MINNEAPOLIS -- Jared Allen is scheduled to return to Minnesota Monday, spending the day about 3 1/2 hours southwest of the Twin Cities with his Homes for Wounded Warriors charity. He'll be in Luverne, Minn., unveiling a remodeled, handicap-accessible home for Spc. Andrew Hanson, a Luverne native who joined the Army National Guard in high school and lost both of his legs in Iraq in 2007.
The trip is a brief stop in Allen's schedule as the free-agent defensive end explores where -- and if -- he'll play football in 2014. He visited the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend, and will be in Dallas on Tuesday to talk with the Cowboys, according to a report by ESPN's Ed Werder. Allen has said he wants a fair contract and a chance to win, and said late last season he'd retire before accepting a role as a situational pass-rusher (and presumably a contract that pays him like something less than a full-time player). He reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal from the Denver Broncos after making just over $14 million last season (though the contract structure likely amounted to a one- or two-year deal), and the next week or two could be pivotal for Allen as he decides what he's willing to accept to continue his career.
Allen, who will be 32 next month, has enough interests outside of football -- and enough belief that he's still worth a top-end contract -- that it wouldn't be surprising to see him walk away. On the other hand, he's climbing the NFL's career sacks list, having ended last season 12th in the all-time rankings, and needs just 13 sacks to move into a tie for fifth place with Michael Strahan. Even in a year where it seemed like his play had dipped, Allen collected 11.5 sacks last season. He'd kept a list of the all-time sack rankings in his locker at the Vikings facilities, and how high he wants to climb on that list could factor into his decision about whether to walk away from football or keep playing.
The Cowboys' system is similar to what Allen had played in Minnesota, and the Seahawks might put him on a more direct path to a championship than any team in the league (though it might be in more of a situational role than he'd see in Dallas). But it's a virtual certainty neither of those teams would be able to pay Allen what he was making in Minnesota. In the end, he'll have to weigh the market, his personal goals and his other pursuits and decide whether he'll accept a fit that might not give him 100 percent of what he wants, or whether he'll say goodbye to the game without a championship or a chance to cement his Hall of Fame credentials.