MINNEAPOLIS -- NFL teams can use their franchise or transition tags on players for the first time Monday, and in reality, there's one Minnesota Vikings player that stirs up the most intrigue when it comes to this topic: Jared Allen.
The defensive end will hit free agency in March, after making more than $17 million in the final year of his deal with the Vikings. He will be 32 in April, and he'll be setting out onto the open market with seven straight double-digit sacks seasons to his name, including a 22-sack performance in 2011.
By using the franchise tag on Allen, the Vikings could get themselves one more year with Allen, keeping their defensive line together and giving new coach Mike Zimmer another proven pass rusher. However, the guess here is they won't.
In 2013, the franchise tag guaranteed defensive ends a salary of $11.175 million, and if the Vikings gave that kind of a deal to Allen, they'd give back almost half of the cap space they're likely to have available come March. That kind of a deal could make it difficult for them to re-sign 26-year-old defensive end Everson Griffen, who seems more likely to get a new deal from the Vikings than Allen does, and it would mean the Vikings would have more than $16 million wrapped up in two thirty-something defensive ends (Allen and Brian Robison) when they have numerous other issues to address on defense and, at least at the moment, a hole at the quarterback position.
Allen surged to finish last season with 11½ sacks, but looked at times like he was cheating toward the pass rush at the expense of stopping the run. He said in December he would retire before taking a job as a situational pass-rusher, and while he'd possibly change his mind if offered the chance to still post sacks while getting some snaps to rest, the Vikings don't seem like the team to bring him back in that kind of a role, with their other commitments at the position. That seems especially unlikely at the franchise tag's expected salary figure.
There's a remote possibility the Vikings could put the transition tag on Griffen, but it seems more likely they will work out a new multi-year deal for him with a more team-friendly structure. The team had preliminary talks with Griffen's agent about a deal during the season, and Griffen has said he wants to stay in Minnesota.