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Updated: March 10th, 2014 8:09pm
Zulgad: Vikings got everything they could've expected from Jared Allen

Zulgad: Vikings got everything they could've expected from Jared Allen

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Jared Allen's departure from the Vikings promises to be nothing more than a formality at this point.

The sides had one final conversation this past weekend and agreed it would be best for the free-agent defensive end to look elsewhere for employment starting in 2014. Allen can officially sign with another team starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

One thing should not be overlooked when that happens: The six-year relationship between the Vikings and Allen worked out about as well as anyone could have hoped.

Allen did not help the Vikings get to a Super Bowl, but he did spend much of his time in purple creating havoc for quarterbacks and left tackles and playing the right end spot at a high level.

Allen reached double-digits in sacks every season he played for the Vikings, compiling 85.5 in that time, and didn't miss a start. Eventually it became easy to take Allen's success for granted and nit-pick at his game.

He wasn't effective enough against the run. His sacks came in bunches. Allen would do anything to make sure he was credited with a sack. He wore himself down by refusing to come out.

Each bit of criticism should have come with a simple reminder: Finding an every-down right end who can consistently apply pressure is extremely difficult.

There are many who believe the second-most important player on offense, behind the quarterback, is the left tackle. That's because that guy gets paid big bucks to protect the blind side of righthanded quarterbacks from players like Allen.

Those who followed the Vikings before Allen arrived will remember a revolving door of right ends that included Lance Johnstone, Lorenzo Bromell, Kenechi Udeze, Erasmus James and Darrion Scott.

The Vikings were coming off an 8-8 finish in 2007, Brad Childress' second year as coach, and had had three players tie for the team lead in sacks with five. Udeze, one of those players and a 2004 first-round draft pick, was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2008. He would sit out that season and eventually retire.

Even before receiving the sad news about Udeze, the Vikings knew they needed help at right end and were set to make a pitch for Justin Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency that March. The only problem was that the San Francisco 49ers got to Smith first. 

The 49ers gave Smith a helicopter tour of San Francisco and then presented him with a $45 million, six-year offer that included $20 million in guarantees. Smith never got on the plane to Minnesota.

A few weeks before the Vikings struck out on Smith, the wheels had been set in motion for Allen's exit from Kansas City when the Chiefs placed the franchise tag on him. That would have called for Allen to make $8.8 million for the 2008 season, but the decision only left him wanting out of Kansas City.

He had led the NFL in sacks in 2007 with 15.5, but he also had grown to despise general manager Carl Peterson. It was a feeling he had no interest in hiding.

The Chiefs began to shop Allen and the Vikings proved to be more than a willing taker. The only question was would they be willing to meet Kansas City's asking price in a trade and give Allen the multiyear deal he desired?

The Vikings answered "yes" to both questions and on April 22, they completed a trade for Allen and announced he had agreed to a six-year contract. The deal was worth $73.26 million, making Allen the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history at the time, and included $31 million in guarantees.

The Vikings paid a steep price to the Chiefs, as well, sending their first-round pick in the 2008 draft to Kansas City, along with two third-round selections and swapping sixth-rounders.

The Chiefs used the first-round pick on left tackle Branden Albert, the third-round selections on running back Jamaal Charles and safety DaJuan Morgan, and the sixth-round pick on wide receiver Kevin Robinson. The Vikings turned their sixth-round selection into center John Sullivan.

Albert and Charles, of course, have been productive to very productive players, while research indicates Morgan and Robinson are out of the NFL.

Upon his arrival in Minnesota, Allen said all of the right things but there also was another issue that was a real concern.

In April 2007, Allen had been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season after being arrested twice within a five-month span for drunken driving in Kansas. The suspension eventually was reduced to two games but he came to the Vikings still a member of the league's substance abuse program.

Allen, to his credit, proved to be active in the community in Minnesota and had no off-the-field incidents. He also settled down, getting married during his time here. He and his wife, Amy, had a daughter in October 2011.

On the field, Allen showed no soft side, recording 14.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons before dropping off to 11 in 2010 and then coming within a half-sack of Michael Strahan's NFL record when he finished with 22 in 2011.

Allen fell off to 12 sacks in 2012 and after the season underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He also had a "cleanup" on his knee done on the same day. Allen easily could have sat out a few games that year to try to get his strength back but never did.

Allen won't turn 32 until next month, but this would be a good time for him to look for one final contract and perhaps, against his own desire, settle into more of pass-rushing specialist role with a better team than the Vikings.

He did not look like an all-world pass-rusher this past season, finishing with 11.5 sacks, and the miles have started to add up.

That, coupled with the fact that Allen is far from a perfect fit for the defense new coach Mike Zimmer will run in Minnesota, makes this a good time for him to look elsewhere.

The difference is that when Allen departed Kansas City he couldn't wait to get out. His departure from  Minnesota should come with fond memories for both sides.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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