One of the most talked about and fascinating storylines unfolding right now within the Minnesota Vikings organization is the burning question whether or not they should extend the contract of their All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen.
In the coming weeks and months, this issue will be debated all across this wonderful place we call the Internet. But the way things are going right now, the answer is clear: The Vikings must not extend Allen's contract beyond 2013.
Allen, who's racked up 74 sacks during his time with Minnesota, via Pro-Football Reference—good for third best in franchise history, behind Chris Doleman (96.5) and John Randle (114)—has been worth every penny the team has paid him thus far. From the leadership role he has embraced in the locker room to his production on-field, no one can question the astronomical impact Allen has had on this franchise since he landed here back in 2008.
But at 31 years old and with general manager Rick Spielman at the helm, this organization now has a leader in place who is infatuated with keeping the roster young.
Since he took over the GM position in 2012, Spielman has already parted ways with a bunch of veteran players. Guys like Steve Hutchinson, E.J. Henderson, Visanthe Shiancoe and more recently Chris Kluwe and Antoine Winfield all have exited Minnesota for various reasons.
With Spielman's philosophy hinged on building quality talent through the draft, the need for Allen to return next season is unwarranted.
Another driving force in the decision to keep Allen or not is the salary he will consume if he comes back.
Allen, who signed a six-year deal in 2008 for $73.2 million, could be looking for one last huge payday—a payday that under Spielman's leadership won't happen. If going by NFL logic, although he has been an elite player throughout his career, due to the lack of interest in guys like John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Richard Seymour this offseason, it's not far-fetched to assume Allen could struggle in securing that high-paying contract elsewhere.
Speaking to Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune about his contract situation, Allen said, "You use the word restructure and that to me makes it feel like they’d want me to take a pay cut. And if anybody asked me to take a pay cut, I’d be through the first door out of there. So no. We haven’t talked one iota."
Going by that quote, it's ice water clear that Allen wants to earn all of his whopping $14.3 million salary owed to him this season—making his unwillingness to restructure another black-eye when you talk about the possibility of bringing him back next season.
Not only is he owed $14.3 million in salary, but this season, Allen's contract calls for more than $17 million against the Vikings' cap. A huge amount, and not addressing it can be interpreted as Spielman and Co. are content with letting him walk after the season wraps up.
With defensive lineman Brian Robison, last year's breakout player Everson Griffen and Kevin Williams also due to hit free agency at season's end, the Vikings will have to think long and hard about who makes the most sense financially and impact-wise to better this improving Vikings roster.
From the performance side of the conversation, productivity and durability have never been concerns for Allen. Having not missed a game due to injury since 2004, he has consistently been one of the best defensive players for not only the Vikings, but also league-wide.
And even though he was hampered by a torn labrum in his shoulder last season, Allen still managed to rack up 12 sacks while playing 1,081 snaps, via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Sticking with the Pro Football Focus formula (subscription required), Jared Allen finished last season as the 24th-ranked most productive 4-3 defensive end in the league. And while the extensive amount of mileage on his tires can be cause for some concern, with last year's injuries now a thing of the past, there's no reason why Allen shouldn't bounce back this season.
Still, the prospect of rolling out another big-money deal to a 31-year-old defensive end is a direction the Vikings should steer clear of.
Not extending Allen next season comes down to harmonious mixture of Spielman's philosophy, financial reasons and an aging player. If the money is right and things take an unexpected turn between Allen and the front office, I'm sure most Vikings fans, myself included, would love to see the mullet return next season.
But if things stay the course and play out the way they've gone thus far, the Vikings should realize not extending Allen beyond 2013 would be the best move the organization can make to ensure future success.