KCCD Staff Writer: Sam Mitchell
What the decisions made over the last week mean for the Chiefs going forward this offseason:
A lot has happened to this Chiefs roster in the last week or so. First news broke that the Chiefs were trading for quarterback Alex Smith, then yesterday Dwayne Bowe and Dustin Colquitt were locked up to long term deals while Brandon Albert received the franchise tag as the sides continue to work on a long term deal.
These are huge moves for the organization that impact KC’s plans for the rest of the offseason. We have our number 1 receiver and we have a very good starting left tackle, as well as our starting quarterback for next season and potentially longer. These are huge franchise shaping decisions that will have major effects on what the front office chooses to do in free agency and in the draft.
1. No need to force 1st overall pick: The Chiefs still have quite a few positions that need strengthening, but there is not one glaring need at this point that stands out above all the rest. Before Albert was tagged it looked as if Luke Joeckel was all but a lock at number 1, but now it’s not so clear cut. I doubted the Chiefs would take a quarterback first overall even before the Alex Smith trade but now it seems highly unlikely. I don’t think you give away the 34th overall pick along with another likely top 100 selection in next year’s draft for a player that you plan on replacing immediately. Smith was too expensive to be simply a one year stop gap while a young QB develops, meaning a QB at number 1 is probably a long shot at this point.
With no glaring needs at quarterback or left tackle staring the Chiefs in the face at that number 1 pick, the decision makers can sit back and look at which player improves the Chiefs the most at that pick. It also opens the door to a potential trade down. While it is unlikely that any team will be compelled to give up a large ransom to move up to number 1 in this year’s draft, it is nice to have the flexibility to be able to move down if the right deal comes along. The Chiefs can now feel no need to fill a glaring need at one and can simply take the best player available that can improve the team or trade down for more picks later in the draft.
2. Find a speed receiver to complement Bowe: The Chiefs have lacked a true vertical threat who can stretch the field for years now. Knowing that Bowe will be our number 1 receiver also reveals who would fit the mold as a solid number 2 receiver across from him. Bowe is great intermediate receiver and red zone threat with major run after the catch ability to break a big play, but he is not a speed threat to take the top off of a defense. Having a complement to Bowe who is a threat to get downfield any play would open up a ton of options for the offense.
A receiver who threatens the defense vertically would open up the underneath passing game, by pulling a safety deep, leaving more room for players like Dexter McCluster, Devon Wylie, and Toney Moeaki to operate underneath. It would also most likely mean fewer men in the box for Jamaal Charles to deal face, with safeties being unable to creep up near as they would have to respect the deep ball possibility. Charles has been one of the best runners in the league for years now, even when consistently facing 8 and even at times 9 defenders in the box. I would love to see what he could do when the defense is forced to at least respect the deep passing game.
3. Get used to a lot less cap space: For the first time in a long time the Chiefs are not going to have a ton of cap space. Matt Cassel’s contract doesn’t count towards the cap until sometime after the draft, which helps if he is not immediately released, and a restructured deal with Tyson Jackson, could offer a lot more flexibility but gone are the years where KC has had more money than they could hope to spend. But that is a good thing. It means that we are finally developing a talented roster and locking our players up long term. It means that we have less glaring needs in free agency than we have had in the past which is weird to say about a 2-14 team but it’s true.
Depending on some of the decisions made over the next week or so the Chiefs should still have enough cap space to make some deals and bring in some solid veteran additions to the roster, but don’t expect any huge splash signings.
4. Expect free agency additions to the defensive backfield, defensive line, and interior offensive line: Now that the big glaring holes have been filled on the roster, I would expect some free agent signings that sure up depth in both trenches and add a significant contributor to the defensive secondary. The Chiefs are still a piece or two away from an elite secondary and with the 34th overall pick now gone I would be surprised if they didn’t add a piece to the unit through free agency. The Chiefs could use another safety that can cover and another true outside cornerback. I was very impressed by how Javier Arenas came in and handled the starting corner role opposite Brandon Flowers last season after the release of Stanford Routte, but I still think he is at his best when playing the nickel role where he won’t be matched up against the biggest, fastest receivers in the league as frequently. Arenas’ short area quickness and physicality gives him the perfect skillset to man the slot for years to come. That still however leaves a hole on the outside.
There are a bunch of good corners in free agency this year that can fill all different schemes. If the Chiefs new coordinator still wants to play a lot of press, a corner like Sean Smith of Miami fits the mold, as does Keenan Lewis of the Steelers, a long, athletic corner that could play zone or press effectively and is just coming into his prime. The safety class is also especially strong this offseason. This could a position where KC could really improve without breaking the bank. There are all different types of free agent safeties this year that fill all different molds. Depending on what the new regime is looking for at the safety position (and how they plan to use Eric Berry), they could pursue a physical box safety like LaRon Landry, who new KC defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is familiar with, a coverage safety like Glover Quin who also handle some slot duties adding versatility to the defense, or a traditional, well-rounded free safety like Atlanta’s William Moore. There are also talented players like Kenny Phillips and Louis Delmas coming off of injury, who could be risks worth taking at the right price There are lots of options to improve KC’s defensive backfield in this deep free agent class.