Oh By The Way, Free Agency Starts Tomorrow

Lost in the almost endless stream of Peyton Manning information is the fact that the NFL’s free agency signing period is set to open on Tuesday. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got Manning Fever. At the time I’m writing this, there is a report out of Denver that says the Chiefs are out of the running for Manning. If at the time this article posts word has gotten out that Manning has officially signed, I have one of two possible things to say:

If the Denver Post is wrong and he signed with KC then its “WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!! WE GOT MANNING!!!!!!!! WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!!!!

or

If he signed with anyone else “Manning is washed up! We don’t need him. We’ll be just fine without him as long as we build on the offensive line, get our injured star players back to full strength, and continue to build on what was already a very good defense.”

If he hasn’t signed yet, then we’ll stay in wait-and-see mode. Look, I won’t lie, if Manning picks the Donkeys over the Chiefs, it will hurt. It also means I’ll be jacked up twice a year for our up-and-coming defense to go knock the stuffing out of him. However, regardless of what Manning decides, the Chiefs simply MUST be active and aggressive come the start of free agency on Tuesday. This team (with or without Manning) needs to fill some holes. So whether you’re on Cloud Nine because Manning is a Chief or drowning in your sorrows because he’s not, you need to remember that building a Super Bowl contender means having a great all-around roster. So I thought it would be a good idea to make up a short list of some of the big names at key positions that the Chiefs could target in free agency. It would make my day if in the first 24 hours of free agency the Chiefs signed one or more of the following players.

Nose Tackle: Paul Soliai, Sammie Lee Hill, or Antonio Garay

Nov 20, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins nose tackle Paul Soliai (96) before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 35-8. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Paul Soliai (28 years old, 6-4, 355 lbs.) is (in my opinion) the clear top NT available on the free agent market. Sione Pouha was probably a close second, but Pouha just re-signed with the Jets. That leaves Soliai as THE only big time NT available. Even though right tackle may be a bigger need, the lack of quality free agents available at that position also makes Soliai the biggest possible big splash signing that would drastically upgrade the Chiefs for next season at any position (not counting a certain QB that we’ve already discussed, a lot). If the Chiefs can’t land Soliai then I see two other free agent options. My next choice would be a lesser known player, Sammie Lee Hill, from Detroit. Hill is only 25 years old and listed at about 6-4 and 330 lbs. He has played in 44 games with 15 starts in his three years in Detroit and is known to be a stout run defender. Obviously the Chiefs would have to feel he was capable of playing the NT in a 3-4 after playing in a 4-3 in Motown, but if so, he offers more upside then the other “name” NT on the market, Antonio Garay (32 years old, 6-4, 320 lbs). Garay is a good player and would upgrade the position as well, but if the Chiefs don’t grab one of those options then the NT position could be a real concern next year.

Offensive Line: Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs

September 26, 2010; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Grubbs (66) during the game against the Cleveland Browns at M

Like I just said above, RT is the biggest need on the offensive line but there really aren’t any “big splash” offensive tackles available to sign. Also, I believe the options at OT in the draft are better then those in free agency. If the Chiefs wanted to add some big time talent to the offensive line in free agency it would be with one of these Pro Bowl caliber offensive guards. Carl Nicks may just be the best OG in all of the NFL. The only problem is that he has let it be known that he expects to be paid like he is as well. Despite the Chiefs great salary cap situation, I don’t know that they would sign both Nicks and Manning. Frankly, Nicks and Soliai might be pushing it. However, if they don’t land Manning and/or don’t break the bank on a NT then Nicks could be a legit option. If they do somehow sign Manning and/or pay big money for a NT than Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs would be a great second option that shouldn’t cost as much as Nicks. If Nicks really is wanting LT type money, Grubbs may end up being the better value for the price anyway.

Running Back: Ben Jarvis Green Ellis or Mike Tolbert

Oct 2, 2011; Oakland, CA, USA; New England Patriots running back Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis (42) is pursued by Oakland Raiders defensive tackles Jarvis Moss (94) and John Henderson (79) at the O.co Coliseum. The Patriots defeated the Raiders 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

I think its safe to assume that the Chiefs are going to be on the market for another running back to share the load with Jamaal Charles. Jackie Battle did well last season, but I think the fact that KC has not re-signed him yet is a sign that they are looking for an upgrade at the #2 RB spot. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, Jamaal Charles is a small framed back coming off a major injury. It would make sense for the Chiefs to be looking for a #2 RB that could step in and be the feature back should Charles have some kind of a set back. Second, the Chiefs led the league in rushing two seasons ago using a two-back system. Adding a quality back like Green-Ellis or Tolbert to pair with JC would put the Chiefs in a great position to get back to the top of the league in rushing. I prefer Green-Ellis because I think he would make a better all-around back should Charles miss time, but Tolbert has proven to be a solid all around back in his own right.

(On a side note, I’m actually hoping the Chiefs draft Boise State’s Doug Martin in the second round to be their #2 RB, but signing one of these two would be a solid way to go too and would free up another draft pick to fill other needs.)

Quarterback: (If not Manning) Kyle Orton or Chad Henne

Jan 1 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) prepares to pass during the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Obviously, Peyton Manning would be the ultimate QB signing for the Chiefs, but if that doesn’t work out then they still need to bring in someone to compete with Matt Cassel. I’m not sure if I could give either Orton or Henne an upper hand in this one. Orton knows the team from his time here last season and Henne knows new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll from their time together in Miami. Neither one is an automatic upgrade over Cassel, but either one is capable of challenging him for the starting spot. Last season should have proved to Scott Pioli that you must have a #2 QB that you trust starting games. If the Chiefs have lost out on Manning, then they better pony up for one of these two options.

I think we all know that the Chiefs could use more help/depth at many other positions as well, but I believe that in terms of big names or players that could be big time contributors next season these are some of the main names you should be watching for once free agency starts. I believe the Chiefs can be a playoff team next season regardless of what happens with Manning. However, they are going to need a couple of guys off this list to make it happen. So make sure you don’t decide if the Chiefs “aced” or “flunked” the offseason based on what happens with #18. There’s a lot more to it than that.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Topics: Carl Nicks, Free Agency, Kansas City Chiefs, Paul Soliai, Peyton Manning

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