Free agency is always a nervous time for a Chiefs fan.
As has been the M.O. of the Pioli regime, KC entered free agency slowly and cautiously like a 5-year-old wading into a murky pond. With a lot of guys I had strongly trumpeted as priority signings getting deals elsewhere (namely OG Carl Nicks and NT Paul Soliai), my blood pressure was getting dangerously high by late last week.
But, after a flurry of moves in the last two days, I think every fan should be satisfied with the haul so far – FB Peyton Hillis, QB Brady Quinn, TE Kevin boss and RT Eric Winston.
The Hillis signing is the one I am the most lukewarm about. If Daboll can get him playing to his 2010 level, then it will be the steal of the year — $3 million for a top-10 rusher. My guess is that after all of the 2011 drama, no other team wanted to touch Hillis and he figured the best place to resurrect his name would be under Daboll again in KC, which is why we got him for a song. The fact that it is a one-year deal means that he knows he has to deliver. But after his antics last year, I am very nervous about counting on him, especially if (knock on wood, God forbid, double fingers crossed) Jamaal Charles goes down again. I would have much preferred if we had picked up Mike Tolbert – a similar player skill-set wise, who is much more reliable.
Brady Quinn makes sense for a lot of reasons – Crennel drafted him and Daboll also worked with him in Cleveland and they know what they are getting. Biggest positive: he is not Tyler Palko.
However, the Chiefs’ two best signings so far were easily Kevin Boss and Eric Winston. Although his production as a pass-catcher has dropped off considerably since his days at the Meadowlands, Boss is known as a great blocker, and the fact that he has hands (unlike the litany of no-name #2 tight ends the Chiefs have had recently), is certainly a plus.
Eric Winston is the sort of brilliant signing we all dream about. Winston immediately turns the Chiefs’ biggest weakness into a strength at the right tackle position. While I hope the Chiefs will still make some good pickups for depth along the O-line, I think we now have one of the best units in the NFL. If Wiegmann retires and Jeff Saturday doesn’t follow Manning to wherever he finally ends up, then I think it would make sense to bring him on board if he would be interested in making a couple million as a coach-in-pads and backup center.
Even if the middle of our line – RG Jon Asomoah, C Rodney Hudson and LG Ryan Lilja – has a mediocre year, I don’t think it will impact our running game in 2012, which will likely be the core of our offense. Jamaal Charles has always been best when he gets the opportunity to bounce runs to the outside, and now with Brandon Albert and Winston bookending the edges and Moeaki and/or Boss sealing DE’s and linebackers inside, he is going to break some big ones, plain and simple.
All of this means one thing loud and clear to me – expect the Chiefs’ first-round pick to be DT/NT Dontari Poe. Poe is an extremely high-upside guy who looks like he could hold down any spot on a 3-4 front. As Crock examined earlier, neither he nor Devon Still perfectly fit Crennel’s specific gap scheme on the D-line. But a guy like him, who has the power and motor to demand double and triple-teams with the speed to release off blocks and pursue runners, has to be considered.
He is a taller than prototypical nose tackles at 6’4” and may end up being better served as a penetrating NT like the Cowboys’ Jay Ratliff, but I think Crennel is a good enough defensive mind to be able to craft a scheme that would allow his unique talents to shine.
The Chiefs could play a three-man front of Glenn Dorsey, Amon Gordon and Poe at DE on early downs to stuff the run, then move Poe to NT with Allen Bailey and Wallace Gilberry at the end positions on obvious passing downs. Thus, picking Poe could finally allow the Pioli to own up to his earlier error and cut Mr. Tyson Financial Burden Jackson, which would save the Chiefs literally tens of millions over the next two years.
The only danger that this doesn’t happen is if the Panthers decide to grab him at #9 in the draft, although I think it is more likely that they go after one of the falling O-linemen or edge pass rushers. Still, if it looks like the Panthers might be dead set on getting Poe, I wouldn’t be against sacrificing our second-rounder to move above them and be assured to snatch him. If he appears to be the real thing in workouts, then he’s the guy we have to have – these sorts of talents are just too rare.
If Poe is gone, then I think the next move is to target ILB Luke Kuechly. Although I think Jovan Belcher has done enough to keep his job, Kuechly is the next best talent available at an area of need for the Chiefs.
Still, with Kelly Gregg likely to retire and with Soliai re-signing in Miami, the only remaining glaring hole on the Chiefs’ roster is NT and Poe is the only guy available to fill that spot. He is a no-brainer pick, and should become just one more joker in KC’s deck come opening day in September.