Austin On Dallas: Closer Look At Recent Production Of Will Allen

The Dallas Cowboys officially added a new safety in free agency and unfortunately his last name is not Huff.  Michael Huff’s vast starting safety dividends instead will be cherished by the Baltimore Ravens for a mere $2.3 million base salary in 2013, plus signing bonus pro-rate of $500k.

The Cowboys, a step behind real contenders as usual, went with Will Allen.  For the record, the veteran minimum for a player in his 10th season is $940k in 2013.  Not much price difference in regards to the sizable production gap both teams can expect from these players.

Since there is no use in my further crying over spilled milk now, let’s take a closer look at what Will Allen supplied the Pittsburgh Steelers’ over the last 3 years.  Anything further out than 2010 has negligible relevancy to 2013.

Maybe with one exception being Will Allen did receive special teams honors for his last 2 seasons in Tampa Bay.  He was the special teams’ captain in 2008, and garnered Pro Bowl Alternate status as a special teams player in 2009.

Hopefully this signing was executed with the intention of playing Allen heavily on special teams. After digesting his last 3 years in Pittsburgh, special teams may be his most desirable contribution.



Allen filled in as a backup at both safety positions for the Steelers in 2010.  Versatility seems promising, right?  Problem is he barely played SS and also participated in only 43 defensive snaps all season.

This was his 7th NFL season and he only managed 43 plays, with injuries not being the culprit. Allen logged 1 single snap at SS and 42 downs at FS.  PFF credited the safety sub with 3 total tackles, while assigning a -0.4 grade for his efforts.

Not very daunting safety performance to say the least.  Are we enjoying that $940k veteran minimum yet?



This season gets much easier to report on.  Allen participated in 8 total defensive snaps all season at FS.  He recorded 0 tackles and had no PFF grade.  For what it’s worth, Yahoo Sports has him listed at 9 total tackles that season so he must have made a light special teams contribution.  Enough said.



2012 was Allen’s bread and butter season for Pittsburgh.  Through Week 12 he started 7 games due to major injuries at the SS position.  He also chipped in 2 plays as back-up SS in that span.

While designated as a SS over those 12 weeks and 400 plays, he collected 30 total tackles and missed 6 tackles.  Broken down that adds up to a SS (which enforces the run) producing less than 3 tackles a game, and missing half a tackle per game.  Hmmm.

The final 32 plays he logged in 2012 were as a back-up FS.  He recorded zeros in all categories.  In summation, within 432 plays as both a SS and slightly at FS, Allen fetched 30 tackles and a PFF grade of -0.2.



For those of us keeping score, over the last 3 seasons Will Allen participated in 483 snaps for the Steelers’ defense.  He amassed 33 total tackles of the defensive secondary variety, and compiled a lackluster PFF average grade of -0.2.

The Cowboys signed Allen to compete for the STARTING safety position with Matt Johnson, basically a do-over rookie who has never played a real down in the NFL and couldn’t shake injuries so far.  Not a stellar pair to bet a season on by any means.

If the idea was insurance for Johnson not producing, Dallas missed wildly.  If the outlandish thought was Allen may win the starting safety nod, the absurdity is beyond comment.

And if the shelling out of that high veteran minimum was to acquire special teams help along with chipping in at safety, it just wasn’t worth the cost in my estimation.

Special teams play and spot duty at safety could be had with a cheap undrafted rookie or late draft pick safety. Something along the lines of the 2013 version of a rookie Danny McCray.

One last tear in the milk puddle, what was Michael Huff doing in Oakland the last 3 years? Only starting 43 games, with 16 of those at CB.  Participating in 2,622 defensive snaps. Recording 209 tackles, 4 QB sacks, 1 QB hit, and 14 QB hurries.

And finally, securing an attractive combined average PFF grade of 6.1.  That’s what somewhere around $1.8 mil cap hit more would have bought Dallas in 2013.  A productive starter with strong versatility and a contract highly based on performance levels.

The money could have been found if Dallas approached the game like the Baltimore Ravens. Yes they held more cap space, but Dallas would have gotten it done if they had contender type foresight.

There’s no way I will buy Jerry Jones couldn’t have conjured that extra cap space for a real player at a position of great need, and at such a discounted value like this.  The price was low for Huff’s worth, and Baltimore will reap the rewards while Dallas plays the hindsight game.

Check the 2013 NFL standings after Week 17 and once again compare the difference between a perennial runner-up and a consistent contender.  Blind decisions like this directly result in disparaging results such as that.








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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Michael Huff Will Allen

  • Todd Toombs

    Good article Brad. We can only hope that the most productive group on this team by far – the Scouting Department – saw something in Allen that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stats. Sure has the feel of another Brodney Pool signing though – will be interesting to see if he is on the roster week 1.

    • BradAustin

      Thanks Todd. I think you hit it perfectly on the head with the Brodney Pool comparison, my exact thoughts when I reviewed the signing. Kiffin is familiar with the player during his best years in Tampa Bay, quite a while ago. Just as Rob Ryan was familiar with Pool when he was producing in New York.

      They both reached for a familiar guy having high hopes for a return to his previous form while now back under their personal guidance. We all saw how that bet turned out with Pool in Dallas. He just wasn’t the same player any longer when he reunited with Ryan in Dallas. I have a a strong feeling that’s exactly the same fortune Kiffin will learn the hard way on this one.

  • Old Frog

    Really like your analysis. Do you think JJ looked at the same stats you so effectively reviewed before he made this decision? If the answer is no then we can fault him for not doing his due diligence. If yes then he gets a few more strikes on the “wtf is he thinking” ledger. Either way it’s troubling.

    • BradAustin

      I appreciate it. I’d have to say Kiffin made the call and pulled a Rob Ryan like Todd eluded might have been the case below. Kiffin knows Allen from his better days and is hoping he can rekindle the old spark. Problem is the first spark wasn’t all that special to begin with, and it was also many years back.

      Since we were wanting to sign a safety in free agency apparently, the requirements should have been to get a guy who could start effectively if Johnson didn’t pan out, or go a little further in finding an immediate starter and remove drafting a safety early. I can’t get away from the conclusion that they missed on both here and bought another McCray or Frampton. At least McCray is a special teams standout as we speak, not years ago.

  • jrcowboy49

    Typical Jerrah, overpaying beyond their prime and underpaying those with talent. Huff would have been a good addition.

    • BradAustin

      Bingo, exactly

  • Matthew Wright

    Not a bad article but you may be missing the point: If this was done strictly for Allen to start then that may be an issue. What if they aren’t done with safety? What if they pick up a safety in the draft? I sense Eric Reid in the 2nd personally. I think this move means we aren’t pigeonholed anymore into taking a safety in round 1. Pretty shrewd if you ask me. Signing Huff would have been splashy, but it also would have stunted the growth of Johnson too, like him or not. We need to start trusting the young guys we draft rather than trying to solve problems with older vets.

    • BradAustin

      I do see your points and agree safety still has to be addressed early. I don’t think they ever felt forced to grab it in 1st round, thinking they could get a starter in the first 3 rounds with such a deep safety rookie crop. However, what this signing failed to do was remove that need to spend a pick on safety in the early draft.

      I’d love to trust Johnson and still have high hopes for the guy. However, we already pinned hopes he would step in and contribute well last year and that didn’t happen because of nagging injuries. We certainly could have used the guy after so many players went down during the season.

      The point is we would be trusting a player who already didn’t come through the first time we bet on that. Not saying it won’t happen, it cannot be determined either way yet, just that the first result proved we cannot put too many eggs in the Johnson basket without a strong back-up plan. And Will Allen just hasn’t produced well enough to qualify to fit that insurance plan.

      Thus we are still in the market for a safety early in the draft, just as before signing Allen, and now we have spent closed to a mil on not eliminating that early draft handcuff.

    • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

      Still a waste of money no matter how you look at it.