Vikings consider making deal for Jared Allen
By Judd Zulgad
EDEN PRAIRIE — Anyone trying to get a gauge on the value of a top-flight, pass-rushing defensive end need only follow recent developments at Winter Park.
The Minnsota Vikings — who treat draft picks like gold — appear willing to surrender first- and third-round selections to Kansas City in this weekend’s draft so they can earn the privilege of making Jared Allen one of the NFL’s richest players.
Allen, who led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks last season, would come at a steep price because he is considered as close to a sure on-the-field bet as the Vikings can get to fill one of their biggest needs. Still, acquiring Allen would come with off-the-field risks after he was suspended for two games in 2007 following a second drunken-driving arrest.
The Vikings realize that finding an end who approaches Allen’s ability with the 17th pick in the first round probably isn’t going to happen. Florida’s Derrick Harvey almost certainly will be gone by then, and rookie ends are far from sure bets to make an immediate impact.
Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, admits "it’s rare" to find a rookie end who can consistently get to the quarterback but added, "There are guys that do it, depending upon how you play the guy in the scheme."
Floyd Reese was one of the lucky ones. He was the general manager of the Tennessee Titans in 1999 when the franchise made Jevon Kearse the 16th overall pick.
Kearse established the league’s single-season rookie record with 14 1/2 sacks, forced a league-leading eight fumbles and played a pivotal role in the Titans’ run to the Super Bowl that season. He followed that by becoming only the fourth player in NFL history to record 10 or more sacks in each of his first three years.
"We were fortunate" to get him, said Reese, now an NFL analyst for ESPN.
Reese isn’t kidding.
In the past five drafts, only one rookie defensive end has reached double figures in sacks. That was Chicago’s Mark Anderson, a fifth-round pick by the Bears in 2006. Anderson had 12 sacks playing primarily on passing downs; his total dropped to five this past season when he was used as an every-down player.
Gaines Adams, the fourth pick in the 2007 draft by Tampa Bay, led rookie ends with six sacks in 2007.
Virginia’s Chris Long and Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston — who are expected to go early in Saturday’s first round — undoubtedly are hoping to improve on that total in their rookie years. But there are no guarantees.