Can anyone out there remember an offseason like this? There have been more Earth-shattering developments this week than in the last three offseasons combined.
Obviously the news that affects the Chiefs the most is future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning signing with the Broncos. This is probably foolish, but I can’t help it – I am honestly pumped about the move. Before the signing, the writing was on the wall that this was going to be the Chiefs’ year in the division.
That writing is still there.
Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc. – the NFL pundit I most respect – still has the Chiefs as the team to beat in the AFC West and I agree. The fact that the Chiefs will now have stiff competition from the Donkeys only gets me fired up more. As far as I’m concerned, the Chiefs were a blocked field goal away from winning the division without their stars last year, and we shut down the default division winners in the last game of the season. This division is ours, and I am happy to accept all challengers.
Step right up, Peyton, let’s see what you got.
In the movie of Manning’s life, this season may very well be the climax – he’s been cut by his team of 12 years, he’s down and out and trying to climb back to greatness. I love the idea that in this movie, the less-showy, but physical and gritty Chiefs are the bad guys. We will take away his chance for a valiant career comeback because it is OURS.
All cockiness aside, from this point on, all of the Chiefs’ personnel focus has to be on neutralizing Manning, and not Greg Williams-style. With about $15 million left under the cap, the Chiefs have enough space to offer extensions to a few important players and sign their draft picks plus a few low-level free agent pickups for depth and training camp bodies.
That means that the only major acquisition the Chiefs are going to be able to make this year is their first-round pick. Therefore, it has to be an anti-Manning.
While I’m sympathetic to Paddy’s argument for trading back to build up draft ammunition and flexibility next year for a possible trade-up, I think this year is critical and the opportunity to land possibly one of the top 10 best young players of 2012 shouldn’t be squandered willy-nilly. It is also unclear whether there would be interest in trading into the Chiefs’ spot. There may be, but we can’t count on it, and we need to plan to pick someone at #11 going into April.
That is why I think it would be a mistake to take G David DeCastro. Under normal circumstances, picking DeCastro is exactly the type of conservative, forward-looking move that I would love. I desperately wanted the Chiefs to grab Gabe Carimi last year, and I continue to believe that the O-line needs to be the foundation of team’s offense. However, DeCastro is rated so highly exactly because he is so safe. Most scouts consider him to be NFL-ready, and if the Chiefs had an emergency need at guard, picking him would make a lot of sense. But there will be other guards available with the same amount of raw upside as DeCastro in later rounds that are simply a bit rougher and will require some coaching up. Plus, our needs along the interior O-line are not that great. Love him or hate him, Ryan Lilja, the weakest link, is just mediocre. With solid tackles and run-blocking TEs, we will be able to bounce runs to the outside with ease. In short yardage, Hillis will always able to give us something, even if the left guard isn’t steamrolling forward.
The point is, while DeCastro would be a great addition, he won’t be a game-changer for the Chiefs – especially against Peyton Franken-neck Manning. The Chiefs could have the best running game in the league (again) behind an O-line replete with Hall-of-Famers (again) and still not be able to keep Manning from pulling out a clutch win in the fourth quarter or simply out gunning Cassel in a shootout – a situation that is not difficult to imagine. For reference, look up the puntless 2003 Wild Card game between KC and Indy. SPOILER ALERT, we lost.
ILB Luke Kuechly would also be a safe pick at a position of need. But with Belcher and Brandon Siler coming back next year, I think the Chiefs are above average there too – Belcher is an reasonably reliable overachiever and we don’t even know what we have in Siler yet. Kuechly is also known for his speed and awareness, able to chase down runners coming out of the backfield. He is not known as a great pass-rusher, therefore, he too is not the kind of guy who I think would be a game changer for us.
That leaves Dontari Poe, ranked the 10th best talent overall by Scouts Inc., and the best DT by nearly all evaluators. As AA commenters have pointed out, Poe has a fairly high bust factor for a guy with his immense physical skills. But, if there was ever a time that the Chiefs need to be bold and take a chance on a guy that could be special, it’s now. Peyton-freaking-Manning just entered our division, and he’s likely to be here for a few years. And oh, by the way, there’s this other guy named Philip Rivers. He plays for a team the Chiefs haven’t swept in the division in a decade.
Poe is also knocked for not being a prototypical nose tackle – especially for Romeo Crennel’s preferred block-eating scheme. But the fact is that the guy has the physical potential to be a penetrating Jay Ratliff/Haloti Ngata type. He’s not short and stout like Vince Wilfork – the ideal creature for Crennel’s scheme – but guys in the mold of Wilfork are more rare than elite quarterbacks.
The Chiefs could rotate him with Amon Gordon, a bland but valuable run stuffer, and allow Poe to try and blow up the inside protection on passing downs. Jerrel Powe, the D-line’s invisible man, may develop enough this offseason to provide good depth as well. Depending on how Poe does throughout the year, the Chiefs could gradually increase his responsibilities and playing time.
Crennel appears to also be considering DT Michael Bockers, who could contribute as a 3-4 DE in the place of either Glenn Dorsey or Tyson Jackson – two expensive underachievers I wouldn’t mind discarding.
The main idea though, is simply adding a card to our hand that will counteract the arrival of perhaps the best QB who has ever lived. Both DeCastro and Kuechly will probably be fine football players. But to draft either of them would be declining to throw a punch in what is going to be the most interesting division battle the AFC West has seen in years.