The past two weeks have seen the addition of six new players to the Vikings’ ranks. Free agency always brings new faces to the team, but it also means that some old ones move on. So far, Chris Cook, Joe Webb and Letroy Guion already have new homes, though none of those losses will bring tears to the faces of Vikings fans. More significant will be losing Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. What was once likely is now a certainty due to the new signings on the defensive line.
Arguably the team’s two most popular players (besides Adrian), Kevin and Jared are set to play elsewhere or not at all in the 2014 season. With that, it is only appropriate that we pay our respects as their Vikings careers come to an end (yes I am aware they are not dead).
When Kevin Williams was drafted in 2003, many Vikings fans were filled with rage after the second straight year of draft debacles. It wasn’t that he was a bad player, it was just that the team’s draft management was humiliating. When he first arrived it was unclear whether he was a defensive end or tackle. After a great rookie season at end, he made the transition to tackle where he would anchor the defensive line for years to come. As one part of the “Williams Wall,” he helped make the Vikings the number one run-stopping team in the league. As a six-time pro bowler, his stats speak for themselves.
In addition, he changed the way offenses played against the Vikings with his domination against the run. Over his 11 seasons with the team, Kevin was just as much of a presence with his leadership. Always a team player, he restructured his contract later in his career in an attempt to help the team win. This past season, as it was obvious that age was catching up to him, he still managed to be a difference-maker in games. His two and a half sack game against Washington in week 10 was a joy to watch. Whether Kevin plays elsewhere or just retires, I will always remember what a pleasure it was to watch him play the game. He was a classy guy on and off the field.
That brings us to Jared Allen. We will never forget his quirky antics, exquisite mullet, the fact that he still sleeps with his baby blanket nor that he makes no excuses for being a bit of a redneck. Oh yeah…and he was/is a heck of a football player. His road to the Vikings was a little different than that of Williams. In 2008, with three DUI’s already under his belt, he was traded from the Chiefs for a first and two third-round picks. At the time it seemed like a lot to give up for a troubled but talented defensive end. Even with two of the picks being used to draft OT Branden Albert and RB Jamaal Charles, it was still worth it! Players who can rush the passer the way he can are few and far between. While with the Vikings, he never finished a season with fewer than 11 sacks and terrorized quarterbacks up and down the league.
I’m sure Aaron Rodgers hasn’t forgotten the game he was sacked 4.5 times by Allen in 2009. Then there was 2012 where he nearly set the single season record for sacks. Jared came with baggage, but quickly put that behind him. Although fans of other teams may consider him obnoxious, Vikings fans and his teammates embraced him. I will miss watching his calf roping celebration and his uncanny ability to get to the quarterback. Allen isn’t getting younger and now is the right time for both him and the team to move on, but it won’t change the memories of watching Jared Allen dominate in purple over the last six seasons.
I want to say thank you to both players for all they gave the Vikings and the fans. Best of luck to whatever comes next in both of their careers!