Jared Allen is plunging into free agency for the first time in his career. He's made two things abundantly clear: Allen is not interested in signing a bargain deal to be a situational pass rusher, and the Minnesota Vikings aren't out of the running to retain his services.

Allen's agent, Ken Harris, told The Associated Press on Friday night that Allen is looking forward to the process that is set to begin Saturday. That's when a three-day window opens for teams to begin negotiating with available players. No contracts can be signed until Tuesday.

Allen had 11½ sacks last year for the Vikings, his sixth season in Minnesota. He leads the NFL in sacks since entering the league in 2004 and has posted double-digit numbers for seven straight seasons and eight of his 10 in the league. He is coming off the final season of a six-year, $73 million contract he signed when he was traded from Kansas City in 2007.

Harris said Allen was eager to look at all 32 teams and was putting together a list of priorities that included the team's chances of becoming a championship contender in the next three to four seasons; the team's salary cap structure and ability to offer "a fair contract;" and how he meshes with the coaching staff in place. Harris wouldn't get into specifics on the kind of deal Allen was looking for, but it will be less than the $17 million he made last year.

Harris did make it clear the Vikings were definitely going to get strong consideration.

"With Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, (Chad) Greenway ... You look around and see some real talent," Harris said. "They're a good example of a team he wouldn't by any means weed out."

With a new coach in Mike Zimmer who emphasizes stopping the run with this front four over piling up sacks, and a defense that needs some serious rebuilding, how strongly will the Vikings pursue a player who has been one of the faces of their franchise over the last six years?

"In my opinion, Jared's an extremely, extremely great football player who has had a fantastic career that, not only here, but elsewhere," Zimmer said on Thursday. "I think it would be great for him to finish here, but I do understand the business part of all this stuff and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out."

That Allen doesn't want to sign a discount deal just to chase sacks as a nickel rusher, combined with being in the top seven among defensive ends in tackles-for-loss over the last three years, shows Allen wants to be a big part of the run and pass defense going forward, Harris said. He's also one been one of the most durable players in the league, having missed just three games in his 10 seasons and none since 2007.

"Why would you take that guy and for one minute think he's situational?" Harris said. "That's not something smart football people are thinking."

Harris has had some conversations with Vikings GM Rick Spielman, vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski and assistant GM George Paton, a group that Allen holds in high esteem. The two sides pledged to keep in close contact as the process plays out.

"He's as fast as he's ever been. He's as strong as he's ever been," Harris said. "And he still thinks he's a kid."


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org