Sometimes it takes a season or two to realize, but when it comes to free agency, it’s often the moves you don’t make that are the best.
But oh, how appealing the sacking, tackling, defensive dervish Jared Allen had to have looked during his flirtation with the Seattle Seahawks.
Picture Hawks general manager John Schneider in a room with the imposing Allen, conversing about all the ways he could make the team better.
Everybody knew Allen wanted big money. And he’s still worth a substantial payday. Certainly the Chicago Bears thought so, forking over a reported $15.5 million guaranteed on a four-year deal topping out at an unlikely $32 million.
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Seattle’s judicious offer was said to be two years for $12 million.
How tempting must it have been to try to stretch the numbers to make it work? Sure, we can figure a way to juggle the salary cap later. We can’t allow this guy to leave town. Just look at him. And watch this video of him gobbling quarterbacks.
And that’s the moment you get yourself in trouble, when you give in to impulse purchases. That’s the path to ending up strangled with back-end dead money as you pay off free agents suddenly past their use-by dates.
But Allen would have fit in so well with the Seahawks.
He’s not only a perennial double-digit sack guy, but a player with a competitive motor that would be notable even on this rabid Seahawks defense.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn could have found endless permutations of threatening personnel packages, adding Allen to Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin and a half-dozen others that get nasty on third downs.
His signing would have made the Legion of Boom even better. Picture that. This defense, one of the best in NFL history, would have been instantly upgraded.
But at what cost?
With Allen in his early 30s, his contract might have kept them from making that final push to keep Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas or Russell Wilson, all entering their prime years.
Allen could have kept that competitive window wide open next season. But what about 2015 and beyond? Locking up the franchise cornerstone players is the key to remaining an elite contender for an even longer run.
Another question: How good do you have to get on defense? You have a limited amount of money, and the offense certainly needs attention.
On satellite radio early this week, coach Pete Carroll stated the obvious in regard to Allen: “We’re very restricted in what we can do. We have a lot of work to get done here on our roster, a lot of guys we’ve got to work with. We’re excited about extending and stuff like that.”
Extending, in this case, means keeping the guys most responsible for getting them to the top in the first place — while doing so on their bargain-rate rookie contracts.
And “stuff like that”? Well, stuff that Carroll and Schneider still need to attend to includes some help at wide receiver. It’s a deep draft for receivers, even at the bottom of rounds where the Seahawks will be shopping.
And the Seahawks’ erratic offensive line already has lost some manpower, including starting right tackle Breno Giacomini. Upgrading a couple of positions there, and adding depth across the board, will be crucial next fall.
Allen visited Seattle twice, evidence that the Seahawks held great appeal even if the money wasn’t at the level he targeted.
The Bears apparently came in at the last minute with the winning offer.
Allen can be expected to add another great season or two to the string of consistent success that has been a career hallmark.
But Schneider and Carroll studied the team’s long-term well-being. They affixed a value they could afford. And they stuck to the plan.
That’s how you do it for the long haul.