Many of the top available free-agent pass rushers in the NFL have already found new homes. But Jared Allen—one of the best defensive ends of the last 10 years—hasn't yet decided where—or if—he'll play football next season.
At 31 years old and with 11.5 sacks in 2013, there's no doubt Allen still has something left in the tank. Thing is, the future Hall of Famer wants to get paid. His definition of that might keep him from agreeing with interested teams.
Per Larry Hartstein of CBS Sports, Allen is prepared to retire if he doesn't get market value. Just what is that for a player of Allen's caliber and age?
The Dallas Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware and he quickly signed a three-year $30 million dollar deal with the Denver Broncos. The Chicago Bears cut Julius Peppers and he signed a three-year deal worth a maximum of $30 million if he reaches incentives.
Ware is 31 and Peppers is 34. Both had fewer sacks than Allen in 2013, in the last three seasons and in their careers. It's not crazy to suggest that Allen should be paid a little more than both of them.
Would a team be willing to fork over a contract that averages about $12 million per year. Secondly, would Allen be willing to accept a deal shorter than three years?
Here's three teams that should be strongly considering making Allen their next acquisition.
New England Patriots
The Pats have always been great at acquiring stars later in their career and getting maximum contributions from them. Look no further than the three-year stints Corey Dillon and Randy Moss' enjoyed with the team, and Andre Carter's terrific season of 2011.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus thinks Allen to the Pats makes sense.
Allen could be the latest veteran star to shine with the New England. Matched with the athletic and promising youngster Jamie Collins, Allen could help give New England a dangerous pass rush in 2014.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It's no secret that with Lovie Smith as the Buccaneers' new head coach, the Tampa-2 scheme will be back in the city it's named after.
Free safeties who can cover ground are essential in this base scheme, but pass-rushers who can get to the quarterback are even more important. With players like Tommie Harris, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson and Peppers (circa 2010), the Bears' defense was at its best under Smith's coaching.
The ability of the aforementioned players to get pressure on the quarterback meant the Bears didn't have to blitz to get pressure. It allowed the linebackers to roam free in the middle and to cover intermediate passes, which is inherently the weak area of the scheme.
Per Dave Richard of CBS Sports, the Bucs are one of the team's on Allen's wish list.
If he were to land there, it would give Smith a huge boost in his first year with the Bucs.
The Bears just dumped Peppers and signed Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, but depth on the defensive line is essential. In 2013, injuries blew through the Bears defense and opposing teams did the same on Sundays.
Suddenly boasting a high-powered offense under the guidance of head coach Mark Trestman, the Bears can't afford to have their playoff ambitions sabotaged by an anemic defense.
The team needs a playmaker on its defensive line and that's what Allen is. The Bears' general manager Phil Emery recognizes Allen's potential value to his team. When asked about the possibility of signing Allen, Emery said (per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune):
"He would certainly have a good fit here and a great opportunity, so we’ll see how that comes together."
Campbell's colleague Steve Rosenbloom obviously concurs. He said:
Jared Allen has recorded double-digit sacks in each of the last seven seasons. That’s a right defensive end the way it oughta be.
The way Julius Peppers used to be. The way the Bears need one to be.
Offenses as potent and versatile as the Bears don't come around often, and neither does the opportunity to sign an elite pass-rusher on the positive side of 35.
Allen to the Bears makes a ton of sense.