How Much is Allen Worth?

Jared Allen was understandably excited this week, making his first Pro Bowl. It's been a long haul for the fourth-year defensive end, from the 126th pick in the NFL draft to a DUI suspension and finally, to Hawaii, the first Kansas City defender to make the trip since 2003.

Fans will be clamoring for general manager Carl Peterson to throw the bank at Allen this offseason, and with good reason – the Chiefs have a player who has exceeded his draft status, made an impact on games and doesn't appear to be slowing down. To let Allen get away now would be a tragedy.

I'm in agreement with all of the above. What I'm not in agreement with is giving Allen a long-term contract, not just yet.

Allen has proved quite a bit this year, but he still has more to prove. Staying clean and sober for a year was a step in the right direction – how about two? Allen's real burden of proof lies within the gridiron, however.

For all his gaudy statistics – 11.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a whopping 10 passes defensed and a touchdown reception to boot – Allen is still not an elite player, Pro Bowl berth or not. Perhaps it sounds silly given the season he's had, but over the last month it's become more and more apparent that Allen is not deserving of the riches he probably desires.

After dominating the Oakland Raiders in a Week 7 win, Allen disappeared against that same team at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 12. Kansas City's pass rush was noticeably absent this day, as Daunte Culpepper frequently had all kinds of time to stand in the pocket.

Allen rebounded with a good game against the San Diego Chargers a week later, but the last two weeks might be his worst as a pro.

The Broncos opened their December 9 contest with the Chiefs by running right at Allen, who was easily pinned to the inside on Denver's first two offensive plays, resulting in gains of six and 50 yards. Later, Allen blew an opportunity to dump running back Selvin Young for a loss – the undrafted rookie cut the play back for 30 yards, leading to a field goal just before halftime.

The Broncos double-teamed Allen much of the day, yes, but not on every play. Frequently, he was handled by tight end Daniel Graham in single blocking. Allen's day was so bad the only play he made all game came after the officials appeared to incite his anger by flagging him for a hands-to-the-face penalty.

Of course, Allen struggling against Denver is nothing new. In eight career games against the Broncos, he has just 1.5 sacks. The reason is Denver's left tackle Matt Lepsis, a veteran player who, for all his lack of press clippings, has always seemed to handle KC's defensive end with ease.

Allen's struggles continued against another relatively unknown player last week against the Titans – Michael Roos. Tennessee's third-year left tackle didn't let Allen sniff Vince Young all day, and the Titans ran LenDale White right at him for 60 minutes.

Lepsis and Roos are good players, but the former is a descending lineman coming off micro fracture knee surgery. The latter is an ascending player who will one day make the Pro Bowl, but isn't there just yet. Neither tackle can be compared to Orlando Pace or Willie Roaf in their primes.

So the question begs – if Allen's play has fallen off against players like Lepsis and Roos, just how much is he worth? When the Chiefs (hopefully) someday reach the playoffs, and Allen squares off against New England's Matt Light or Cleveland's Joe Thomas, how effective will he be? And even then, there's the question of Allen's abilities as a clutch player.

When was the last time you remember Jared Allen coming up with a huge sack or strip late in a game? As good as Allen has been this year, he just has one sack after halftime and none in the fourth quarter. It's not as if the Chiefs have always been playing from behind – they had leads against Green Bay, Oakland and Tennessee, and were tied with Indianapolis and San Diego. Where was Allen, instead of doing what elite defensive ends do?

Allen's numbers look good right now, but how much of his performance this year is due to the limbo of his contract status? Can he put together three or four consecutive 14-16 sack seasons, as Reggie White and Bruce Smith used to do back in the day?

We're not questioning Allen's heart or desire to play the game. Perhaps he's simply not that good – he was never the most talented player to begin with. And in that light, one knee injury might drastically reduce Allen's effectiveness, as it did with Eric Hicks after his 14-sack season.

Just how much is Allen worth? Is it really smart to award him with a long-term deal similar to the one Dwight Freeney ($72 million) signed last offseason?

Perhaps it's in the best interests of the Chiefs if Peterson slaps the franchise tag on Allen for next season, and perhaps beyond. Reward Allen now with what will surely be a lucrative one-year deal (approximately $10 million), and in the meantime, continue to evaluate him. It would be a shame if the Chiefs repeated the same mistake they made with Larry Johnson a few months ago.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories