Prepare yourself, Vikings fans. In the coming months, media outlets are going to inundate you with the offseason minutia that will be the key to the Vikings making what will be projected as an improbable run for the NFC North title in 2014 – despite having the best record in the division in the second half of 2013. It should be pointed out, however, that two teams lost their quarterback and one was Detroit.
With the clock to free agency ticking down, one of the questions Vikings fans are asking is how the Vikings are going to replace Jared Allen. Short answer: you don't. The Vikings traded for Allen because they had drafted a dozen defensive ends with limited success in the previous decade. He made that no longer a problem.
But the focus has been almost completely on what the Vikings do with Allen. At no point, has the focus been on WWJD?
What Will Jared Do?
Allen was one of the few NFL players finishing a long-term second contract that he was never asked to restructure. That's why Allen's cap number hit $17 million last year and why the Vikings can't franchise him at an even higher price.
If Allen hits the open market, his question has to be two-fold: First, how long do I realistically have left to play at a level where a team will pay me eight figures a year to do so? The conventional wisdom is two or three. Second, if the window is closing, how many teams would you he be willing to play for?
If Allen is just out for the money, whoever waves the fattest stack gets him. But Allen isn't that type of player. He will play for less than market value to get one of those gaudy Super Bowl rings that he likely will only wear on "rub it your nose" occasions.
So where would Allen fit best given that he doesn't want to go to a reclamation project team?
We found a baker's dozen of teams that could have a mutual interest with Allen. Some make sense. Some would be for alternate reasons. But if Allen is looking at finishing his career with a chance of winning a Super Bowl – even at a reduced or incentive-laden price – these are his viable options.
13. Detroit – Seeing as they've never won a Super Bowl, this isn't the ideal spot. But they will throw money out and they are set on offense.
12. Green Bay – They would do it just for Favre spite, but the Packers also don't throw around cash very often in free agency, at to players outside the organization.
11. Pittsburgh – He's not a glove fit position-wise, but personality-wise and appeasing a fan base? Hand meets glove.
10. Arizona – He lives there and, given the proximity in the division with the last two NFC entrants in the Super Bowl, the only way he returns to his home state if they pay out-state tuition.
9. Atlanta – They were brutal last year, but have a lot of the component pieces to make a run. They would also pay top dollar with promises backed up by Brink's trucks.
8. New Orleans – He could get his title, but that 2009 wound may not have scabbed over enough.
7. Denver – It would be a mercenary run, but Allen and Manning would be box office.
6. New York Giants – They make the Super Bowl every four years, right?
5. Philadelphia – Allen and South Philly would be a love affair that would be worth watching. Interviews would be epic.
4. New England – Bill Belichick is always on the cusp of a Super Bowl and the Patriots fans would embrace him as a scheme-suited player.
3. Indianapolis – His ideal landing spot. A young team in need of an old-school leader on defense. Allen and Luck could bring Lombardi back to Indiana.
2. Dallas – Free agent overspending can never be discussed without mentioning three teams – Dallas, Washington and Oakland. Allen wants nothing to do with the Redskins or Raiders. Jerry Jones will give an impressive sell job and then up the offer. Don't be stunned to see calf-roping sack dances done where calf roping is common.
1. San Francisco – The arms race is on in the NFC West. If Allen wants a ring, they're his best shot.
The question doesn't seem to be whether Allen is coming back or not. It's more in line with where will he finish his career? If the Vikings don't step up, there will no shortage of viable suitors to meet his salary and ring demands.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: What will Jared do?
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