An Open Letter To Jared Allen

Dear Jared, By now, most every Chiefs fan has heard about your problems negotiating a new contract. You've just finished your third year after vastly outperforming your rookie contract. But you have a little problem: you have two DUIs.

Another infraction will result in both criminal and league penalties that would take you off the field, making any large investment in you a risky proposition.

Your agent and Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson can't get past this road block. You've become so frustrated there's talk you want a trade and will not play in Kansas City past 2007. You're refusing to sign your one-year tender until just before training camp, skipping the team's offseason program.

But you don't need me to tell you about your life. You're living it. I felt compelled to write you, however, because there's a fatal flaw with your strategy. Even if you play next season without an off-field incident, you still won't get your real value on the open market.

I'm sure you'd like to know why. The unvarnished truth is, even with a full year of good behavior under your belt, those DUIs are still hanging over your head. Any contract you get will come at a discount due to this risk. Also, if you play this season at your $2.5 million tender price, you're setting yourself up to lose everything you've earned with one catastrophic injury. But here's the kicker: you CAN get what you want. All you need is a little imagination.

I'm going to use Adalius Thomas' contract as a rough approximation for your true market value. His numbers over the last three seasons are very close to yours. Thomas got a reported $35 million contract, with a $17.5 million bonus, $20 million in guaranteed money and $24 million in the first three years. The only way you're going to come close to this kind of guaranteed money is if you are willing to gamble on your own behavior.

What you need to do is spread out guaranteed money over the length of a long contract. Now, this idea won't solve your problem by itself, because guaranteed money has the same impact as a signing bonus for cap purposes, but this is where the imagination comes in. You accept a clause that guarantees $2 million of each year's salary if you have not yet received your third DUI. In this way, you get your true market value and the Chiefs are protected. If you get your third strike, the Chiefs can cut you with no more cap impact than the guaranteed money you've earned up to that point.

Yes, I know the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) prohibits individually negotiated salary forfeitures related to the league's substance abuse policy. The argument here is that 1) you aren't giving up any salary, you're just risking a guarantee, and 2) that clause in the CBA only applies to signing bonuses, not guaranteed money. OK, those are legal arguments. I'll explain later why I think why this tactic will work. First, let's get to the contract.

Here's a rough idea about how such an agreement would be structured. You take a signing bonus of $6 million. I know that's chump change compared to Thomas' bonus, but it's a heck of a lot better than getting paid less than Eric Hicks. You spread that bonus out over an eight-year contract, with veteran minimum in the first year and base salaries of $4 million, $5 million and $6 million in the next three years. Your second year is guaranteed at $3 million, with each of the subsequent six seasons giving $2 million in guaranteed money.

After three years, you will have earned $15 million. Sure, it's a lot less than Thomas' $24 million, but you will be due $10 million more in guaranteed money, raising your three-year take to $25 million. If the team trades you, cuts you or renegotiates your deal, the unpaid guaranteed money is due immediately as a bonus, at your option (as long as you haven't received a third DUI).

At the end of year four, however, you will likely want to be back on the open market. You will then be 29 years old and at the peak of your career. That's why the remaining four years of that contract are pegged at cap busting levels - call it $12, $13, $13 and $14 million. Here is where we apply some more creativity. If you have kept your nose clean for four years, all the remaining guaranteed money is due immediately as a bonus. In effect, your deal is a four-year, $28 million contract with $21 million guaranteed.

Furthermore, the eight-year number that will be reported in the media will be a very ego-inflating $72 million. Heck, you can make those last two years even bigger if you want to make a splash.

Of course, the league will approve contract clauses which promote good conduct off the field. The player's association, however, does not want front offices to turn into "big brother" so they can recapture money (and cap space) from erring players. Yet, the current forfeiture policy prevents a player such as yourself from getting his true value on the open market. There is common interest here that gives you room to work with the league and the NFLPA.

Instead of fighting with the front office, Jared, this is what you should be doing. You need to sit down with Chiefs' contract guru Denny Thum, the commissioner's office and the NFLPA and look for a way to address this issue. With the league's current crackdown on players like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, your problem is hardly unique. If you can find a way to give a problem player a fair market contract, you can be a leader - not only for your team, but for the entire league. It's up to you.

Your friend,

John.

P.S. Hire a full-time driver.

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