Four years ago this week, Jared Allen was an unknown defensive lineman at Division I-AA Idaho State projected to be little more than a long snapper in the NFL.
On Wednesday, the former fourth-round draft pick became the richest defensive player in the league, and is viewed as one of the missing pieces that could propel the Minnesota Vikings into the NFC's elite.
Allen, the All-Pro defensive end who led the league in sacks last season with 15 1/2, was traded from Kansas City to Minnesota in a blockbuster deal, making the Chiefs one of the major players in this weekend's NFL draft and the Vikings a serious contender in the NFC.
"I have chills right now," Allen said after signing a six-year deal that includes $31 million in guaranteed money and could be worth more than $74 million if he reaches certain incentives. "It's just starting to sink in. As a player it's cool because it shows appreciation for what you have done. But at the same time, personally, I look at it as a new challenge."
Kansas City gets Minnesota's first-round pick, No. 17 overall, and both of the Vikings' third-round selections. The teams also swapped sixth-rounders in the deal announced Wednesday.
Coming off an 8-8 season, the Vikings are paying a hefty price to address a huge hole.
A pass-rushing defensive end became the team's top priority this season after Kenechi Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia, and with fellow former first-rounder Erasmus James coming off a third major knee surgery. The Vikings weren't sure a gifted pass rusher such as Florida's Derrick Harvey would be around at pick No. 17, so they went after a player who dominated them last season.
The Vikings played at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 3 of 2007, Allen's first game after serving a two-game suspension for multiple DUI convictions. The 26-year-old Allen had two sacks, eight tackles, two batted passes and a forced fumble in Kansas City's 13-10 victory.
"You don't often get the opportunity to get a player of this caliber at his age," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said.
Spielman said if the Vikings wanted to get a premier pass-rushing end in the draft, they likely would have had to trade their two third-round picks to move up into the top 10.
Instead, they went for "a proven commodity."
"In essence it looks like you got Jared Allen as a top 10 pick," Spielman said.
The relentless rusher fills perhaps the lone weakness on a proud veteran defense. Minnesota ranked No. 1 against the run last year, but last against the pass primarily because opposing offenses abandoned the run and had all day to throw against a weak pass rush.
Ben Leber, Ray Edwards and Udeze tied for the team lead with five sacks apiece, allowing offensive lines to double-team Pro Bowlers Kevin Williams and Pat Williams on nearly every play.
Now with Allen on the outside and the "Williams Wall" in the middle, things won't be so easy.
"The biggest problem we're going to have," Allen said, "is who is going to hit the quarterback first."
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Allen was a supplemental fourth-round pick by the Chiefs in 2004. His 43 sacks since then are second in the league only to the 46 by Miami's Jason Taylor, but coach Brad Childress said he isn't one-dimensional.
"He can play every down," Childress said. "So I feel like I got the best defensive end pass rusher that (also) plays the run combination that there is."
Allen was recognized as the premier defensive player in NCAA Division I-AA as a senior, but fell to the fourth round because of character concerns. Allen says he has quit drinking, and another DUI arrest could bring with it a significant suspension from the NFL.
"I've never run from my mistakes. I've owned up to them," Allen said. "I've made the changes necessary to be a better man, and that's what I explained to them."
The deal took nearly two months to complete. Childress said the Vikings did an exhaustive background search on Allen to make sure the significant investment was prudent.
"He's a guy that readily acknowledges his past," Childress said. "I think he is ready to have a positive influence on this team and on this organization, both on and off the field."
The Chiefs designated Allen their franchise player, but Allen made it clear he wanted no part of the team's massive rebuilding plan.
The bounty of picks obtained in the trade, and the cap space created by Allen's departure, could help expedite that process. The Chiefs now have their own fifth overall selection to go with Minnesota's No. 17, six of the first 82 picks and 13 altogether in this weekend's draft.
"You never want to get rid of a good football player. Jared Allen's a very good football player. I don't think anyone does," Chiefs GM Carl Peterson said. "However, based upon what compensation you might acquire and where the philosophy of this organization is today, this is absolutely the best decision for the Kansas City Chiefs organization, now and in the future."
In making the splashy move to cap a busy offseason in free agency, the Vikings are telling their fans that their time is now.
They have shelled out more than $61 million in guaranteed money on Allen, receiver Bernard Berrian, safety Madieu Williams and fullback Thomas Tapeh.
Minnesota has made the playoffs just one time in the last seven seasons, a stretch of futility that hasn't helped owner Zygi Wilf's efforts to secure public money for a new stadium.
"The Wilf family has shown this offseason that they are committed to winning championships here," Spielman said. "And the onus is on us to get the players here to do that. When there are unique opportunities out there to get players that fit what we want here as an organization, the Wilf family, you can't have better ownership in the league."
AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.
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