The first domino in the Vikings' upcoming defensive line shuffle came today as Brian Robison signed a four-year, $28 million contract. What does this mean for the rest of the Vikings' impending free-agents?
The Minnesota Vikings were likely going to sign a defensive lineman to an extension during this season. However, not many of us would have guessed who would have been the first to get paid.
The first step in the upcoming renovation of the Vikings' defensive line took place today as defensive end Brian Robison signed a four-year, $28 million extension that runs through 2017.
Robison was a fourth-round pick from Texas in the 2007 draft that was considered a project in his first couple years in the league. He developed into a solid pass rusher and then into an every-down force as part of the team's dominant defensive line.
In five-plus seasons with the Vikings, Robison has recorded 31 sacks with half of those coming after he became a starter prior to 2011. He's also proven to be durable as he's missed just two games during his career.
The extension is a good thing for a Vikings' defensive line that seems to have more questions than answers as we head into 2014.
With Robison in the fold, it makes him and 2013 first-round pick Shariff Floyd as the only projected starters under contract for next season. That leaves the future of key components Jared Allen and Kevin Williams up in the air.
Williams had his contract restructured last offseason and is starting to enter the twilight of his career. At 32, the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft has seen his production decline with eight sacks coming over the past three seasons. He has also been unable to record a sack in the team's first four games in 2013.
It seems like the writing on the wall is there for Williams after the team used the first-round investment on Floyd last April. It seems unlikely that he would take a pay cut to be a mentor while being in the back half of a rotation. That probably means this will be the end of his 11-year career in Minnesota.
The situation seems to be more unclear with Allen. The Vikings are currently paying him $14 million for this season and they have an able replacement in Everson Griffen in case they let him walk. That seems to spell the end for the master of the mullet, but the situation goes deeper than that.
Unlike Williams, Allen's production has stayed consistent despite the fact he played last season with a serious shoulder injury. In six seasons with Minnesota, Allen has recorded 77.5 sacks and is considered to be one of the faces of the franchise.
The right business decision would be to sign Allen to one last extension, but it might not be the right football decision.
Rick Spielman's best option could be to ride it out and allow Allen to test the free-agent waters. Teams were not willing to pay for pass-rushers last offseason (See: Dwight Freeney) and the same thing could happen again this spring
If that's true, Allen could be had for a discount and the Vikings' line would basically remain intact outside of the addition of a new defensive lineman via free agency or next May's draft.
If Allen walks, the Vikings might be able to replace that with a currently projected top-ten pick in the draft especially if a certain South Carolina defensive end starts falling down the board.
Like the more scrutinized quarterback quandary, the next three months will go a long way in seeing what the position looks like in the future. If they perform well, it's going to be a difficult decision for Spielman and his staff to make.
Chris Schad is a Minnesota Vikings Team Journalist for Pro Football Spot. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. You can follow Chris on Twitter @crishad.