The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed a long run at (or near) the top of the NFC North and their divisional rivals are trying anything to knock Green Bay off of their perch, particularly the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s been a running joke amongst Packers fans for some time now that Minnesota is taking retread Green Bay Players in the hopes of passing them for supremacy in the NFC North. History certainly makes it look that way, at least. From Darren Sharper to Brett Favre to most recently Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop, the Packers’ rivals to the west seem obsessed with getting as many former Green Bay players as they can.
Is it now turn for the Packers to return the favor?
With Sam Shields having recently signed a four-year contract to remain with the Packers, the team now turns its focus to improving the front seven of a defense that has fallen short of expectations three years running. While safety seems to be the most glaring need on defense at the moment, the Packers also are still in need of improving their pass rush and allow their talented cornerbacks to get some turnovers.
That’s where a former Viking comes into play. With the future of pretty much the entire defensive line in question (save Datone Jones), Packers general manager Ted Thompson may not be able to fill all the holes through the draft and very well may have to wade into the free agent waters.
If he does, there is one name he should consider and it’s a name that will make many Packers fans cringe: Jared Allen.
With recent reports that Allen will not be returning to Minnesota, he is set to test free agency for the first time in his career. At the age of 31, Allen still has good years in him and would by no means be a “stop gap” solution for a team. Adding him to the Green Bay defensive line would immediately add a pass rush and would take a lot of pressure off of Clay Matthews and the linebackers.
On the surface, Allen would not appear to be a “Packer person” and maybe that’s what the defense and the team as a whole needs. While Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy focused strongly on toughening up their team in 2013, there is still a perception out there the Packers are not a team to bust the opposition in the mouth especially on defense.
Allen would change that perception. He’d bring a nasty streak to a defense that badly needs it. While Matthews is a terrific player he is far from inspiring the kind of fear in opposing offenses that the truly special linebackers like Ray Lewis did. Allen did have some off the field issues early in his career, mainly the two DUIs in four months back in 2006. Since then, he has been a perfect citizen and his philanthropy is well known throughout the state of Minnesota.
At 6’6” and 270 lbs, Allen is lighter than a typical 3-4 defensive end but would allow the Packers to run some more hybrid schemes on defense. Allen is three inches taller and 15 lbs heavier than Matthews and would fit the mold of a “leaner and meaner” look on defense Green Bay might looking at, denials by McCarthy aside.
A lot of fans would take issue with signing Allen, likely due to the fact that he’s a soon-to-be former Viking and also because of his past. He has matured nicely since 2006 and has become one of the league’s most elite pass rushers. Allen has given the Packers fits over the past few years and perhaps that really is why so many people would have an issue signing him.
How possible is it that Allen could land in Green Bay? Well, he’s reported to be looking at “a chance to win” and also wants a “fair contract.” After years of playing on a team with mediocre-to-poor quarterback play (Favre in 2009 aside), Allen would likely salivate at the chance to play with Aaron Rodgers. That alone, in theory, could bring his price down to levels Thompson could work with.
With needs at safety and inside linebacker along with the defensive line, it’s unlikely Thompson can plug all those holes through the draft unilaterally. He’s almost certainly going to have to bring in at least one free agent. Adding Allen alone would inject so much into that defense that he’d be crazy to not even at least consider it.
Again, there could be issues schematically in bringing in Allen on a 3-4 team, but if Dom Capers if given someone of Allen’s ability you find room for him. A defense with both Allen and Matthews on it would be enough to get San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to soil his khakis and finally take notice at what the Packers are doing on defense.
Will this happen? No idea. This year’s free agency period promises to be one of the wildest ones since free agency began just over 20 years ago. Many think Thompson won’t even consider strong free agents but he really doesn’t have a choice. His track record in drafting defense is less than stellar and a change in approach is needed.
Allen made more than $14 million with the Vikings in 2013. That would chew up a decent amount of cap space for the Packers in 2014 but again, playing with Aaron Rodgers might be enough for Allen to come down a little bit. Between Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Rodgers is the youngest and is only a year younger than Allen.
The price is the only thing that would make this signing tricky. With extensions for both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb sitting out there in the near future, Thompson would have his work cut out for him making it work. However, given the results of the past few drafts, Thompson has to get it right this year for the defense.
It’d be a move that would make many fans hold their noses, but bringing Allen on board would go a long way to finally fixing the much maligned Green Bay defense. If Allen can do that and help get the Packers back to the Super Bowl, then fans would warm up to him very carefully.
Turnabout is fair play, after all.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke