EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Jared Allen has entered the final season of his mega contract without any guarantee from the Minnesota Vikings of an extension.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, of course, would rather have already signed a new deal with the team that traded a first-round draft pick and a pair of third-round selections to Kansas City for him in 2008.
But in the NFL even a guy with 117 career sacks, the second-most among active players, can get cut.
“I was in an organization previously that didn’t respect where I was at in my contract,” Allen said Wednesday, referring to the Chiefs. “They promised me a lot of stuff and didn’t deliver. And here, I don’t have that problem.”
Allen turned 31 in April. His salary for 2013 is more than $14 million, before the bonuses he’ll likely collect. That’s a huge hit on a club’s salary cap, and the Vikings could’ve forced him to take a pay cut as they did with defensive tackle Kevin Williams, left guard Charlie Johnson and tight end John Carlson. Or they could’ve released him, like veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield.
Two of the other pass-rushing specialists in the current top five on the active career sack list, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney, were recently dumped by their teams.
“A lot of guys get let go in the last year or restructure the last year,” Allen said, adding: “They want to honor it. So that’s great for me. I have no beefs, quarrels, nothing.”
Asked whether he’d be open to a new deal during the season, Allen didn’t answer the question directly but indicated his disinterest in considering such matters while the games are going on.
“We’re all on the same page,” Allen said, praising his relationship with coach Leslie Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman and owner Zygi Wilf. “You know what? I’m excited they’re letting me play my contract out. … I feel like I’ve got plenty of good football left in me. But that’s a decision we’ll sit down and make when the time is right.”
Williams is also in the final season of his contract. So are fellow defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. That’s created an intriguing dynamic among a group that has been one of the team’s strongest positions for the last half-decade.
“If we sit there and worry about the contract thing and things like that, it’s not going to do anything but hurt our play,” Robison said. “I mean, I think any guy will tell you as long as your mind is on playing football and you’re playing well, everything else will take care of itself.”
With 22 sacks in 2011, Allen just missed the NFL single-season record. Last year, he had 12 sacks. Perhaps that’s a sign of some decline, but Allen played in all 17 games (including the postseason loss at Green Bay) with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Allen had surgery to repair that a little more than four months ago, also undergoing a minor procedure for the meniscus cartilage in his right knee at the same time.
He joined his teammates this week for the second round of on-field practices, known in league parlance as organized team activities, but he’s only an observer.
“We probably won’t see him until training camp,” Frazier said. “But … medically he is doing great and there won’t be any problems when we get to training camp. The fact that he’s in town, he’s doing his rehab here, he’s coming out to our practices, that’s a good thing.”
He’s finally sleeping through the night, too. The shoulder injury, he said, happened in the middle of the 2011 season. He was able to play through the condition, but it caused plenty of sharp pain.
“I’d wake up every night tossing and turning,” he said, then describing his euphoria a few months ago when he opened his eyes and realized it was morning, having not been jolted awake by the discomfort.
Allen estimated his flexibility in the joint at 97 percent.
“I feel good. Just trying to build strength up now,” he said, adding: “Just trying to make sure I’m in the best shape possible and I can get back out there with the guys.”
Perhaps for the final time in purple.
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