Over the past several weeks, we’ve talked a lot about it without coming out and saying it: this year’s offseason will be very difficult to screw up. And that is a comforting thought for long-flummoxed Chiefs fans.
So far, the Chiefs have been stuck with a series of no-brainer moves. They extended Tamba Hali to a long-term deal during the season; Jamaal was locked up the year before. They picked up a few cheap depth guys who had fallen off the backs of trucks.
Then came their first real choice. Re-sign Brandon Carr or bring in Stanford Routt? Routt was cheaper, and apparently better at man coverage, which Crennel ran to crushing success in his three games has HC. Routt signed. Done.
Dwayne Bowe remained the last big KC free agent to re-sign, but contract negotiations had long been drawn out. The franchise tag number for 2012 for wide receivers was $9.4 million – not far north of what the average yearly salary would be for him in an extended deal. Tagged him. Done.
Last year, we were one game behind the division winner. In my opinion, the Chiefs are the favorites to win the division just by standing still. No matter whom they draft or sign, their biggest acquisitions in 2012 will be Charles, Moeaki and Berry back from injury.
However, the Chiefs don’t have to sit still this time. Not only do they have about $28 million in cap room (factoring in the Bowe deal), but they are picking 11th in the draft, which is more and more looking to be the 1st-round sweet spot for falling talent.
Now, I know there are millions of mock drafts out there, but looking at the latest mocks from CBS Sports, NFL.com, and the Bleacher Report, I formed what is a kind of consensus of the latest thinking. Again, it reveals that the Chiefs cannot lose.
In none of the 10 mock drafts I used for my sample was the beastly G David DeCastro picked, nor was intimidating linebacker Luke Kuechly. In 8/10, Jonathan Martin, who is considered to be the most athletic OT in the draft, was still available; in 5/10 OT Reily Reiff was there. Not only was he a beast in college, but Pioli has strong ties to his college coach Kirk Ferentz, and he will know this player in and out.
In 8/10, DT/NT Dontari Poe, the surprise physical monster of the Combine, was available for the Chiefs. And, although he’s tall for a nose tackle, he has the raw athleticism to be a good one. A 346-lbs man that can run a 4.98 40 is a scary creation.
In 6/10, QB Ryan Tannehill is still available – the consensus third best QB in the draft. This would also present an interesting choice for the Chiefs. On one hand, if the teams behind them are still nervous about their ability to pick up a top QB, the Chiefs could offer a reasonable deal to teams unable or unwilling to spend to trade into the top-10, but might be willing to part with a 3rd-rounder or 2nd-rounder next year to move up a few spots to 11 for Tannehill. The Jets are a few spots back and have talked a lot about bringing in significant competition for Sanchez.
Directly behind the Chiefs are the Seahawks and Cardinals who have biting QB needs and will be competing with each other to get to Tannehill first if they can’t bring in a top talent in free agency.
The Chiefs could also take him, as crazy as that sounds and give Matt Cassel REAL competition. Given Tannehill’s draft status and the fact that he is much younger than Cassel, he would obviously have the upper hand, but the Chiefs could afford to transition into him as the next season or two went on. In the end, such a move might get Cassel back to the position he was naturally suited for back in 2008 – as the league’s best backup QB.
Now, I’ve already talked about a wide variety of options for the Chiefs when it comes to free agency, but the rundown is this: we can pick whoever we want. With our cap room, there are little to no restrictions on who we take aboard. With Drew Brees franchised by the Saints, the best Guard in football, Carl Nicks, is now available. He is #1 target. Solid NFL-proven guys like NT Paul Soliai are also floating out there and there are plenty of guys able to fill out depth and provide competition on the O-line and at inside LB.
The cherry on top is that the Chiefs could afford several of those moves and still afford the jewel of free agency who is already available – Peyton Manning.
When it was looking like the Chiefs would have to trade for him I was against it. But given how the Chiefs have only a few big needs and the ability to fill all the other holes with quality in the draft and free agency, I agree with Crennel that KC would be “crazy” not to make a run at the guy. If he wants big-time guaranteed money as a 36-year-old with an 80-year-old’s neck, then I won’t kill the Chiefs for letting someone else take that leap. After all, the Chiefs are practically a lock to win the division this year anyway. But, this is also the one offseason where the mix of meager needs and expansive resources allow for luxurious moves like bringing in an aging quarterback who might just be the best who ever lived. Price tag be damned.
Overall, unless Pioli dumps the Chiefs extra cap cash and draft picks into a ditch and burns them, the Chiefs are set. While his tenure has overall been shaky, and Hunt loves his money like none other, I think the writing is on the wall that this is the Chiefs year and they will pull the necessary triggers.
And that means I am going to tell you to do something that, as a Chiefs fan, goes against every instinct you have. Don’t worry.
If the Chiefs somehow miss out on Manning, don’t worry. That’s money that will go to fixing the lines and steamrolling the division in other ways. Trent Richardson doesn’t slip down to us? Who cares? We’ll still have a smorgasbord of other options in need areas on the team. It’s been smooth sailing so far, and barring a Pioli nervous breakdown or a nuclear war between here and next winter, the Chiefs are set for a deep run into the playoffs. Quoth Rex Ryan, “Guaranteed.”