September 20, 2014
Everybody loves the totally selfless team player, but there’s something to be said for a guy like Jared Allen, who is really into being Jared Allen.
‘‘Wherever I go, I want to be the guy,’’ Allen, who is 12th on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 128.5, said in a Sirius XM Radio interview earlier this month. ‘‘I want to be able to play the majority of snaps. I can get up there with the top-10 all-time sack list with another good year. I’ve got some individual goals I still want to reach. Obviously, the Super Bowl is at the top of that list.’’
It remains to be seen exactly where Allen’s priorities are after the former Vikings defensive end turned down an offer from the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and agreed to terms on a four-year, $32 million deal ($15.5 million guaranteed) with the Bears on Wednesday. The Seahawks offered him an opportunity to play on a championship team in a defense under Pete Carroll where almost every single player overachieved; a defense that played 25 percent of its snaps with a 14-point lead last season. The Bears likely offered the most money, the most playing time and the biggest throne.
Free agency in the NFL is all about risk — you rarely know exactly what you’re getting and never quite know how anyone will fit into an offense or defense or in a locker room. But if you’re going to take chances and overpay in free agency, Jared Allen is the one to take.
He’ll turn 32 next Thursday. His sacks have declined from 22 in 2011 to 12 in 2012 to 11.5 last year. For what it’s worth, his production according to Pro Football Focus has declined as well — from plus-26.9 to plus-5.1 to minus-4.0 last season. But, numbers aside, there’s something to be said for a ‘‘high-motor’’ guy with more than a little badass in him who is as motivated as Allen is.
‘‘I feel like I have a lot of good football left, although if you believe half of the reports that come out, 11 1/2 sacks is terrible for me ... which is kind of annoying,’’ Allen said in the Sirius interview. ‘‘So I’ve still got a lot to prove because I want to shut a lot of people up for thinking that I’m on the decline.’’
Therein lies the $64,000 question with Allen — how much does he have left in the tank? Allen still is a quality player. But he’s two years removed from his 22-sack season of 2011. He turns 32 next week. Teams have paid more for less production in free agency. But in most cases — like the Bears’ signing of Lamarr Houston — it’s for players on the upswing. It’s hard to say where Allen is in his career at this point.
‘‘He’s still got football left. It’s a good signing,’’ said former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, the ‘‘football insider’’ for ‘‘The Game’’ (87.7 FM) locally. ‘‘He’s a good player. I think it’s a good move. The Bears pass rush was abysmal last year [29 sacks]. Anything you can do to bring in any player that can rush the passer — 11 1/2 sacks is nothing to sneeze at — you’ve got to look at it.
‘‘They paid good money for him. [But it] wasn’t outrageous. It’s in line with that other players are getting. It’s not necessarily a case of, ‘I want this $8-10 million player to look like a brand-new Cadillac. He’s not a brand new Cadillac. But he plays a Cadillac position. That’s what they’re paying a premium on.’’
Assuming Allen wasn’t just going for the best deal, his signing is a vote of confidence in the Bears, who were 8-8 and out of the playoffs last season with a defense that finished 30th in the NFL in total yards.
And indirectly, it was a vote of confidence in Jay Cutler. Allen made it clear in the Sirius interview he was looking for stability at quarterback. The Vikings had anything but stability last year with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. The closest Allen has come to reaching the Super Bowl was in 2009, when the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game with Brett Favre at quarterback.
‘‘If you can play for one of the top five quarterbacks, that makes life easier — especially for rushing the passer,’’ Allen said. ‘‘You get tons of opportunities when you’re leading games by 14 or more.’’