Friday, April 18, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Jared Allen

In case you somehow managed to miss the news, the Chiefs are shopping Jared Allen. That's right, Jared "lead the NFL in sacks despite missing two games" Allen is available for the right price, and the Vikings seem to have the best chance to acquire him.

Now, before we go any further, let's all take a deep breath, center our selves, and think about this analytically. Now, obviously, adding an elite pass rusher is the Vikings' main goal at this point. So, is Allen an elite pass rusher? Let's go to the stats and find out. Allen has 43 sacks in 61 career games, including 15.5 last season, where he missed the first two games due to suspension (don't worry, I'm going to get to that later). That means he has a sack rate of 11.28 sacks per 16 games. His worst year, 2006, he had 7.5 sacks, a number that would have lead the Vikings last year. And Kansas City had the third highest adjusted sack rate last year, bested only by the Patriots and the Giants. The Vikings were 28th. Allen is also good against the run, averaging over 56 tackles a year, a number dragged down by his rookie total of 30 tackles, and one which still would have been the 8th best on the Purple. And while he may still be the focus of opposing blocking schemes, he'll also be paired with the Williams and young pass rushers Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, which means that offenses will get to decide which player sacks their quarterback, but they won't be able to stop the Vikings from getting to him.

Now that we've come to the conclusion that Jared Allen is, in fact, an elite pass rusher (yeah, I know, a tough decision), it's time to consider the cost of acquiring him. The Chiefs have placed their franchise tag on him, which means that, technically, the Vikings could sign him right now. In order to do so, however, they'd have to give up two first round picks, one from this year, and one from next year. Obviously, they aren't going to do that, which means that, in order to trade him, the Chiefs have to accept something less than two first rounders. Rumor is that the Vikings are considering offering their first round pick this year and their second round pick next year for Allen. If the Chiefs prefer picks from this year's draft, that means that they'll likely have to accept a third round pick instead of a second rounder. The Vikings have the 17th, 47th, 73rd and 82nd picks. Ideally, they'd be able to convince the Chiefs to take the 82nd pick, along with the 17th, but, due to Tampa Bay's interest, they may have to deal the 73rd pick instead. Tampa has the 20th, 52nd and 80th pick, but only have 5 total draft picks this year, which makes each of their picks more valuable to them, and the Vikings can easily outbid them, as their picks are all higher than the Bucs'. Are a first and third round pick worth trading for an elite pass rusher? In a word--Yes. Odds are the Purple would be using one of those picks (if not both) on a defensive end anyway, and it's much better to get a proven commodity than have to take a chance on an unknown, when the proven commodity is very, very good.

Even if the Vikings reach a deal with the Chiefs, they're still going to have to reach a deal with Jared Allen. Rumor is that he wants Dwight Freeney money, which means a contract that is around six-years, for $72 million and $30 million guaranteed. To put that in context, the Purple were willing to offer an inferior end, Justin Smith, $20 million in guaranteed money and a six year contract for $45 million. Is Allen worth the cash? Well, yes, and no.

Yes, because Allen is only 26 years old, and likely to continue to be effective for the length of the contract and because that's the going rate for elite pass rushers. No, because Allen's already managed to pick up two DUI's in his four years, which is the reason why he served a two game suspension last year (which was originally four games). He says he has stopped drinking, which I'm willing to believe, but I'm not the one guaranteeing him $30 million dollars. I'm not sure how the Vikings can square trading for Allen with their "Culture of Accountability", nor am I sure if guaranteeing $30 million to a player who has already had his second strike is a good idea. The Vikings are supposedly considering trading Bryant McKinnie because of the fight he was allegedly involved in (remember, he hasn't been convicted of anything yet). And while it was McKinnie's fourth arrest, unlike Allen, he hasn't been found in violation of the NFL conduct policy for the second time yet. A third violation would likely mean a year long suspension, and the Vikings might not be able to recover the money they guaranteed Allen, and they certainly wouldn't be able to recover the draft picks they gave up to get him.

So, do I make this trade if I'm the Vikings? I think so. I have no problem with giving up a first and a third rounder this year (or a first rounder and a second rounder for next year) for a talent like Allen. Nor do I have a problem with paying a player like him the money he wants. If I'm the Vikings though, I'm making damned sure that he is telling the truth about learning from his past mistakes. Because I have a problem with the Vikings signing a player with two DUIs that hasn't made a change to their lifestyle. And that's what this deal hinges on--can the Vikings trust Allen to be a model citizen? If so, he's the answer to their problems. If not, this trade isn't worth it. So, do you trust Zygi, Spielman and Childress to make the right call on Jared Allen's character?

No comments: