CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears were looking to jolt their struggling defense. How does adding Jared Allen sound?
The Bears agreed to a four-year contract with the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Wednesday, replacing one accomplished pass rusher with another as they rebuild a defense that ranked among the league’s worst last season.
A person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press that Allen will get $15.5 million guaranteed on a deal that could be worth as much as $32 million. The person requested anonymity because the terms have not been announced.
Allen’s deal can be voided down to three years and $24 million, but the first two years of his salary and a roster bonus next March are fully guaranteed.
The 31-year-old Allen spent the previous six years with the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. He will take over for Julius Peppers, who signed with Green Bay as a free agent after being released by the Bears. Chicago’s defense ranked 30th in the NFL last season and was 32nd and last against the run.
“This is another important step in our continued efforts to build our team towards a championship level,” general manager Phil Emery told the team’s website.
In a statement, Allen thanked his teammates and coaches in Minnesota along with the fans.
“I can only hope that I have left with you all, with even a fraction of the positive support and impact you have had on my life, my foundation and my family,” he said. “I am very excited about this next chapter in my career with the Chicago Bears and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”
He had 11½ sacks last season, reaching double digits in sacks for seven straight years, and is considered a solid run defender.
Allen also had talks with the Seahawks and Cowboys. His move to the Bears adds plenty of intrigue to the NFC North picture.
The Vikings acquired Allen from Kansas City in 2007 and signed him to a six-year, $73 million contract that at the time made him the highest-paid defensive player in the league. Allen was one of the most-feared pass rushers in the NFL over the life of that deal. In 2011, he had 22 sacks.
He made $17 million last season, and the Vikings, who were coming off a disappointing 5-10-1 record, were looking to get younger at the position.
“We wish Jared the best as he turns to the next chapter of his NFL career,” general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “Not only was he an outstanding player on the field for the Vikings over his six seasons, but he also helped change lives in our community through his charitable work. Jared will always be a fan favorite, and we hope he stays involved with the Vikings franchise in years to come.”
Minnesota signed Everson Griffen to a big contract to take Allen’s place and also said goodbye to stalwart defensive tackle Kevin Williams in a revamped front four under new coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings did express some interest in having Allen return, but it became clear early in the process that the numbers wouldn’t match up.
Allen said he wasn’t looking to simply chase Super Bowl rings or become a situational pass rusher at this stage of his career, so he took his time trying to find the right fit. When Allen hit the market with Peppers and the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware, three of the most accomplished defensive ends of their generation were available. Ware signed with Denver, and Peppers got a three-year, $26.5 million deal with $7.5 million guaranteed from the Packers earlier in free agency.
“We believe he’s going to come in hungry and excited to be part of our football team, and we believe he’ll fit right in with the other new players that we’ve added and the guys that are already on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Marc Trestman told the team’s site.
Allen is by far the signature addition in a busy offseason.
Besides letting Peppers go, the Bears brought back two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman on a one-year deal.
They also have new defensive ends in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. They added Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings to the mix at safety and signed lineman Israel Idonije, hoping to boost a defense that got shredded last season.
The Bears went 8-8 while missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. Now, maybe, they will have the defense to go with an offense that flourished in Trestman’s first season as coach.
If nothing else, they created a big stir by adding Allen.
“A changing of the guard in the #NFCNorth. #69 a Bear! It’s looking up for this bunch! Welcome @JaredAllen69,” star linebacker Lance Briggs wrote on Twitter.