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After a tiresome battle between players and NFL ownership, we have now arrived at pandemonium.
You can’t refresh your twitter feed fast enough to digest the dizzying pace of free agent signings. With such a short window before training camp starts, some teams are throwing around ridiculous sums of money at players that frankly do not deserve it (see: Tavaris Jackson, Olindo Mare, Doug Free and Eric Weddle, among others).
Here in Kansas City though, all seems rather quiet. So far their free agent “splash” has consisted of re-signing 38-year old center Casey Weigmann, Special Teams “ace” Terrance Copper and reserve cornerback Travis Daniels to one year contracts. When you account for the six or seven faceless undrafted free agents, it’s clear that Scott Pioli is once again planning to use a shrewd evaluation of talent rather than high profile signings in order to improve his team.
While there have been a few rumors regarding the likes of Steve Breaston and Aubrayo Franklin, nothing looks eminent. That being said, the Chiefs find themselves in a very unique position. With young talent ready to blossom at many key positions, adding veteran players may only slow their development. Kansas City does have an advantage over most of their opposition: patience.
Patience is what landed Kansas City players like Shaun Smith and Ryan Lilja last offseason, two major contributors to what was an outstanding season. The Chiefs also have a lot of money at their disposal. Admittedly, names like Nnamdi Asomugha, Sidney Rice and Aubrayo Franklin are all very enticing; Kansas City likely has their sites set below the radar. As always, the keyword for Scott Pioli is value.
I promised myself I wouldn’t waste much time prognosticating about specific players, as time has proven it’s a futile enterprise with this regime. Instead, let’s try to focus on positional needs that cannot be left unaddressed:
- Nose Tackle … After early morning reports surfaced of Ron Edwards signing with Carolina, the Chiefs are left with a very shallow pool of talent in the middle of their defense. As of this moment, Anthony Toribio (who?!) is the lone space-eater under contract. Many expect to see Shaun Smith re-signed though he is not the ideal full-time player the Chiefs must have in order to improve. Sixth round selection Jerrell Powe will undoubtedly get his opportunities but is arguably the furthest from being ready to play of the Chiefs’ 2011 draft picks.
Options: Aubrayo Franklin obviously tops the list but may require too much guaranteed money for Scott Pioli to bite. Kelly Gregg was released from the Ravens but he is not only on his last leg, he’s likely to re-sign with the Ravens, if not retire. Pat Williams is a fine option despite being the oldest defensive player in the NFL. The remaining options are unrecognizable and their bodies of work are non-existent.
- Linebacker … Priority number one has to be working out a deal with franchise player Tamba Hali. As much as I’d love to see what Kansas City could get in trade for him, the cupboard is just far too empty to let him go. Chiefs’ fans have seen first-hand how ugly a season can be when you’re not putting pressure on the Quarterback. Meanwhile, Mike Vrabel’s retirement should give way to blue collar hero Andy Studebaker and free-up some reps for rookie Justin Houston – but that may not be the best news for Chiefs fans. There are a lot of questions about Studebaker’s ability to play full-time football, though he may prove once again that the odds mean absolutely nothing. Depth is still a major concern given that the primary back-ups are the aforementioned Houston, his fellow rookie Gabe Miller and 2010 sixth round pick Cameron Sheffield who missed the entire season with a serious neck injury.
On the inside, the Chiefs appear to have a very solid starting duo in Derrick Johnson and undrafted sensation Jovan Belcher. However, depth is again lacking at best with little-used Demorrio Williams being the lone recognizable player under contract. One could argue that adding a starter next to DJ – making Belcher the lone back-up and unquestioned Special Teams Captain – could take this defense to the next level.
Options: On the outside, a team-first veteran that won’t mind being a back-up is likely the ideal fit for Kansas City (see: Tully Banta-Cain) but that’s asking a lot given the market. If the Chiefs want to force Studebaker and Houston to fight for every rep, keep an eye on guys like Matt Roth and Manny Lawson. The inside presents a lot of very interesting names, depending on the route Scott Pioli plans to take. High profile players like Steven Tulloch and Nick Barnett would be welcome additions but price, as always, will play a significant factor. The more realistic list should consist of Kirk Morrison and Omar Gaither, among others.
- Wide Receiver … Adding Jonathan Baldwin in the first round this year will go a long way to help this offense become one of the NFL’s elite – in time. Meanwhile, all signs indicate the Chiefs plan to use the multi-talented Dexter McCluster more as a running back in 2011, opening up plenty of reps in the slot position. Verran Tucker leads an ugly list of flankers under contract, highlighting the desperate need for an upgrade in the receiving corps.
Options: There have been a flurry of signings (Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss, Lance Moore, Devin Aromashodu, etc) but the market is flush with household names like Sidney Rice, Randy Moss and Braylon Edwards. As of today, the more likely options for the Chiefs are Steve Breaston, James Jones and Chansi Stuckey.
In terms of positions that must be addressed, I believe it stops there. Could Kansas City use an upgrade at Offensive Tackle? Yeah, duh. Jamaal Brown specifically could be an outstanding addition to the roster and might be the missing piece that could vault this team into the elite offenses of the NFL. The Chiefs on the other hand seem to believe that Barry Richardson can lock down the right side well enough to legitimize not pursuing a significant veteran upgrade.
There are times that the Chiefs’ lack of movement is downright infuriating. Right now folks, that’s simply not the case. Much like years passed, the sums of money being tossed around in the early stages of free agency are asinine. Additionally, there is a lot of focus being placed on getting the 2011 rookie class signed as soon as possible.
My advice: kick your feet up. Watch twitter, ESPN, NFLN or your own favorite source for all the happenings around the league. Laugh at the bad ones, grimace at the good ones and above all, trust Scott Pioli to do his job well.