EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings continued to remake their defensive line on Thursday afternoon, releasing defensive tackle Letroy Guion and clearing another $4 million of cap room by shedding the final year of the 26-year-old's deal. That move, along with the release of wide receiver Greg Childs, gives the Vikings more than $41 million in cap room heading into the start of free agency next week.
If they wanted to, they could certainly use some of it to re-sign veteran defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. But as new coach Mike Zimmer molds the team's defense to fit his scheme, Allen and Williams could find there is not much familiarity in a return to their old team.
Zimmer's defenses traditionally have emphasized run discipline, particularly on the defensive line, over big sack numbers. Both Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson posted double-digit sacks in 2012, but no other Bengals defensive lineman reached double-digit sacks in Zimmer's seven seasons as defensive coordinator. Zimmer said again on Thursday that the Vikings will emphasize run defense in their linemen's techniques and assignments, and added Allen would have to decide whether he would buy into the scheme the coach is planning to run.
"He’s the one that would have to decide that he wants to come back and fit into what we do and how we do it," Zimmer said. "He has to decide how much money that needs to be due for him to buy into doing that. And we’re the ones that have to decide how much we want to pay him for that, too."
Allen has often talked about how he's paid primarily to rush the passer, and said last season -- as he was in danger of seeing his streak of double-digit sack seasons end at seven -- that posting 10-plus sacks means "the world" to him. It sounded like Zimmer was saying, in so many words, that Allen wouldn't be able to count on that happening if he returned to Minnesota. The Vikings will certainly take sacks when they can get them under Zimmer, but they won't be sending their linemen upfield past blockers, especially when an incorrect guess about an offense's play call can leave a defensive end out of position to play the run.
It has already seemed unlikely to me that Allen would be back in Minnesota, simply because other teams could offer him a chance to do what he's done best over the years and put him closer to a championship. The fact that he -- and to a lesser extent, Williams -- would have to adjust his role with the Vikings might make the chances of a return even slimmer.