defensive players. Very excited to have him here, very excited to welcome him."
Griffen was a good choice for a Vikings team in transition. But Allen also was a good choice for a Bears team that plays the Vikings twice a year.
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