Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cost of Jared Allen

As you probably know, Jared Allen did not become a Viking prior to leaving Minnesota. Thankfully, he didn't leave because he couldn't reach a deal with the Purple. Instead he was forced to leave due to NFL rules that require restricted free agents to end their visits after 48 hours. In fact it seems that the Vikings were able to reach some kind of preliminary agreement with Allen, for a six year contract that would just need a few details worked out. And yes, I am really enjoying the fact that Zygi Wilf is acting like a big market baseball team, willing to shell out significant contracts to big time players if it will improve his team.

Since the contract doesn't seem to be the problem, the Chiefs' demands are the most likely hang up. It seems they want a first and second rounder, while the Vikings are offering a first and a third. My guess is the Chiefs are hoping to create a bidding war between the Purple and Tampa Bay, where Jared Allen will be visiting later this week. If it does turn into a bidding war (which depends a lot on if Allen is willing to go to Tampa Bay), it is one the Vikings can win, as their picks are all higher than Tampa's. The question is if it'd be worth it for the Purple to give up a second rounder (or even another first rounder, if they sign him to an offer sheet) rather than a third rounder for Allen.

I wrote about Allen on Friday, and he is unquestionably one of the top defensive ends in the league. He's only 26 years old, has 43 sacks in his four years and is good at stopping the run. There's the matter of his two DUI's, but the more I read about him, the less worried I become, and the Vikings don't seem too worried about it either, or they wouldn't have offered him the money they did.

So we know what we'd be getting. The question, what would we be giving up? The following table has all of the Vikings' first, second and third round picks for the last five years.

1st Round

2nd Round

3rd Round


Adrian Peterson (7)

Sidney Rice (44)

Marcus McCauley (72)


Chad Greenway (17)

Cedric Griffin (48), Ryan Cook (51), Tarvaris Jackson (64)



Troy Williamson (7), Erasmus James (17)

Marcus Johnson (49)

Dustin Fox (80)


Kenechi Udeze (20)

Dontarrious Thomas (48)

Darrion Scott (88)


Kevin Williams (9)

E.J. Henderson (40)

Nate Burleson (71)

They've made six first round picks, seven second round picks and four third round picks. Of their first round choices, two are Pro Bowl caliber players (Peterson and Williams), two are starters (Greenway and Udeze), one was a backup and traded (Williamson) and one hasn't played much because of injury (James). Their second round choices have yielded two Pro Caliber players (Rice and Henderson), one starter (Griffin), two average to mediocre starters (Cook and Jackson), one backup (Johnson) and one backup that's no longer on the team (Thomas). Their third round selections have yielded one starter (Burleson) that's no longer on the team, one current backup (McCauley) and one backup that's no longer no the team (Scott) and one player that didn't play a down before being cut (Fox).

So, aside from learning that the 2003 draft was as good as the 2005 draft was bad, what does this exercise tell us about the value of a draft pick? Well, it shows why the Vikings are so hesitant to give up a second round pick. Second round picks have given the Vikings their starting quarterback, middle linebacker, left tackle and a starter at corner back and wide receiver. The best the Vikings have been able to do in the third round is Nate Burleson, who gave them a season with 1000 yards receiving, but was only with the team for three years, and was mediocre for two of them. The other players are backups and only McCauley, who the jury is still out on, is left on the team.

It also shows that, if the Chiefs refuse to make a deal, signing Allen to an offer sheet might be worth it. While the Purple would lose their first round picks in 2009 and 2010, they would still have their second round picks, which have produced almost as many good players for the Purple as the first rounders. Of course, it would only be justifiable if the Vikings believe they are going to be really good this year and next year, since they've shown the ability to turn top ten picks into superstars (aside from the travesty that was the Troy Williamson pick). The other thing an offer sheet provides them is the ability to leverage the Chiefs into accepting a first and third rounder for Allen, since they seem to be placing a premium on getting something for him now, rather than down the road.

If the Vikings can get Allen for a first and third round pick in this year's draft, they need to do so. If not, the difference between giving up a first and second round pick this year and a first round pick the next two years isn't as big as it seems. Adding two more quality players, along with Allen, to this year's team could be enough to get the Vikings deep into the playoffs and the players that they'd be giving up the chance to draft in first round of the 2009 and the 2010 draft won't necessarily be better than the ones the ones they'd be able to draft this year with their first and second round pick. If the Chiefs won't budge, then it might be worth it to sign Allen to an offer sheet that the Chiefs can't match after the draft and load up this year. Of course, the viability of that plan depends a lot on whether Tarvaris Jackson can turn into a real quarterback, because if not, the Purple will have a very hard time finding a viable replacement for him without their first round picks in 2009 and 2010.

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