Stanford Routt, Next Steps

I, like most of you who closely follow all things Chiefs, find myself a little bit surprised, a little bit concerned, a little bit intrigued, perhaps a little bit excited, and mostly just a whole lot eager to see exactly how the recent signing of Stanford Routt plays out in terms of Pioli’s handling of the looming FA situations with Carr and Bowe. I think most who’ve studied these players would agree that Routt and Carr represent a pretty similar level of talent. They’re both about the same height and build, they both possess excellent verticals, Routt possesses the better speed of the two but also brings a little more physical style of play which has earned him the rep of drawing a lot of flags.

Tradeoffs (sigh).

I haven’t seen the 2011 charting stat numbers yet, but I can tell you that in 2010, Stanford Routt, when paired up with Nmandi Asomugha, was a top shelf pass defender. Football Outsiders, for example, ranked him with the 3rd highest success rate, with 66% of passes defended. Carr ranked 10th in that department with 61% of passes defended. In fact, both scored better than Brandon Flowers, for what it’s worth. Also worth noting is that Routt only gave up 5.7 yards per pass to Carr’s 7.1 yd/pass. Given all that, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to expect Routt’s production to parallel his 2010 situation playing alongside Flowers.

There are also rumors circulating in the media that Routt was somebody for whom Romeo Crennel actively lobbied. If true, I think that’s also pretty significant in terms of scheme fit. For a really well-written, compelling look into the player we’re getting in Stanford Routt, I recommend Doug Farrar’s (Yahoo! Sports) recent piece on him. Long story short, I personally feel this is a really good signing no matter how you slice it.

Now that Routt is inked, it seems that the popular assumption, or expectation if you will, is that all this means is that Pioli got himself a guy with skills very comparable to those of Carr for what we think could be 2 or 3 million less per year. Cynically put, Pioli avoided some unnecessary negotation stress by landing a comparable replacement for Carr who, oh by the way, just so happens to be cheaper to pay. Given that, one is then further tempted to think that the safe, conservative move now is to simply franchise Bowe and let Carr walk. CB dilemma solved, franchise tag dilemma solved, all good.

Well guess what? I’m going to go against the grain and offer an even better strategy. Scotty, I hope you’re reading this (I also hope that after reading this, you’ll finally start responding to those thousands of suggestion letters I’ve sent you dammit!).

Bowe, while inconsistent at times, has shown the potential to be a gamechanger. That’s worth something in the NFL. I think he can also be considered a foundational player for the Chiefs. Also worth something. Still, I believe that Bowe, rather than being tagged, ought to be locked up into a long-term deal before free agency hits. Unless you’re planning to shop him– in and of itself a risky strategy on many fronts– I see no reason not to just sign him to a comfortable, reasonable, market value contract.

So why no tag for Bowe you ask? Well, first off because if you really want him, and you’ve come up with a good backup plan for Carr, then there’s really no reason whatsoever for not focusing all of your attention and energy on getting a deal done to make Bowe’s long-term presence as a Chief into reality. Not just that, but doesn’t it also help to further underscore that whole PR pledgy thingy to develop and retain core players?

As promising and exciting and foundational as Bowe might seem, it is also important to recognize that he simply has not proven himself to be among of the 5 best receivers in the league which, in a certain sense, is what the franchise tag kind of suggests. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 12th best WR going into 2012 and 19th best among their Dynasty Rankings. Similarly, Football Outsiders ranked Bowe 51st in DVOA and 31st in DYAR for 2011. Not exactly what you’d call eye-popping production.

We all know that Bowe every once in awhile makes for some fun highlight reel footage, but does he honestly merit franchise tag money? Especially when you’re most likely not going to find many teams willing to exchange a high value pick for him? I think you see my point. Bottom line, paying Bowe like he’s a top 5 WR really doesn’t sound all that Clark-like to me. Lest we forget, Bowe was a 1st round draft pick– just how likely is it that we can get that for him now? ROI people, ROI.

Moving on, if Pioli can sign Bowe to a long-term deal before free agency hits, he’ll still have a franchise tag at his disposal, right? Well, please tell me then what would be the folly in using that tag on Carr? In fact, franchising Carr seems to me like the best of all possible moves at this point and I’m going to offer some reasons as to why that is so.

It’s a proverbial seller’s market for top tier CBs and this year is no different. Justifiable or not, Carr is almost certain to command an elite CB level of monetary respect out on the open market. What’s more, it seems there could be some healthy competition for a CB of Carr’s caliber. I can think of at least a couple of teams out there that are desperately needing major secondary talent who, oh by the way, also happen to have some pretty interesting draft pick horsepower to make a lucrative deal happen for the Chiefs. For example, both the Patriots and the Bengals are in need of quality CB help and both are holding on to spare 1st round picks. Just imagine all of the tantalizing draft possibilities that would suddenly open up for the Chiefs if that were to happen?

Move up and get a franchise QB? Check.
Pick up a couple of first round offensive linemen? Check.
Control the draft by moving down? Check.

So you say, “well Double D, suppose nobody is willing to pony up a high draft pick for Carr? Aren’t you then stuck with an overpaid secondary that you’re underutilizing most of the time because, well, as everybody knows, you really only need 2 good corners? Very, very risky. Very expensive (i.e., unClark-like). Not good. Or as my AA colleague Big Matt might say ‘Mattie no likey.’”

Not good? How about not so fast?

Merlin and I were texting back and forth on this whole deal the other day and he brought to my attention a pretty interesting fact of which I was previously unaware. To wit, an NFL nickel plays about 50% of all snaps currently. That is a lot. On top of that, the more success you have at containing teams on 1st down, the more likely it is that you’ll see the nickel utilized on successive downs. In fact, I think with the right personnel, a pretty compelling argument can be made for having the nickel formation as your base D.

When I think of Flowers, Carr, and Routt being on the field all at the same time, I start thinking “two’s company, but hey, three’s a party!” Arenas might excel at wrapping up receivers pretty quickly after the catch but he’s not exactly setting the world on fire when it comes to preventing that catch from happening in the first place. Just sayin.

As many on the message boards here have already suggested, the Routt signing may indeed turn out to be a very forward thinking approach on the part of Crennel and Pioli. In fact, passing against a defensive backfield comprised primarily of Flowers, Carr and Routt would be close to impossible. In this increasingly pass-friendly league, I have to think that that level of secondary presence would basically relegate opposing offenses to beating you with their running game, and maybe tossing in a few dink and dunks for good measure (which painfully brings to mind a certain low-scoring, rather flaccid offense with which I happen to be pretty familiar).

The only practical alternative to going with the run would be to simultaneously risk a lot of coverage sacks. Unless your QB can progress through his reads quickly and also get rid of the ball in a hurry, you’re gonna be in a heap of trouble. If a team goes run, we’ll have DJ, Berry, and perhaps Belcher up in there to contain it. If a team opts to pass, their dealing with a DB set of Flowers, Routt, Carr, and Berry with maybe DJ in coverage while Hali & Houston, along with either an ILB, S, or CB, are all breathing fire in your backfield.

Next– just stay with me here– we grab a very gettable guy in the form of one Paul Soliai as our NT. Tell me, how can that cannot be considered a run stuffing, block eating, shutdown, ballhawking, nightmare defense?

So, armed on defense, we head into the draft to start filling holes on offense.

Final (crazy?) thought. While neither has any experience at the position (at least none of which I’m aware), both Carr and Routt possess prototypical size and speed to play Safety, Routt perhaps moreso because of his physicality. Might this signing, combined with the retention Carr, offer more options and much needed depth at that position as well? I know, stupid idea, probably makes more sense to just plug Sabby Piscatelli whenever the need arises, right? I’m sure we’ll be just fine should Eric Berry happen to miss any games.

That’s my Double Take.

Sound off Addicts!

Topics: Brandon Carr, Clark Hunt, DVOA, Dwayne Bowe, Football Outsiders, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Free Agency, Paul Soliai, Pro Football Focus, Romeo Crennel, Scott Pioli, Stanford Routt

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