Game of tag an easy forfeit for Vikings

The Vikings didn't use their franchise or transition tags and it was an easy decision. Prices are high on those players and the Vikings didn't have the elite free agent at the right age to make it worth the investment.

The decision not to put a transition or franchise tag on Jared Allen had to be a quick, decisive conservation within the walls of Winter Park.

Despite some sentiments to contrary, placing either the franchise or transition tag on any of the Vikings' pending free agents never made sense for a variety of reasons. In every case, the amount for that player would have been overpriced, despite the Vikings having more than $31 million in salary cap space.

Here is a player-by-player look at what it would have taken and why it wasn't worth it for the Vikings:

DE Jared Allen – He will turn 32 less than a month from now and his insistence on keeping the rotation at his position to a minimum means he has taken on a lot of additional snaps in the last few years. Not only has he been a full-time starter during his Vikings years, he has consistently been at the top of the annual snap counts on the defense.

The franchise tag for defensive ends is $13.1 million this year, with Carolina's Greg Hardy earning that tag. But what is sometimes overlooked in Allen's case is the clause that states if 120 percent of the player's salary from the previous year is more than franchise tag amount, then that's the amount it would cost to franchise him. In Allen's case, his cap number was $17 million last year, meaning it would have cost $20.4 million to place the franchise tag on him. The Vikings were never going to pay that kind of money to a 32-year-old defensive end.

Allen, however, still has something to offer teams. He has never missed a game in his six years with the Vikings and played through some painful injuries. He has also never had fewer than 11 sacks in a season with the Vikings, but he reached more than 12 sacks only once in the past four years, when he nearly set the NFL single-season mark with 22 in 2011. Still, his age and desire to stay a full-time starter will likely see him pursuing opportunities in places other than Minnesota.

In every other free-agent case for the Vikings, the player didn't produce at a level worthy of franchise-player pay at his position.

DE Everson Griffen – For Griffen, who still could end up as Allen's replacement, it would have cost $13.1 million, an exorbitant amount of money for a player who has never been a full-time starter for the Vikings.

Defensive tackles – For long-time veteran Kevin Williams, it would have cost more than $9.6 million. Considering the Vikings restructured his deal to $5 million last year, there was no way they were going to pay nearly twice that. Williams has to simply hope for a spot on an NFL team next year, and if he's willing to accept a deal for a couple million there could be a place for a locker room leader like him. Fred Evans is another free-agent defensive tackle, but he might fall into Williams' category hoping for employment for a couple more years.

Wide receivers – Wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb will carry different values into free agency – Simpson as a viable No. 2 or No. 3 receiver if he isn't suspended to start the season and Webb only if a team is intrigued by his athleticism and finds a true position for him. But neither of them are within sniffing distance of the $12.1 million franchise tag or $10.1 million transition tag for receivers.

The others – And the list of Vikings free agents goes on and on with the same theme: QBs Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman are never going to command the $16.9 million of franchise quarterbacks; Toby Gerhart isn't worth the $9.5 million due to franchise running backs; Charlie Johnson and Joe Berger, even if they were unquestioned starters for the interior of the offensive line, wouldn't command the overall offensive lineman franchise money of $11.6 million, inflated largely on the backs of elite offensive tackles (something that J'Marcus Webb is not, either); Desmond Bishop and Marvin Mitchell could be on the market for a while and might be lucky to command one-tenth of the linebacker franchise fee of $11.4 million; and Chris Cook is looking forward to free agency but likely won't even get one-third of the pay of a franchise cornerback ($11.8 million).

The signing period for franchise players begins at 4 p.m. Central on March 11 and ends on Nov. 11, but it's unlikely any of the franchise players will find a new home since any team other than their current one that ends up signing them would have to surrender two first-round picks in addition to a gaudy salary on a multi-year contract.
In the Vikings' case, the decision was easy. No one was even close to worth the price.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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