We all continue to sit around hoping that the lockout is going to end soon. As we cling to any bits of optimism we can find most people seem to think that they will come to an agreement sooner rather than later. That mindset has led to an increase in talk about what players the Chiefs should go after in free agency once the lockout lifts. I have done it myself (Aubrayo Franklin, I don’t care what Andrew says, he’s the man). However, that having been said, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t expect the Chiefs to bring in hardly any new free agents this year. More than that, I’m here to tell you that this is a good thing.
“But Lyle, aren’t you the one that told us that there is likely to be a raised salary floor that will force the Chiefs to have to spend more money?”
Yes, yes I am.
“Also, aren’t you the one that told us that Scott Pioli will have to win the battle of the GMs once the lockout lifts in order for the Chiefs to succeed this season?”
Yup, that was me as well.
I’ll explain how I can believe all three things to be true without being totally off my rocker after the jump.
First off, let me explain why I feel that the Chiefs will not and should not bring in many new faces this offseason (what little of one there may be). That last part about how little of an offseason they will have is actually the answer. The Chiefs had a special season last year. Coming into the season no one outside of Kansas City, and even most of those in Kansas City, thought the Chiefs would have a shot at winning the division. However, it was clear from that first Monday Night Football game that the Chiefs had a belief and an energy about them, a chip on their shoulder if you will. Was the talent level of their roster among the NFL’s elite? No, but they came together as a team to get the job done. This offseason there will be no OTAs at all. If a deal is not reached in the next week or so then training camp and possibly the preseason will be shortened. That means that with every day that passes there will be less and less time to get new players “in the know”. Therefore, if the Chiefs want to build off that “team energy” they can’t have a bunch of new players that not only don’t know the playbook but haven’t bonded with the rest of the guys.
I know there will be those of you out there that will laugh at the whole idea of trying to preserve the “team unity” at the expense of upgrading talent. However, I would argue that there aren’t enough elite talent FAs out there that we could sign that would make the disruption of the team worth it. Normally, the goal would be to find players that would fit into the current team that would also upgrade the talent. However, this year there just isn’t time to bring many new guys into the fold and have them adjust before games start. We already have a class of rookies that most feel will play right away that we have to get acclimated. If we have more than a couple new FAs that are going to play key roles there just won’t be time for everyone to get on the same page.
Okay, so what about the fact that the Chiefs will probably have to spend some money in order to meet the salary floor? Well, I think once the Chiefs sign their rookies and in house FAs like Tamba Hali, Brandon Carr, Shaun Smith, Leonard Pope, etc. they could easily meet the floor by signing one or two FAs. If I was Scott Pioli I would sign Franklin to play NT and Matt Light to play RT and that would be it. Period. To me NT and RT are the only positions where you can argue there is still a real need and I think you can argue that Richardson played well enough last season that even RT isn’t a gaping hole. Other than that, maybe they could sign a few undrafted free agents that they think could make the practice squad, but I’ve got news for you.
NO undrafted free agents are going to make the Chiefs opening day 53 man roster. ZERO.
With the team rushing to get ready they are going to want guys out there that know what they are doing. That is why I think Scott Pioli will prove his worth as a GM by signing one or two FAs like I mentioned, resigning a lot of our in house FAs, and getting our rookies signed as fast as possible so that they have a chance to contribute. Last year UFAs like Verran Tucker and Bobby Greenwood were able to prove their worth on special teams in order to earn roster spots because they had time in camp to prove themselves. This year that time won’t be there so the Chiefs will go with players that they know and that know the system.
I sat down and made up a depth chart with every player the Chiefs had on the roster last year plus the draft picks. If you include the active roster, practice squad, injured reserve, and the new draft class that is 80 players. The training camp roster limit (at least under the old CBA) was 80 players. So the Chiefs don’t have to look much outside in house players even to fill a training camp roster, let alone a 53 man roster.
“But Lyle, we still need more help at WR!”
Well including Jon Baldwin we have 11 players to consider for 5 or 6 spots. Dwayne Bowe and Baldwin should start. After that you have Dexter McCluster, Chris Chambers, Verran Tucker, Jerheme Urban, Kevin Curtis, Terrance Copper, Jeremy Horne, Quinten Lawrence, and Chandler Williams to choose from. McCluster is clearly a lock for the 53 man roster and I would say that due to his special teams play and promise he showed as an UFA last year that Tucker is a lock as well. So will anyone really think it’s the end of the world if Urban, Curtis, Copper, and Horne compete in camp for the 5th and 6th WR spots?
“Okay, but we could still use a couple more LBs!”
Well last year the Chiefs usually had 9 LBs on the 53 man roster. They have a staggering 17 LBs to choose from. In alphabetical order that is: Charlie Anderson, Eric Bakhtiari, Jovan Belcher, Justin Cole, Cory Greenwood, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Micah Johnson, Corey Mays, Cameron Sheffield, Mark Simoneau, Andy Studebaker, Mike Vrabel, Pierre Walters, and Demorrio Williams. I would argue that even without Vrabel I can field a pretty good 9 man LB core with Belcher, Greenwood, Hali, Houston, D. Johnson, M. Johnson, Sheffield, Studebaker, and Williams.
I could do this with more positions, but you get the idea. I think with the Chiefs difficult schedule their best chance is to make sure they are a tight nit team that are all on the same page. That would give them a clear advantage over teams that are trying to come together that have new coaches, schemes, or a lot of roster turn over.
So the Armchair Addict’s three step process to building a winning team this year is:
1. Resign most of our in house free agents.
2. Sign one or two key FAs to fill any glaring holes. Preferably, that would be Franklin and a RT.
3. Get our rookies signed ASAP so that they have a chance to play.
I think that given Pioli’s track record and the shortened offseason schedule that this plan is not only a good one, but a likely one.
Once again, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!