The Chicago Bears this morning announced the signing of Jared Allen to a four-year contract. Allen will receive $32 million over four years, with $15.5 million guaranteed. The guaranteed portion of the contract is paid out within the first two years of the deal, essentially making it a two-year contract. Allen's $7.75 million annual salary the next two seasons makes him the highest paid defensive player on the roster.
Allen is a 10-year veteran who spent his first four years (2004-2007) with the Kansas City Chiefs and the previous six (2008-2013) with the Minnesota Vikings. Allen leads the NFL in sacks (128.5) since 2004. In 2011, he broke the Vikings single-season sack record with 22.0, which was a half sack shy of the all-time record.
Allen has started 151 of 157 career games. He has missed just three total games during his 10-year career, the last one coming in 2007. In his six seasons in Minnesota, he didn't miss a single contest.
At 32 years old, the Vikings considered Allen disposable after an 11.5-sack campaign in 2013, which by his standards was a "down" season. Yet those 11.5 sacks would have easily topped all Bears defenders last year - Julius Peppers' 7.5 were the most on the team.
Therein lies Allen's value: he can get to the quarterback. Chicago GM Phil Emery has also signed Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in free agency. Those two combined for 9.0 sacks last season, or 2.5 less than Allen's total. Houston and Young are in the Windy City to help improve the team's 32nd-ranked run defense; Allen is in town to sack opposing signal callers.
Allen will serve as one part of the starting DE duo with Houston, which puts Young into the No. 3 role. That's a perfect spot for Young who, according to Pro Football Focus, had the most QB pressure of any 4-3 defensive end in the league in 2013. Young as a starter would have been fine, although one could argue he's not much of an upgrade over Corey Wootton. Yet Young as a primary backup is ideal.
The Bears now have 10 defensive ends on the current roster, which includes recently signed veteran Israel Idonije. The addition of Allen gives defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the flexibility to use Idonije primarily at defensive tackle, where the team has just three players signed. Idonije's presence inside, alongside a healthy Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, would provide a huge boost to the run defense.
Financially, the Bears will likely be forced to part ways with at least one of the team's 10 defensive ends. After restructuring Jay Cutler's behemoth contract last Friday, the club had a little more than $11 million in cap space as of yesterday. Allen's contract will eat up all but around $4 million. Emery is going to need roughly $5 million just to sign the incoming draft class, as well as spending money during the season to sign players in case of injuries. So expect Emery to slash a couple of players before the May draft.
As for the draft, the signing of Allen officially rules out the possibility Emery will select a defensive end. The Bears bought four DEs in free agency and invested a sixth-round pick last year in Cornelius Washington. There's no chance they'll add even more players to an already crowded position. Emery can now focus on positions of need in the secondary or at defensive tackle.
Finally, Allen brings an identity to Chicago's defense, a unit that fell apart after Brian Urlacher's departure last season. The defense was historically bad last year and lacked leadership after Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were hit with injuries. Allen brings a larger-than-life presence to the locker room, one whose vast NFL experience and production will command respect.
The Bears cut 34-year-old Julius Peppers and replaced him with a player two years younger, who had four more sacks in 2013 and who will cost $1 million less than what Green Bay is paying Pep.
All around, this was a solid move by Emery.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.