So all in all it appears that unfortunately I was right about free agency up to this point. No big splashes (unless you count picking up the Cardinals #2 receiver) and a few decent players picked up at bargain prices. According to Scott Pioli he has no set cap for spending from the Hunt family, and basically has free reign to pay for and pick up whoever he wants for the team. Evidently Pioli never saw the movie “Blank Check.”
So either Pioli is lying (or how I’m sure he would justify it telling a “half-truth”) or he really doesn’t see any big free agents that are worth the asking price. At least here the Chiefs are consistent, applying the same mode of thinking that brought the Chiefs Mike Vrabel: Bring in veterans that can play a couple of years to help mentor draft picks until they are ready to take over. I don’t mind that line of thought other than the fact that it makes for a dull free agent market.
Another interesting piece of information from this press conference was that Haley and Pioli had a so called “comprehensive plan” for dealing with free agency. I think we can all agree that nothing that they have done so far appears to be all that comprehensive. During the FA threads it was mentioned that weighing all of the gains and losses that the Chiefs were a worse team this year than last year. Granted that may be true, but the more I think about it the more I think that is not the question we should ask. I think the real question that should be at the forefront of our Addict brain is: Are the Chiefs better than the other AFC West teams?
You can pick up all the Ochocinco’s you want, but realistically I don’t expect too many teams to be better now than they were last season. Sure teams may have added more talent, they may have deeper charts, and a couple of extra marquee guys, but with no access to team facilities during the off season and no way to contact the coaches or training staff I expect that most teams will be taking steps backwards this year. Especially since these acquisitions are happening after the start of training camp which will mean that new players have a much shorter period to adapt to offensive/defensive systems and learn the playbooks. How many steps a team takes backwards will depend on the strength of the players’ determination, and the salt of the coaching staff.
Enter Todd Haley. This year I think we will notice unequivocally how Haley’s brutal conditioning regimen and expectations that players do not get soft during the off season will pay off in contrast to other teams. The Chiefs will take steps backwards, but not as many as the poor Donkeys Broncos with a new head coach and Tim Tebow as quarterback, or the Raiders who showed much promise last year of getting better but now lost one of the best corners in the league and only have a grab bag of second-rate QB’s at their disposal. The Raiders will still be a threat especially since we have new faces on the defensive line, but overall I think they will regress farther than the Chiefs. It all comes down to conditioning and mental toughness.
The Chargers are an unknown here. They have been like the big brother of the AFC West, but showed signs of decline last year despite having superior talent. What it came down to last year for the Chargers (dare I say this seriously?) were the intangible things that drive a team to succeed. Mental mistakes on special teams, inability to convert 4th and goal to keep from going 0-1 to start the season, inability to take advantage of a soft schedule, and the list goes on. Sure they stomped the Chiefs in San Diego when poor Brodie Croyle had to take the field, but realistically last season the division was there for the Chargers to lose, and they lost it. Will they respond this season with a chip on their shoulder, or will this apparent lack of discipline expand the divide between them and the AFC West title with a shortened offseason and no coach contact for four months? Unfortunately for the Chiefs, with Rivers at the helm I don’t think you can ever rule them out. Cassel played a week after an appendectomy, but Rivers played in the playoffs on a knee that badly needed surgery. Couple of tough mofo’s.
It is interesting to see exactly how each team is responding to the end of the lockout. Some teams are going for the home-run with free agents, some are taking risks, and many are like the Chiefs taking it slow and picking up bargains as they see them. It makes for fun debate, and gives a lot of people the freedom to slander others anonymously on the internet. Yet, I think that if we are truly looking to see how well a team will do this year we have to look beyond free agent acquisitions and see exactly how far this lockout has set them back. Of course it is all speculation, and immeasurable, but it is through these immeasurable things that great teams are created. If a team has not proberly utilized their off season, by the time they get back to speed the season may be lost. As for yours truly, I just have to keep faith in Chiefs Will.