It’s very interesting that the Vikings chose to lock up Brian Robison, but not Jared Allen, with the bookend defensive ends both set to hit free agency this off-season (along with talented #3 end Everson Griffen and starting defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Fred Evans). However, Robison has actually outplayed Allen since the start of the 2012 season, after Allen’s set the world on fire with a near record breaking season in 2011.
In 2012, Robison graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 14th ranked 4-3 defensive end and Allen ranked 25th. Both were essentially equally good as pass rushers, but Allen was only average against the run and led the position with 9 penalties committed. In 2013, Robison is 13th, while Allen is 21st. Allen actually has the higher pass rush grade, but his struggles against the run are hurting his grade. Allen is an all-time great, but since week 1 of the 2012 season, Robison might have been the better player and he was above average in 2011 as well, his first full season as a starter.
The Vikings are definitely taking a risk that Robison could continue playing well without Allen opposite him, but ProFootballFocus does a good job of taking what kind of blocking you’re facing into account. There’s also no guarantee they lose Allen by signing Robison now, but the chances that they let him hit the open market this off-season do increase with this move.
There’s also no guarantee that Robison continues to produce going forward as he heads into his age 31 season in 2014 and 28 million over 4 years with about 12 million of that guaranteed is a big chunk of change, especially for an under the radar player like Robison. However, Allen is actually a year older and would probably command a much bigger contract. Between the two, Robison is probably the better value. I don’t love the move, but I don’t hate it either and it’s certainly an interesting move.