CHARLOTTE – How much will Jared Allen contribute to the Carolina Panthers this season?
Time will tell.
But no matter how it works out, the Panthers sent a strong message with the move.
The time is now.
Carolina sent a late conditional draft pick to the Chicago Bears to acquire Allen, who has more sacks than any other active NFL player. As a business move, it makes all the sense in the world, and it reaffirms that the Panthers are in the business of winning.
At the height of Allen's production – he posted double-digit sacks every year from 2007-2013 – the asking price was much higher. Following his 15.5-sack season in 2007, the Minnesota Vikings essentially gave up a first-round draft pick and two third-rounders to the Kansas City Chiefs for Allen.
But at this asking price, what do the Panthers have to lose? Certainly a whole lot less than they could potentially gain.
At the very least, Allen provides key depth while Charles Johnson heals up a hamstring injury that landed Johnson on injured reserve/designated for return Tuesday. Also at a minimum, Allen's experience should rub off on the Panthers' trio of young defensive ends in a positive way.
At the most? Well, the sky is the limit.
In six seasons in Minnesota's 4-3 defense, Allen averaged 14-plus sacks a season. He signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Bears prior to the 2014 season and recorded a career-low 5.5 sacks for a defense that ranked in the bottom three in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense.
Did the lack of help around him explain the dwindling numbers or did the dwindling number of seasons he realistically has left – the 2004 draft pick turned 33 in April – account for the dropoff?
That's something the Panthers plan to find out.
Even if it turns out that Allen's best days are behind him, his second-best isn't second-rate. And don't be surprised if coming to Carolina equates to a fountain of youth for Allen.
The Bears switched to a 3-4 defense this offseason and tried to turn a lifelong 4-3 defensive end into a linebacker. Getting back to a more familiar role should energize Allen, and he'll surely find it refreshing to be a part of a defense full of playmakers as opposed to one focused on him making plays.
On so many levels, Allen in a Panthers uniform makes sense. The only question is to what extent it will make a good defense better.
View photos of defensive end Jared Allen during his 12-year NFL career.