In final year of contract, Jared Allen looks to get healthy

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — In an offseason in which the Minnesota Vikings made several tough, and somewhat unpopular, business decisions with several veteran players, the team left Jared Allen and his $17 million-plus cap hit alone.

Allen, entering the final season of a six-year, $73 million contract, is due a $14.28 million base salary. He’s coming off a season with depressed numbers, due in large part to a standout 2011 season and playing 2012 through shoulder and knee injuries. Yet, when Minnesota went digging for spare change to afford all of its offseason moves, it didn’t approach the veteran defensive end to restructure.

The Vikings restructured the contract of Kevin Williams, who has lined up next to Allen on the defensive line for the past five seasons. They also re-did the deals of guard Charlie Johnson and tight end John Carlson, and made the difficult move of releasing cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was due $7.5 million in the final year of his deal.

Allen and his $17.06 million cap hit were safe and he’s thankful Minnesota is set to honor the final year of his contract.

“I’m happy that I’m with an organization that is honoring the commitment they made to me and I’ll honor the commitment I made to them,” Allen said Wednesday while in town for organized team activities. “And going forward, we’ll have conversations when the time is right and we’ll figure out which way we go.”

Allen said he would have hoped to have a deal extended, but doesn’t mind playing into the final year of his contract.

“Because then everybody comes to the table at the same place,” Allen said. “A lot of guys try to get more money before. Hey, I signed a contract for six years. They signed a contract for six years. It’s very, very rare when both sides honor that. A lot of guys get let go in the last year or restructure the last year, or for example they play one good year and they want to re-up.

“So, for me, this is the commitment I made, let me honor that. They want to honor it. So that’s great for me. I have no beefs, quarrels, no nothing.”

Allen, 31, is coming off a 12-sack season for the Vikings. He had offseason surgery on his shoulder to repair a torn labrum, which he played with all of last season, and knee surgery. He’s still rehabbing following the surgeries and hasn’t taken part in Minnesota’s voluntary OTAs, but he is in town working on getting healthy and being with his team.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Allen likely wouldn’t practice with the team until training camp in late July, but Allen is making progress and the team is more concerned about making sure his shoulder is fully healed than any worry about his knee.

“From everything (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman and our staff told me, medically he is doing great and there won’t be any problems when we get to training camp,” Frazier said. “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.”

Allen has long been one of the faces of the Vikings and has the most sacks of anyone in the NFL since he came into the league as a rookie in 2004. The team even used him as part of a recruiting pitch to free-agent wide receiver Greg Jennings when Jennings came to town in March before signing. Allen, in town at the time for rehabilitation work, went to dinner with Jennings and other members of the team.

Instead of talking restructure, Minnesota was using Allen as a selling point. Allen said he has never questioned his standing with the Vikings and he has open dialogue with general manager Rick Spielman, vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinksi, owner Zygi Wilf and Frazier.

“I’m actually excited,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of organizations; I was in an organization previously that didn’t respect where I was at in my contract. They promised me a lot of stuff and didn’t deliver. And here, I don’t have that problem. Me and Rick have a very great relationship. Me and coach Frazier have a great relationship. Me and Zygi have a great relationship. And we’re all on the same page. You know what? I’m excited they’re letting me play my contract out.”

Allen said he is open to extending his time in Minnesota and would even be OK if negotiations happened in-season, but acknowledged that he wouldn’t be a part of any talks that happen during “football time” so he could focus all of his attention on playing.

Right now his focus is on rehabbing so he can get back on the field. Allen said the surgery was the first of his career, of any kind. The early part of rehab was frustrating, but he’s progressed and said he’s “97 percent flexible” now. The shoulder in particular, had been troubling him, even causing him to lose sleep.

“I feel great, honestly,” Allen said, saying he hadn’t slept well in two years. “Just being able to work out and being able to rest, sleep. Like I was saying, you don’t sleep when you have a torn labrum. Anybody who has a torn labrum or shoulder problems knows you just don’t sleep. So having that and just being able to fully function the way I’m used to, to train at a high level that I’m used to training at, it feels good.”Allen is back. He’s happy with the team, happy his contract is still intact, and is looking forward to trying to win next season, believing the contract issues will be resolved eventually.

“I told people all the time: as long as you take care of what you have to take care of between these white lines, and you’re not a complete idiot outside of them, the money will take care of itself,” Allen said. “I just want to play ball and have a good year and try to win a Super Bowl. As you get older, each year ticks by and you’re like, ‘Well, I got to get closer to that ring.’ More importantly for me is having a culture that understands making the playoffs isn’t good enough. Just being there isn’t good enough. And that’s what we’ve got.”

Follow Brian Hall on Twitter