LAKE FOREST, Ill. — New Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen insisted Monday that while the possibility of retirement is “always in your mind,” it never was truly under consideration as he pondered options during free agency despite reports he’d leave the game if teams didn’t meet his contract demands.
“It was never like if I don’t get X-amount of dollars I’m walking away” Allen said. “That was never the case.”
Allen generated interest in free agency from Denver, Dallas and Seattle with the Seahawks submitting an offer less lucrative than what the Bears put on the table. In turning down a contract from the reigning Super Bowl champions, Allen signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Bears that includes $15.5 million in guaranteed money.
Although Allen said “truthfully, football is not about the money for me” on Monday, he spurned Seattle’s offer to wait for a team willing to pay what he believed is fair market value for a player that has posted double-digit sack totals in each of the last seven seasons. Allen said reports of him potentially walking away “got blown out by the media.”
“Never was my intent,” Allen explained. “But my point of this was I wasn’t just going to throw my cleats on and my pads on for a team that had no chance [or] are rebuilding in a point in your career where you’re laying it on there. I feel like I’m still the best at what I do.”
Allen also feels “I have a lot left in the tank,” having posted 128½ career sacks. During what turned out to be a long free-agency process for Allen, there were reports he was set to sign with the Seahawks. But ultimately, Allen waited on the open market for more than two weeks after failing to secure the type of contract he initially sought with the Cowboys, Broncos and Seahawks.
Chicago, meanwhile, sat back as Allen’s fair market value materialized, and quickly made the deal when it was time.
Allen indicated he felt a responsibility toward others playing his position coming behind him, which is why he wasn’t willing to accept a deal that he considered less than his value.
“I know what I’m going to put on the field,” Allen said. “I’m going to put my body out there. I’m going to train my butt off. I’m going to play my butt off. I’m going to put it on the line every single time. So there’s a threshold where that doesn’t match up. Does that make sense? It’s never about the money for me. It truly isn’t. But there’s also a standard I have to set for people. Guys like Reggie White set a standard. Guys like Dwight Freeney set a standard for when I went to Minnesota. I’m conscious that there are going to be guys that use my contract as a marketplace. It’s a fine balance to make sure you don’t muddy the waters for those coming behind you, because we have a limited opportunity in this league to make money. We have a limited opportunity to set ourselves up and our families up for life. Guys like Reggie [White], guys that have played before, the [Chris] Dolemans of the world, even Steve Jordans of the world, who fought tirelessly through labor disputes to set us up, I’m conscious of that.”
Allen also placed great emphasis on Chicago’s chances of winning, saying the Bears were closer than people think to a Super Bowl championship than people think. Allen also joked that at least now he can look forward to winning a game at Soldier Field.
In 12 career games against the Bears, Allen is 4-8 with 15 sacks and an interception.
“For me, it was a balance of right fit, right situation and right organization. Then the numbers come into play. What attracted me here is the opportunity to go out and win it, to earn it and win it and be a part of it and be a piece of that puzzle. I’ve always said, things have to line up. It has to be the right place, great for my family,” Allen said. “Obviously you want a fair contract throughout the whole deal. And everything lined up. My agent always tells me, ‘God gave us eyes on the front of our head to look forward, not to look back.’ So, when everything lined up, there was no doubt — Chicago was the place to be. All respect to the Seahawks organization and all the other organizations that we talked to. There are great organizations out there, but this was the best fit for myself, my family, and what I see in the future going forward: a chance to win.”
Joined ESPN in 2010
Previously covered Jaguars and Redskins
Played college football at West Texas A&M