The Chicago Bears have a clean slate with a new general manager calling the shots and a head coach with a fresh vision. These new-look Bears are just one year removed from a second playoff appearance in three seasons but face a laundry list of needs. They’ll need to make good decisions at important positions to get back into the postseason hunt. One way to get there is with a solid run in free agency. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more promising and available targets to see if there’s a fit for the Bears in 2022.
Previous Free Agent Targets: None
Potential Target, Age (in 2022), Position
Brian Allen, 26, Center
Performance and Grades
Season stats: 16 games, 5 Sacks allowed, 20 pressures allowed (3.53%), 2 tackles-for-loss allowed, 5 penalties
*Statistics courtesy of olinestats.com
Pro Football Focus (2021): 74.8 overall, 10th of 39 qualified centers
PFF grades (since 2018): N/A (2018), 58.6 (2019), N/A (2020)
Allen was one of the better run-blocking centers in the league this past season, especially in zone run formations. Still, he lacks a bit in the pass protection department, especially in true pass protection plays where no play-action or RPO is going on. According to PFF, Allen’s five sacks allowed were tied for the fewest sacks allowed among qualified centers. And Allen’s five penalties this season were the 10th fewest, making him one of the least penalized centers in the league.
But, as I said, his pass protection leaves more to be desired. Allen’s 3.53 pressure allowed percentage ranked 53rd in the NFL among centers with at least 500 snaps in 2021.
Allen has been hampered by injuries to start his career, so the 2021 season was his first fully healthy season in the NFL. He did start 16 games at center for the Rams this year, but missed the entire 2020 season and was a starter for just nine games in 2019. Allen didn’t start any games as a rookie in 2018, but did play in 13 games.
Here’s a comprehensive look at Brian Allen’s dominant performance against the Indianapolis Colts this season with a great breakdown by Jake Ellenbogen (@JKBOGEN):
Here’s some footage of Allen playing left guard in college for Michigan State against Notre Dame:
Existing Rumors and Bears Connections
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Matt Bowen pegged the Bears as a fit for Allen in free agency, which we discussed here.
New GM Ryan Poles made it clear that building an offensive line that will protect Justin Fields from day one at Halas Hall. So it makes perfect sense we kick off our series of profiles on potential free-agent fits in the trenches where the new Bears’ GM spent his playing days at Boston College.
Possible Contract Considerations
According to Allen’s 2021 valuation checks in at $4.4 million.
PFF has Ryan Jensen setting the top of the market for free-agent centers this season with a projected three-year deal worth $39 million. A projection of $13 million per year would reset the market, with Allen figuring to fall short of that number. Next on PFF’s projections list is Titans center Ben Jones, who projects to get a three-year deal that comes with a $6.6M AAV. Allen, PFF’s third-highest-ranked free agent center going into the offseason doesn’t have a PFF projection. But we can use Jones’ forecast and OverTheCap.com‘s 2021 valuation of Allen checking in at $4.4 million to help us put a projection in perspective.
At minimum, OTC’s 2021 valuation of $4.4 million seems like a good place to start. We can give or take a million or two, depending on the number of suitors. In any case, it is a good place to set contractual expectations.
It is still unclear what kind of offense the Bears will be running this season in name, new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has made it clear that they’ll be running an offense that works to Fields’ strengths. And that should be a playbook with a healthy amount of play-action and RPO, which is right in Allen’s wheelhouse.
While Allen has his struggles in pass protection, he has been one of the better run-blocking centers in the NFL when healthy. But there is quite a bit of unknown with Allen because he simply doesn’t have much of a track record beyond his healthy 2021 season in the NFL. Other than this past season, Allen has just nine starts in the three previous years since the Michigan State product was chosen by the Rams in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Upon arrival, Poles made it clear that the offensive line would be a focal point of offensive success. He also made it a point to underscore that striking in the second and third wave of free agency with value signings is a goal. With that in mind, Allen checks both Boxes as a possible value add to an integral position.