According to Brian Williamson of ESPN.com, the Chiefs have $62 million in cap space going into the 2012 season. Chiefs Nation has its fingers crossed that they will actually spend said money. If they do, this is where methinks it should go, in order of priority:
1.) Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe and CB Brandon Carr.
I put these two together, partially to make a point. I think it is important to point out just how cool it is that the Chiefs have two top-10 free agents and the cash to re-sign them. Carr was a fifth-round pick and represents the type of talent this team needs to draft, reward and build around in the future. Not all fifth rounders are going to become quality starters, but it sends a powerful message throughout the organization that no matter how you make it to Arrowhead, if you work hard, develop and don’t get into locker room drama or off-the-field problems, you will be heavily rewarded.
Only one can get the tag, so all things being equal, it makes the most sense to franchise Bowe, because the franchise number for wideouts is $1.2 million cheaper than it is for cornerbacks this year. I’m also more enthusiastic about Carr long-term than Bowe. Bowe is fantastic at times, but he’s had enough issues to where there are more concerns about giving him a monster long-term deal. Carr has been a solid workman – no drama, no quitting, no mug shots. Giving Carr a long-term deal should be easy, whereas some other issues may be worked out with Bowe and the franchise tag gives them another year to do that.
All of that said, it may make more sense to front-load the contracts for these two guys. A four-year deal for each of these guys would probably average about $8 million per year each. But, because the Chiefs are sitting on a cap mother lode, they may as well dump a lot of that salary in bonuses this year – paying each of them, say, $15 million and leaving them with a base salary of $6 million or lower for the next three years. This gives the Chiefs a lot of extra flexibility moving forward.
I mean, I guess you go after Stanford Routt and Vincent Jackson if you for some reason can’t lock up Carr and Bowe. But, while Jackson has a bit more downfield speed than Bowe, I think the two of them are at best equal to Bowe and Carr overall. Routt got tons of penalties for Oakland last year, and Jackson has more attitude issues than Dwayne.
2.) New Orleans G Carl Nicks
Paddy pointed to Nicks two weeks before the Super Bowl, and he is still very right. He will be pricey, but very rarely do the best in the biz come available at their position while still young. Nicks is 26, and considered by many to be the best guard in the NFL. If we’re going to shell out this season, this is some conspicuous spending I can get behind. Although the Chiefs were decent in the interior of their O-line last year, their overall depth is dreadful. Snagging Nicks gives the Chiefs a solid rotation of Wiegmann/Hudson at center and Lilja/Asamoah at the other guard position.
Stanford guard David DeCastro is frequently mocked to the Chiefs in the 2012 draft. KC seems to be in the sweet spot for picking him up – 11/12 is typically a bit early to draft and interior lineman, but DeCastro is an atypical talent. Furthermore, as Ladner pointed out last week, guard is about the safest position you can pick at the top of the draft. Ravens G Ben Grubbs would also be a decent pickup, he’s 28, but has had a lot of injury problems.
3.) Texans C Chris Myers*
*If Wiegmann retires.
Just like Nicks, taking on Myers would add talent to the middle of the line, and would also deepen the Chiefs overall depth in the trenches. The Texans had the best O-line in the NFL, and it was anchored by Myers, who may have been the best center. In addition to being a force up the middle, Myers is a grizzled veteran at calling blocking assignments and keeping the Texans unit gelling. Hudson struggled somewhat in limited snaps at center, and I think I’d feel better about bringing in a serious starter at C if Wiegmann retires, considering how dependent the Chiefs are on the run game for offensive success. Myers is 31, so a two-year deal may be the kind of stopgap that will allow Hudson to transition well into the role. With both Myers and Nicks tearing up the middle, the Chiefs could have a historic running game.
I don’t think this is a huge area of need if Wiegmann sticks it out for another year. I still think the Chiefs should spend a mid-round pick on an interior lineman, just because that’s the kind of position you can never be overloaded in. Hudson would likely perform average or better if thrown into the fire this year.
4.) Dolphins NT Paul Soliai
Soliai is one of the few true NT’s in the NFL. While he doesn’t put up mean stats, he holds down the middle of the line like a trooper. Miami franchised him last year, and with good reason – they recognize that their 3-4 scheme depends on him. But, because the Dolphins would have to pay him more than $15 million to franchise him this year and Soliai appears determined to test the market, the Chiefs should be able to swoop down and snatch him. Last year, AA writers were pounding the table for Aubrayo Franklin, but he was picked up by the Saints and underwhelmed. I do not thing the same will be the case for Soliai. The Dolphins run a similar defense to the Chiefs and he would fit right in.
While older than Soliai, Simone Pouha, at 33, would be both a stopgap and an upgrade over Kelly Gregg. He’s had more than 50 tackles each of the last two years for the Jets at nose tackle, which is impressive.
5.) Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
I touched on this last week, and I think this signing is both wise and likely. While he hasn’t shown himself to be effective as an every-down back – not that the Patriots run it much anyway – he could be a great 3rd-down back for the Chiefs. Regardless of what the Chiefs do with the RB position in the draft, if they enter the season with Jamaal Charles, the Law Firm, and Jackie Battle, it’ll easily the best and most varied running-back situation they’ve had in at least five years. Light, medium and heavy.
Plan B: Ray Rice is going to get franchised and Marshawn Lynch inspires little excitement as a complimentary piece to Charles. This is an overall weak RB free agent class, which brings us to the draft …
Where this would put us:
If Pioli/Hunt were to take my advice for the first time in the history of time, we would be solid in both the defensive and offensive backfields and have possibly the best interior O-line in the NFL. We would also have the closest thing to a complete defensive line KC has had in a decade or more. The only real hole on the roster would be right tackle.
However, most importantly, making these moves would put the Chiefs in the best possible position to get value in the draft. There is a glut of quality options at right tackle in the first three rounds. It is likely that Jonathan Martin will fall to the Chiefs, an athletic guy that could play either tackle position. But, knowing that they will have the opportunity to pick other good values at their only real need position, the Chiefs could instead use that first pick as a luxury – snagging the best talent on the board.
With a potential trading frenzy over QBs above them and a draft-philosophy bias against running backs, Trent Richardson could very well fall to the Chiefs. Not a need, but can you imagine how well KC would be set up with a RB stable of Charles, Richardson and the Law Firm? The Chiefs could also take the opportunity to go after whatever top-rated QB falls out of the top 10. Regardless of what you think of Cassel, I definitely would feel better about the quality of the position moving forward if he were competing against Ryan Tannehill in the next training camp. But, frankly, the possibilities are endless and I think Pioli should be interested in getting the best talent available.
He drafted for need by picking Tyson Jackson in 2009. He learned his lesson by taking the best player on the board with Eric Berry in 2010. Hopefully, the Chiefs both keep that experience in mind and set themselves up to do it right this year.