Nate Allen surveyed the landscape, and after four years characterized by change, he decided he wouldn’t mind some familiarity in 2014.
“I was just playing the waiting game,” Allen said after signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Eagles. “I really wasn’t trying to get all worked up and stressed out about free agency. I knew the Lord had a plan for me and I just kind of sat back and let everything fall into place. There was a couple other teams I talked to. At the end of the day I knew my heart was here in Philly and this is where I wanted to be, especially with the one-year thing going on.”
Allen has played for four different defensive coordinators in four NFL seasons. He showed some promise as a rookie, struggled in 2011 and 2012 and bounced back last season, starting all 16 games under Billy Davis.
The 26-year-old didn't show enough last season to convince the coaches he is an ideal starting-caliber option going forward. Instead, this move should be viewed more as a value/depth play. Allen had almost a week to test the market, and in the end, decided returning to the Eagles on a one-year/$2 million deal was his best option.
"I was open for anything," he said of the one-year deal. "That's what the Eagles were offering."
The Eagles did away with the wide-nine 4-3 and moved to a 3-4 last year. That meant less run responsibilities for the safeties. Allen's tackling got better under the new coaching staff, and he put together probably his best NFL season.
"It was huge," he said, when asked about scheme familiarity. "Especially because like I said, with a one-year deal, obviously my best bet would probably be to come back in a system that I already understood and had been a part of for a year. So I'm just gonna hit the ground running and keep learning and keep improving. I'm excited to be back here in Philly."
As we've been pointing out all offseason, the Eagles need bodies at the safety position. They've got one starter in Malcolm Jenkins. Presumably, Allen and Earl Wolff will compete for the other spot. And special teamer Chris Maragos offers depth.
"At this level you always come in with an attitude to start," Allen said. "You know you're gonna have to compete for the position. I understand that, and I know that, and that's how it's been the past four years that I've been there."
The Eagles also have Keelan Johnson on the roster.
These moves do not preclude the Eagles from drafting a safety early in May. Allen's deal is for one year, and the team has had trouble finding talent at the position for five-plus offseasons. If they see a college prospect they like - such as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor - they'll pull the trigger.
In the meantime, Allen provides some depth and insurance.