Allen in Driver's Seat with Chiefs

The words from Chiefs President Carl Peterson this past Tuesday could not have been clearer.

"We will not lose Jared Allen," said Peterson.

Signing Allen to a long-term contract won't be easy. After the controversy this last week that has caused Chiefs fans to sour on the long-term agreement Peterson extended to Larry Johnson in August, one has to wonder if a deal with Allen is even possible.

Last February Allen and his agent, the inexperienced Ken Harris, sat down with Peterson and wanted to sign a long-term contract. They asked for a deal in the $50 million range but were quickly rebuffed.

Allen was upset, demanded a trade and went back to Arizona to ponder his future with the Chiefs. After some soul searching, he came to the realization that it was in his best interest to put the contract issue aside and concentrate on the 2007 season. He signed his one-year tender and his salary rose from $380,000 to $2.35 million.

After missing the first two games of the season thanks to a pair of DUI convictions in 2006, Allen now has six sacks in just four games.

If he keeps up that pace he'll have 21 sacks at season's end and his value to this team will be almost priceless.

The Chiefs and Peterson directly told the media in July when training camp began that Allen was ‘a player at risk,' and nobody - including the defensive end - could disagree with that statement.

Allen understands that his past caught up with him. The hard-charging style that made him a Kansas City favorite in every pub he visited had the Chiefs wondering if he could turn it around.

The NFL, as everyone knows, is littered with guys who screw up from time to time. Some learn and some don't.

But that risk didn't stop the Chiefs from giving $43.5 million (and $19 million guaranteed) to running back Larry Johnson, even though it was a below-market deal at a position that has devalued the last three seasons in the NFL.

However, Allen isn't in that position. Premium defensive ends don't grow on trees – especially ones entering the prime of their careers. Even further, Allen appears to have learned from his mistakes. He's been clean and sober since his last DUI arrest and he's been one of the biggest reasons Kansas City's defense has turned the corner and is now in the top 10, so signing him to a long-term contract is imperative.

Harris is more than willing to allow the Chiefs to rent Allen over the next two years through use of the franchise tag. Early projections for the 2008 cap number for defensive ends could hover around $11 million. In 2009 that number could be as high as $14 million.

"When the time comes to get it done it'll get done," said Allen. "Either way I'm a winner. I'm just playing football right now. All I can do is my part on the field."

The reason that franchise number is so high is Dwight Freeney, who was given a six-year contract this past summer worth $72 million, including $30 million in guarantees.

But so far in 2007, Freeney has been a bust. He has only 1.5 sacks and just 10 tackles in six games. That's not even close to Allen's four-game production.

The debate may rage all season as to who the better player is, but my money is on Allen, based on one key factor. He's simply a better player in every phase of the game than Freeney. He's a complete defender against both the run and pass.

If Allen continues to outplay Freeney, as I'm confident he will in 2007, then where does that leave the Chiefs and their desire to sign him to a long term contract?

Harris isn't even willing at this point to engage in any contract talks with the Chiefs during the regular season. He's firmly planted in his corner and knows he doesn't have to budge. He's also playing the agent game, hoping that he can go up against Peterson to establish himself as an elite NFL player agent.

Allen also has some risk in this because his agent doesn't have any other marquee NFL clients. If I were Allen, I'd ask for stock in Harris' firm, because if he can get a long-term contract from the Chiefs, his business will be flooded with prospective clients seeking similar riches.

"Hey nothing has changed," said Allen. "We haven't even talked."

The key to spark those talks may not be Peterson. It may fall upon team owner Clark Hunt, who is quietly putting his stamp on this football team. Star defensive ends don't come along often, especially ones plucked in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

In the end it's his millions that he'll have to part with. Signing Allen would make a definitive statement about the future of his team.

Hunt appears to be committed to winning. I'm not talking about 9-7 or 10-6 seasons, but fielding a perennial playoff team that can compete and perhaps someday be compared with the likes of the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs are trying to emulate the Patriots success and in order for that to happen, they must bridge the gap with Allen. He's one of those players that can't slip way, but he won't take a hometown deal either.

This time Allen will get the best of the Chiefs. As an organization, Peterson and Hunt should not play any games with their star defensive end. They should pay him market value.

"At the end of the year we'll see if it happens," said Allen. "If it's meant to be that I'm in Kansas City it'll work itself out. If not, it won't be."

The early returns on paying Johnson those multi-millions don't look good at the moment, but to be fair that can be said of any huge NFL contract. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you, but the Chiefs can't afford to let this bear get away.

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