EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jared Allen returned to the Minnesota Vikings this season, entering the final year of his contract and was pleased the team didn’t ask him to restructure the six-year deal the two sides agreed to in 2008.
Allen, 31, was due a base salary of $14.28 million this season and Minnesota was looking for salary cap space. Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield was released and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has lined up next to Allen since 2008, had his contract restructured, eliminating the final year of his deal for 2014.
Allen will be a free agent in the offseason. He’s not sure where his next NFL contract will come from. He’s also not worrying about the situation.
Allen said Thursday — a day after fellow defensive end Brian Robison signed a four-year extension with the Vikings — he hasn’t had talks with Minnesota about an extension of his own.
“Honestly, I’m not even worried about that,” Allen said. “I’m in a situation where I’ve been blessed to have been taken care of and the Lord’s been good to me. And that’s where I leave it. I leave it in the Lord’s hands. Where I’m going to be at is totally up to him and I’m receptive to go where he wants me. It’s not a stresser on my mind, honestly.”
A five-time Pro Bowl player, Allen will surely have suitors in the offseason if he doesn’t return to the Vikings.
He’s had double-digit sacks each of the last six seasons dating back to his final year with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. Minnesota made the move, dealing a first-round pick and more to the Chiefs to acquire Allen in 2008 and then rewarded him with a six-year, $73.2 million contract, at the time the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history.
Allen has lived up to the trade and the deal. He’s been a three-time All-Pro and has 77.5 sacks in his six seasons with the Vikings. In 2011, he finished a half-sack shy of tying Michael Strahan’s single-season record with 22 sacks.
Allen had 2.5 sacks in Minnesota’s last game before the bye week in a win against Pittsburgh. But defensive coordinator Alan Williams says Allen’s impact on the Vikings’ defense has been more than just big sack numbers.
“I wouldn’t say he’s ever had tunnel vision, that he’s just a pass defender,” Williams said. “I think Jared has done a good job of making sure that he’s keyed into to playing both (the pass and run) and letting his keys take him where he’s supposed to be. One good thing about Jared is, sometimes there’s a key that says, hey, all week long you’re looking at tape and there’s a key that it says it’s a pass. And just so happens maybe it’s a key break where they ran the ball. Jared is a smart ball player. He knows football. We trust him to play both and read his keys.”
Allen has also played through injuries. He’s started all 84 games since coming to Minnesota. If Allen can keep the streak going, Week 7 against the New York Giants will be his 100th straight start.
“To me, it’s one of those things where I believe, if I can go, I can go,” Allen said. “I think I owe it to my teammates. They count on me to be on the field. And it’s just a mentality I’ve always had. I think everyone is hurt, everyone is injured along the way. I remember the saying by (former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack) Youngblood. ‘If I can run on it, tape it up and give me an aspirin and we’ll deal with it later.'” when he had his broken leg.
“That’s always been my mentality. Guys who played before me, those guys played beat and battered. It’s kind of a badge of honor to go out there whether you’re hurt or whether you’re healthy, and give it all you got for your teammates.”
Allen is healthy now after offseason shoulder and knee surgeries. The surgeries were the first of his career. He said the torn labrum last season was probably the worst injury he’s played through, mainly because he couldn’t sleep at night.
The ability to stay in the lineup is more mental than physical, Allen said.
“I think there are days where you’re just like, ‘Why do I do this?'” Allen said. “Then you push through, and you know by Friday you’ll feel better. Then you push through. To win and to be considered good at something, or try to be great, you have to be on the field. I’m not in the NFL just to say I played in the NFL. I want to make an impact on the game, that week’s game, but on the game itself. When I look back on my career, I hope the guys that played before me and after me will say I did it the right way.”
Where he finishes his career is still to be determined.