It’s third down. The fans are roaring. Jared Allen is blasting around the end, bearing down on the quarterback, reaching his hand toward the football just before it is thrown. ...
That has been a common theme for most of the past decade in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers made a very interesting bet Monday that Allen can re-bottle some of his pass-rushing magic when they traded with Chicago and brought him to Charlotte.
Allen, 33, is in the twilight of his career. But I like this move given what little the Panthers gave up to do it – reportedly a sixth-round pick in 2016 and less than $900,000 in pro-rated salary for the rest of the 2015 season.
I like this move given what little the Panthers gave up to do it – reportedly a sixth-round pick in 2016 and less than $900,000 in pro-rated salary for the rest of the 2015 season.
This is a one-year, let’s-win-right-now sort of move. Allen’s money skyrockets into the $8-million-per-year range after that, which is too much to pay unless he produces a double-digit sack season in 2015. But that money is non-guaranteed, so the Panthers can release him after this season if it doesn’t work out.
For now, this is a good chance to take.
At his peak, Allen is a stunning pass rusher. In 20 seasons, all the Panthers combined have four individual seasons of 14.5 or more sacks (two by Kevin Greene and one each by Greg Hardy and Julius Peppers). Allen has four of those seasons all by himself, including one in which he narrowly missed the all-time record with an astounding 22 sacks.
Now you can rest assured that Chicago coach John Fox has no intentions of helping his old team out. He obviously thinks Allen is done.
But Fox has made plenty of bad decisions before – he somehow worked himself into a position to have to start Jimmy Clausen yet again on Sunday, predictably resulting in a 26-0 shutout at Seattle.
The former Panthers coach is far from infallible. And in this case I think the Panthers have taken a small risk that could earn them at least a modest reward.
While 3-0 and tied with Atlanta for the NFC South lead, the Panthers have played a weak schedule and absolutely must get a better pass rush out of their front four as they prepare for a much more difficult month.
Greg Hardy left for Dallas (and because of his off-field issues, it was correct for Carolina not to re-sign him). Frank Alexander got hurt again. Charles Johnson messed up his hamstring Sunday in the 27-22 Panthers victory over New Orleans, and even before that he looked nothing like the vintage Charles Johnson.
In the past two games, the Panthers have allowed quarterbacks to throw the ball 96 times and produced only one sack.
In the past two games, the Panthers have allowed quarterbacks to throw the ball 96 times and produced only one sack – and that one came when Luke McCown ran out of bounds for a loss of zero yards on Sunday.
The Panthers don’t like to blitz that much. They play a defense predicated on getting major push from the front four. When they don’t have anyone disruptive on the defensive line – and the only players anywhere close to that level at the moment are Kawann Short and Mario Addison – even a mediocre quarterback like McCown can throw for 310 yards.
It all worked out OK against New Orleans. But Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck all loom on the schedule in the next six weeks. Carolina must get better defensively and Allen – even if he is just used mostly as a pass-rushing specialist – is a worthwhile attempt to do just that.
It should be pointed out that Carolina has tried this sort of thing before. Reggie White’s signing was greeted with great fanfare in 2000. But by the time the late, great White got to Charlotte, he was a shell of the player who once had been the best defensive player in the NFL. Before that, there was the ill-fated Sean Gilbert experiment.
In 11 full NFL seasons, Jared Allen has had eight double-digit sack seasons in the NFL – most recently when he had 11.5 sacks for Minnesota in 2013.
Allen’s numbers certainly are trending downward. He had a career-low 5.5 sacks for Chicago in 2014. Completely miscast as an outside linebacker in 2015, he didn’t have a sack in three games – all Bears losses.
Chicago obviously is looking toward the future and would not be upset at all to go 2-14 this year and get the No. 1 pick.
Carolina, on the other hand, is smack in the middle of Cam Newton’s prime.
The move really makes sense for both teams. Since his days of getting drafted out of Idaho State (mostly for his long-snapping ability!) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004, Allen has always been a relentless player. He will be in the discussion for the hall of fame one day.
But Allen hasn’t been on very many good teams and has never played in a Super Bowl, which would boost his hall of fame credentials.
Allen has to be happy to get out of the hot mess that is Chicago.
The Panthers have to be happy to have him.
This one has a real chance of working out.
Jared Allen ranks ninth in the NFL in career sacks with 134 but is still looking for his first one of 2015:
* Traded to the Carolina Panthers on Monday