The other title I considered was “Chiefs finally get first-round quarterback” with a picture of Brady Quinn. In the end, I went with the more obvious joke.
I think we can all agree this is the most exciting free agency of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli’s tenure. Granted, that isn’t saying much, but by any standard this early flurry has been noteworthy. I’ll get to what I think of each move later. Let’s start with the big picture.
Pioli, once again, has switched up his game. His first year he went “bad ‘n boring” in both draft and free agency. In year two his drafting, at least, improved, but I still thought I had him pegged. It was those team captains he was after, and ever would be, thought I. Then the next year he picked Justin Houston and Jon Baldwin, and I had to admit that when it came to the draft, Pioli was actually a bit of a wild card.
His free agent strategy, though, had always remained the same. Set modest goals, avoid top players. An almost exact continuation of the Herm Edwards strategy, oddly enough.
The Chiefs weren’t shy about it, either. About the only thing Pioli didn’t keep secret was his distaste for free-agent spending sprees. That wasn’t the way he did things, wasn’t part of The Patriot Way. He was too smart for that. He was building through the Draft. Drafting and aggressive free agent moves were mutually exclusive, apparently. So the cap room sat there, for three years.
Now here we are discussing a successful Pioli foray into the free agent feeding frenzy. I’ll admit it, Addicts, I never thought I’d see the day. All the “build through the draft” parakeets crowing about free agent signings. It’s a beautiful thing.
What’s really interesting about these moves, though, is that I am now faced with quite the logic-dilemma. I’ve been saying since Pioli got here that he needed to be more active in free agency, and that you could spend big and still spend smart. I’ve also said that when it came down to it, I didn’t think he had the chops to get it done when competing with other teams for players. With one huge signing, Pioli has proven me both wrong and right. Wrong about him, right about free agency.
The bottom line is that free agency is just another way to add talent. It isn’t any more or less noble than the Draft; it’s a tool to be used. Pioli’s aversion to it, as well as the professed aversion of his apologists, was strange and counterproductive. Seeing him move past it is exhilarating. It’s more important than anything else that’s happened during his tenure, in my opinion.
I heard Pioli say he needed to do a better job after the season ended. That sounded like lip service to me. But three years is a long time, and 28 losses is a lot to endure. Maybe he was forced to take a long look in the mirror.
The other, more cynical possibility, is that this sudden change in strategy is PR-motivated. I think this is at least partially true. We know the Chiefs are hyper-sensitive about the Arrowhead Anxiety piece and its fallout. They also told everyone who would listen they were interested in Peyton Manning. That was obviously intentional.
To me, what was most telling was when Little Clarkie got in on the act. He made such a big deal about carrying the cap space over, which was a total no-brainer. You could tell he knew the natives were getting restless, and he said that because he wanted people to hear it. I mean, when Looney posts something like this, the team’s motivation is pretty clear. They were desperate for the fanbase to know they carried over that cap space.
I’ve seen some of Chiefs Nation’s more naive commenters suggesting these moves are some kind of vindication for Hunt. Let’s get something straight here: Hunt ran this team on the cheap as long as he could get away with it. He got busted pulling Monty Burns-esque tactics numerous times, and oversaw a period of historic futility for our team.
Due to factors beyond his control (CBA and fan unrest), Hunt’s days of getting away with losing on the cheap are over. Whatever you believe about his fiscal motivations, they are now a non-issue. I’ve been saying this since last season ended.
The question is, do we assign dap for a 2012 payroll that’s competitive? Maybe a little. About the same amount you’d give to a worker who showed up on time Friday after being three hours late Monday-Thursday.
Pioli is the one deserving of cred here. He did what I thought he could not: signed a player other teams wanted. Winston has taken nearly all of the sting out of Pioli’s failure to entice a Peyton Manning visit.*
*Say this about Chiefs fans: we sure do love linemen. Both offensive and defensive.
Let’s look at these early moves individually.
Eric Winston- Not much to say here. We’re all pretty happy about this. It turns a weakness into a strength, and ensures we won’t have to watch Barry “Push” Richardson flail around at RT anymore. My favorite part of the Winston signing is the way it opens up the first round of the draft, as our boy Ladner details here.*
*For what it’s worth, I’m pro Poe, Kuechly and Decastro, in that order. Guys I want to avoid are Tannehill, Richardson and Jonathan Martin.
Kevin Boss- Another great sign, in my humble opinion. I’ve always liked Boss’ game. Profootballfocus didn’t think much of his blocking last season unfortunately, and they also rated his run blocking low in 2010. In 2008 and 2009, however, he scored very well in run blocking. Third-best in the league in 2009. You really do have to take these numbers with a grain of salt sometimes, but its still such an awesome resource. Buy it. You will not regret it.
Back to Boss. Great #2 tight end, great insurance if Moeaki goes down. The Lenny Pope memorial service will be in my apartment at 4 a.m. tmrw. All are welcome. I’ve prepared an 80-minute eulogy.
Brady “Bodie” Quinn- I have never liked this guy, and I definitely don’t think he’s good. But if we held a quarterback skills competition between our recent quarterbacks, I have no doubt he would massacre all of them.*
*AA QBs expert Jackie Rubbinson built a QB skills course on his roof a few summers back. Ten of us participated. I came in last, by a wide margin if I remember correctly. I was also the only one to go through it with my shirt off though, so there’s that.
It’s an interesting sign, and I’m looking forward to calling him Bodie all year. From what I can tell some of you would already like to see Quinn starting over Cassel. Danny W, Jackie Rubbinson, you guys wanna weigh in here? I was under the impression Quinn was almost universally disliked.
In any case, although I do not like Quinn personally, I do like this pickup. Its about time our #2 QB wasn’t the worst player in the NFL. It’s been what, five years since that was true?
Peyton Hillis- This is the one that worries me. Hillis won me a fantasy championship in 2010, so it’s not personal. And before I get another inane lecture about the need to share the load, let me just say I’m all for finding someone to spell Charles. Seriously, don’t bark up that tree. It’s played. Soooo played.
The problem is that I foresee a future in which Daboll overuses Hillis a la Haley with Thom Jones. This could easily happen. People keep talking about the imminent magic when the two reunite. The more likely scenario is Daboll crams the ball early and often to Hillis to the tune of 4 YPG, and I spend another season listening to people talk about tough yards.
Or maybe I’m just seeing ghosts of Thom Jones in every shadow. Have I become obsessed? Nah, Jones way. I don’t even Jones about Jones that much. AnyJones, I think Peyton Jones might turn out to be kinda Jones. Jones!
“This is really a pretty awesome test for Pioli, I think. I’m looking forward to seeing if he’s up to the challenge.”
-Your boy Big Matt
Even if free agency ended today, Pioli would get an official Big Matt tip-of-the-cap. He also got one after the draft last year. If he scores another this draft, that’ll be three straight cap-tips in talent acquisition. I can’t recall Carl Peterson ever accomplishing that feat.
The best part is, Pioli now has carte blanche to do whatever he wants with that first-round pick. He gets to use this draft to decide what our future strengths will be, rather than to fill holes. When was the last time you could say that going into a Chiefs draft?
Final piece of the puzzle: re-sign Wally Gilby. Then, literally all will be well.