Brian Robison has been around long enough to know how it works with the Minnesota Vikings: players 30 years or older could be nearing the end of their time there.
Robison, now 30 himself, signed an extension with the Vikings last year but saw his long-time bookend on the defensive line, Jared Allen, who will be 32 in a week, sign with a division rival after the Vikings made little to no effort to re-sign him.
Allen signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Chicago Bears that includes $15.5 million in guarantees. The structure of the contract should mean Allen is there for at least two years, and that creates an interesting dynamic in the NFC North.
"It will. Not only him, but having (Julius) Peppers in Green Bay. Having him over in Chicago. It's going to be a pretty crazy NFC North this year as far as defensive end-wise," Robison said. "We're going to have to get after it as far as our D-line goes. We always pride ourselves on trying to be the best defensive line. Having Jared over in Chicago and having that element, and they just signed Lamarr Houston, we're going to have to get after it this year, that's for sure."
The Vikings' defensive line is undergoing massive changes with a new coaching staff in place. Allen is in Chicago. Kevin Williams remains unsigned and likely has played his last game with the Vikings, if not in the NFL. Letroy Guion and his $4 million cap figure were also released. That's three of the four starters on the defensive line from last year.
Everson Griffen will replace Allen at right defensive end and Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings' first pick last year, is expected to replace Williams at the three-technique defensive tackle. Linval Joseph, signed as a free agent from the New York Giants, will replace Guion at nose tackle.
The Vikings allowing Allen and Williams to walk away without much interest from their former team came as little surprise. General manager Rick Spielman has made no pretenses about his desire to get the roster younger over the last two years.
"That's just kind of the nature of this business. We kind of saw it coming. You could see the writing on the wall. That's what a lot of teams are doing now," Robison said. "They're moving to young guys and things like that. Especially once you turn 30 in this league, it's harder to stay in a certain place. We kind of saw it coming. Jared found a team that is going to invest a little money in him for the next three or four years."
But the fact that Allen ended up with the Bears was a bit of surprise, even to Robison.
"I was a little bit. I figured once we started hearing the Seattle rumors and stuff like that, I figured he would probably try to go to Seattle, being that they're the defending Super Bowl champs and stuff," he said. "I know he had ties to Chicago with his wife being from there and stuff like that. I kind of was surprised to see him go to a team in our division. That's the way it is in this league. It's a business. You can't take anything personally. You've just got to go where you think is right."
That move will increase the division rivalry but also give left tackle Matt Kalil the Jared Allen challenge twice a year over the next few seasons.
Robison's concern now is getting his new-look defensive line on point. If it is going to continue its quest for greatness, that journey will be taken with new teammates. It's the first time since Robison's rookie season that he will be without Allen.
"It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere. Really and truly our whole D-line room, we really only have I think four guys from last year that are going to be back in that room," Robison said. "It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere, it's going to be a different feel. But bottom line is we have to have the same attitude that we're going to go out there and be the best. It's going to be awkward not seeing Jared, not seeing Kevin, not seeing those guys in the room, Letroy. But we've got to come up with a new identity and try to be the best we can be."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.
Robison: Allen to Bears creates new challenge
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