With Vikings on decline, Jared Allen mulls future

November 24 [Sun], 2013, 6:04

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Jared Allen intends to retire as a Minnesota Viking someday. But it was hard to listen to him speak Thursday without believing he'll be playing somewhere else first.


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"To be real honest, I'm going to have to look at the situation of the team," Allen, the veteran defensive end whose contract expires in March, told USA TODAY Sports. "If I continue to play, you want to try to win a championship at some point. Personal accolades can only go so far."


There's no question Allen, a five-time Pro Bowl pick with 122 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, intends to keep playing. He's says he's "got years left in me" at age 31 and feels refreshed physically after an injury-plagued 2012.


The Vikings are mired in a 2-8 season, though – a huge step back from their surprise playoff berth a year ago. They've lost 39 of their past 60 games, dating to the NFC championship defeat at New Orleans after the 2009 season, and could be headed for another coaching change.


"It's tough," Allen said. "You don't want to go out like this, that's for sure."

The Vikings' list of 17 players unsigned for 2014 includes Allen and veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams, the two remaining members of a vaunted line that keyed the team's success in the late-2000s by stopping the run, along with nose tackle Pat Williams and end Ray Edwards.


Allen can rattle off the next wave of young talent in the Vikings' locker room. He points to recent turnarounds in San Francisco and Kansas City as evidence of how quickly things can change. He says he's loyal to the Vikings, who traded for him and forked over a six-year, $73 million contract in April 2008 after multiple DUI arrests and a feud with Chiefs management.


"Wherever I go, when I retire, I'm going to call them and say, 'Hey, let me sign a one-day contract," Allen said. "Minnesota will always be in my heart. But I don't know what the future holds. We haven't talked about it. I'm trying not to think about it."


He drops another strong hint when speaking about Edwards' superior replacement, Brian Robison, who just signed a four-year, $22.4 million contract extension, saying he's "really curious to see how B-Rob's going to do next year being 'the guy.'"


Allen has been the guy for years. And he's consistently said the moment he's not will be the moment he walks away, rather than becoming a role player to get a paycheck and a title shot.


"I don't want to be chasing the ring. I want to earn the ring," Allen said. "I want to be somewhere, and obviously, you've got to have parts in place and you've got to be contenders."


Allen's representatives let teams know he was open to a trade for the right situation (and the right money) before last month's deadline, which came and went without a deal. It remains to be seen what his first trip into free agency holds, though he figures to have options.


One NFL executive, speaking on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons, guessed Allen will get $9 million to $11 million a year. Another executive guessed Elvis Dumervil's five-year, $26 million deal with Baltimore could be closer "because of age and tread on the tires."


Allen has five sacks this season, jeopardizing his streak of six straight seasons in double-figures. He blames that in part on limited opportunities afforded by the Vikings' declining run defense, which hemorrhaged 182 yards in their last meeting with Sunday's foe, the Green Bay Packers.


Performances like that stick with Allen, who remembers his failures better than his triumphs. He vividly recalls getting "dog-cussed" as a Chiefs rookie over a play in a blowout loss at Denver and crying in the back of the bus, promising himself he'd work tirelessly never be that guy again.


He bonded with Kevin Williams over the attention to detail that turned both into elite players at their positions – days Allen said they've reminisced about during this last, lost season together.


"Not how we wanted it to end, but all you can do is try to win games on the way out," Allen said. "Kevin and I – I know he's going to give it everything he's got, he knows I'm going to give it everything I've got, and at the end of the day, you walk away with your head held high."


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14. Jaguars at Texans: The impact on next year's draft positioning might be the primary reason to watch this AFC South tilt.


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13. Titans at Raiders: Both Tennessee and Oakland have made changes at quarterback in recent weeks as they try to stay afloat.


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12. Lions at Buccaneers: Detroit will look to firm up its playoff bid, but the Buccaneers have won their last two games.


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11. Vikings at Packers: Greg Jennings make his first return visit to Lambeau with both of last year's NFC North playoff representatives in need of a win.


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10: Bears at Rams: Two teams with replacement quarterbacks have long-term concerns under center.

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9. Saints at Falcons: New Orleans and Atlanta have flipped the script from last season in the NFC South, as the floundering Falcons now need a win against the division-leading Saints.


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8. Panthers at Dolphins: Carolina might be the NFL's hottest team, but the focus still might be on the Dolphins as they deal with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation.


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7. Chargers at Chiefs: Can Alex Smith and Co. bounce back from their first loss of the season when they face the struggling Chargers?


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6. Steelers at Browns: This AFC North matchup could go a long way toward determining the pecking order within the deivision.


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5. 49ers at Redskins: Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III both took the NFL by storm, but follow-up success has eluded both signal-callers.


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4. Colts at Cardinals: Bruce Arians faces the team he guided as interim coach last year during the Colts' coach leave of absence.


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3. Jets at Ravens: Ed Reed will be making an unexpected second return to Baltimore this year to face his former team.


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2. Cowboys at Giants: If the surging G-Men want to make a serious run in the NFC East, they'll have to get past Tony Romo and the Cowboys first.


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1. Broncos at Patriots: You might have heard about this Peyton Manning-Tom Brady matchup.

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