49ers adding Larry Allen to offensive arsenal

The 49ers took a change in course Thursday in their ongoing efforts to get the franchise pointed in the right direction. Larry Allen can do that a team. The massive star lineman, one of the best guards of this or any other NFL era, has agreed to a fast-in-developing deal that will bring him to San Francisco for the twilight of his career. Even though a rising young OL unit may be the team's strength, the 49ers won't have any problem finding a place for the 10-time Pro Bowler in their 2006 plans.

It's a bit out of character for the team's new regime to add a 34-year-old veteran to the mix, particularly at one of the few areas where the 49ers appear well stocked for the future, but Allen and the unique things he brings are an obvious exception. The 6-foot-3, 335-pound product of Sonoma State – located in the wine country north of San Francisco – is a steamrolling mauler who still is one of the best run blockers in the game even after 12 NFL seasons.

According to sources, Allen has agreed to a two-year deal that is expected to pay him between $4 and $5 million each season. The deal is contingent upon Allen passing a physical and then actually signing the contract to make it official.

Allen's release Tuesday after a star-studded career in Dallas was a result of financial ramifications rather than an indication of decline in his abilities. Allen was scheduled to count $7.5 million against the Cowboys' salary cap this season. He was also due to receive a $2 million roster bonus April 1.

After Allen was released, Dallas owner Jerry Jones said, "Larry has been the best in pro football for a long time. His ability and performance set a standard for excellence at his position in the NFL for many years, and we are grateful for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys. We have come to this crossroad today with concern for managing our resources with respect to the immediate and long-term financial structure of our team. Just as importantly, we give great consideration and respect to Larry's future and his ability to explore his professional options. We have also made it clear that the door is open for one of those options to include a return to the Cowboys."

Allen apparently had other ideas, like returning to the area where he graduated from high school and then made a big name for himself as a small-college star. Allen emerged from Sonoma State as Dallas' second-round pick in 1994, and the rest is history. Allen has been named All-Pro seven times, and at one point in his career, he was selected to the Pro Bowl seven straight seasons from 1995-2001.

That kind of elite status continued last season, when Allen was No. 1 in Pro Bowl voting at his position and was selected to the NFC squad for the 10th time, just short of Bob Lilly's team record of 11 Pro Bowl selections.

Allen, virtually a certain Hall of Famer after his career is over, has been one of the NFL's most dominant players – regardless of position – over the past decade. He was the last remaining link to the Cowboys' Super Bowl run of the early 1990s, when Dallas captured three NFL titles in a four-year span – a run interrupted only by the 49ers' Super Bowl title after the 1994 season. Dallas also beat the Niners twice in NFC championship games during that span. Allen was the last player to remain on the Dallas roster from the team's last Super Bowl title in 1995.

Coincidentally, Allen's release in Dallas was precipitated by the Cowboys' recent signing of former 49ers' offensive lineman Kyle Kosier to a five-year, $15 million deal earlier this month. Kosier is Allen's likely replacement in the Dallas lineup. Kosier for Allen? Those who watched Kosier for three years in San Francisco will be anxious to see who gets the best of that swap.

It could be the Niners if Allen steps in as a starter as expected. San Francisco already appeared set at guard with youngsters Justin Smiley and David Baas – the team's second-round draft selections in 2004 and 2005, respectively – as the starters, but now this gives both players more time to develop while greatly solidifying the team's depth.

Eric Heitmann – who ended the 2005 season as the starting center – also has solid starting experience at guard, and Baas can be moved to center, where he played in college at Michigan. Bringing in Allen means the 49ers can concentrate their efforts elsewhere in the college draft and during the rest of the free-agency period, and it also gives the team some solid insurance if two-time Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry can't make it back from his latest knee surgery, which some in the organization suspect will be the case.

Allen has played every position on the offensive line except center during his career, but the team clearly is bringing him in to bolster the interior of the unit. Allen began his career as a guard, then shifted to tackle in 1998 and became just the third offensive lineman in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl at more than one position.

Niners Digest Top Stories