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Vikings: Allen's departure will end an era

3/9/2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lost in the flurry of the Minnesota Vikings' activity over the past several days is the fact that Jared Allen's time with the team is all but officially over. The team agreed to part ways with the free-agent defensive end after talking to his agent, Ken Harris, on Saturday night, and Allen will hit the open market at the start of free agency on Tuesday knowing he's headed to another team.

The realization about Allen, though, has probably been in the minds of many Vikings fans for some time. The team didn't pursue a contract extension with Allen before the 2013 season, instead giving one to Brian Robison in November and opening conversations with Everson Griffen's agent about a new deal, which came to fruition on Sunday in the form of a five-year, $42.5 million contract. On top of that, the Vikings expressed interest in Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson shortly after the start of the free agency negotiating period on Saturday. He's played Allen's right end spot in coach Mike Zimmer's defense, which asks ends to line up over a tackle and play the run before heading upfield to rush the passer.

Allen had been asked to perform a markedly different role in Minnesota before, and even though Zimmer had said there was a way Allen could return to Minnesota, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see the Vikings headed in a different direction from their five-time Pro Bowler.

But the inevitability of Allen's exit shouldn't diminish the poignancy of it. He arrived in Minnesota a year after his third DUI, which got him suspended for the first four games of the Kansas City Chiefs' 2007 season. He grew into a team leader under the tutelage of defensive coordinator-turned-head coach Leslie Frazier. Allen's mischievous on-field demeanor and his devotion to charity work made him one of the most popular players in Vikings history. He was one of the most prolific, too, on a team that counts Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Chris Doleman and John Randle among its best defensive linemen. Four of those five men are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and Allen's work with the Vikings -- most notably his 22-sack season in 2011 -- could go a long way toward landing him there, too.

It was apparent even last season that the Vikings and Allen were headed in different directions, and it became even more likely when Zimmer replaced Frazier as head coach. With Allen turning 32 next month, a change probably makes sense, too. But in the Vikings' final, rowdy years in the Metrodome, Allen was as much an emblem of the team as anyone else in the organization. Maybe it's fitting that he won't be with them when they begin their two-year residency at TCF Bank Stadium this fall; the scent of change will be even more fragrant.