Last week I began this two-part article by exploring free agent options, on the offensive side of the ball, for the Kansas City Chiefs. If you missed last Tuesday’s piece, please take a moment to get yourself up to speed. If you’ve already read it, let’s jump right in and take a look at the defensive and special teams units. Remember, I’m only looking at viable options for the Chiefs. Any players omitted from this list aren’t in my armchair GM plans for this team.
1. Ropati Pitoitua, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs initially signed Pitoitua in May of 2012, just six days after having his contract terminated by the New York Jets. He was brought in to provide depth, but due to an injury to starter Glenn Dorsey, Pitoitua started 10 games for Kansas City. The Chiefs got a maximum return on their modest $950,000 investment. Pitoitua was by no means a world-beater in 2012, but he was only expected to be a rotational player. He finished the year with 51 tackes, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass defensed. With Dorsey likely heading for another team, it would be wise to keep Pitoitua around to have depth available at the position.
1. Brad Jones, Green Bay Packers
Jones filled in admirably for starter Desmond Bishop when Bishop was placed on injured reserve back in August. Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the ten best inside linebackers in football this season. Green Bay has a crowd at linebacker with D.J. Smith and Desmond Bishop returning from injury in 2013. They’re also faced with the decision to bring back A.J. Hawk or not. Green Bay needs to free up some cap space to lock up valuable pieces of their organization. Cutting Hawk won’t create much room for them though. They only stand to save a few million dollars by releasing him ($2.25 million to be exact). Jones is a three-down linebacker and would be an upgrade over the late Jovan Belcher and his successor Brandon Siler.
2. A.J. Hawk, Green Bay Packers
Without re-hashing the linebacker and cap situation in Green Bay, it’s clear that either Hawk or Jones will be the odd man out next month. Hawk would likely have to take a pay cut to return. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll want to do that. He may force Green Bay’s hand and wind up on the open market, where he’s sure to get more than what he’s scheduled to make in 2013. Brad Jones is younger and more versatile than Hawk so he may have the edge in being re-signed. Hawk graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 20th best ILB in 2012.
3. Brandon Siler, Kansas City Chiefs
Ex-San Diego Charger Brandon Siler was brought to Kansas City on a one-year deal in 2011. He was originally slated to compete for the starting job at inside linebacker, but Siler never made it to the field due to a ruptured Achilles tendon in a late-August practice. Despite not playing a down for the Chiefs in 2011, his contract was extended another year. He rebounded in 2012, but he was still unable to win the job. Siler’s contribution to Kansas City, for most of the year, was on special teams. When the starter Jovan Belcher claimed his own life on Dec. 1st, Siler stepped in to start four games in the final month of the season. During that stretch, Siler had dual roles: defensively (making 13 stops) and on special teams. A contract of $1-2 million should do the trick and secure a solid depth option at ILB and a regular special teams contributor.
1. Sean Smith, Miami Dolphins
26-year old Sean Smith will be an attractive option in free agency. The kid is 6’3″, weighs 218 pounds, and has a 40 time that hovers in the mid-4.4 range. Smith is also durable, making 32 consecutive starts for the Dolphins the past two seasons. Miami’s in great position to retain Smith, but it’s been reported that they may not be keen on his contract expectations. There will be plenty of help available in free agency at the Corner position, but Smith is still likely to find a team willing to pay him what he wants. He’s an ascending young player who has made a name for himself by consistently drawing (and handling) an offense’s #1 receiver.
2. Chris Houston, Detroit Lions
Houston doesn’t have the size you want in an NFL corner these days, but he plays much bigger than his 5’11″, 178-pound frame. According to Pro Football Focus, he surrendered a first down or touchdown on only 4.81% of his snaps in coverage (compare that to 5.05% surrendered by Kansas City’s own Brandon Flowers). Houston received Detroit’s Lem Barney Award as the team’s most valuable defensive player in 2012. He’s quietly a very important part of that Detroit defense. The Lions are in cap trouble and have more than twenty players headed for unrestricted free agency. The most notable names on that list of UFA’s (excluding Houston) are: Cliff Avril, DeAndre Levy, Justin Durant, Gosder Cherilus, Louis Delmas, and Jason Hanson. The six of them, like Chris Houston, are all starters. Couple that with an eye-popping 2013 cap number for Matthew Stafford (north of $20 million) and it’s quite possible that Houston hits the open market.
3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Philadelphia Eagles
Rodgers-Cromartie, affectionately known as “DRC,” rounds out the list of available cornerback options for Kansas City because he’s the player Andy Reid and the Eagles received as compensation for trading quarterback Kevin Kolb. Reid’s ousting in Philadelphia shook everything up in Philadelphia. That’s ultimately an aside to DRC’s future in the City of Brotherly Love though. Rodgers-Cromartie may have already been on his way out. He had hoped for an extension prior to the end of the 2012 season, but the Eagles front office never flinched. Rodgers-Cromartie seems to be an unlikely candidate for the franchise tag. The 2013 number for cornerbacks is right around $11 million. Philadelphia is yet another team facing cap problems. The Eagles have a hill to climb just at the cornerback position. On top of Rodgers-Cromartie heading for free agency, Nnamdi Asomugha is due $15 million for 2013. All of that could lead to DRC reuniting with Andy Reid in Kansas City.
1. Patrick Chung, New England Patriots
Chung was drafted by New England in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. When he’s been healthy, he’s been an asset to that Patriots defense. Unfortunately, he hasn’t often been healthy. Since being drafted, Chung has only played in all 16 games of a single season once. Pat Chung has value for most secondaries around the league because he can play both Safety positions. Adding him to the defensive backfield in Kansas City would not only create much needed depth at that spot, but also provide an insurance policy for the frequently injured Kendrick Lewis. The Patriots have had a revolving door at Safety the past two seasons so it’s noteworthy that Chung’s been able to stick around in Foxboro.
2. Corey Lynch, San Diego Chargers
The five-year veteran out of Appalachian State has been a journeyman in his NFL career. Lynch has played for three different teams: Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and most recently San Diego. He would be a good fit for Kansas City’s 3-4 defense, having played in the same scheme for the Chargers. Lynch is another defensiveback with versatility, who could play at either Safety position. Corey Lynch started four games this season when Atari Bigby was sidelined with a groin injury. Lynch is a fundamentally sound Safety with good discipline in coverage. He’ll be one of the better values in free agency at Safety and should only fetch a contract somewhere in the $10 million dollar range.
1. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs
Would it surprise you to know that Dustin Colquitt has been with the Kansas City Chiefs longer than Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and Brandon Flowers? Colquitt and Derrick Johnson are the two longest tenured members of this football team, with both drafted in 2005. Colquitt is easily forgotten because he’s been one of the most consistent players this organization has had over the past decade. He has a career average of 44.7 yards per punt. Colquitt’s 2012 performance may have been his finest. He set a new single-season franchise record by dropping 45 punts inside the 20-yard line (he held the previous record of 41, set in 2009). As odd as it may sound, Colquitt may deserve a new contract from the Chiefs more than any other player on this roster.
2. Thomas Gafford, Kansas City Chiefs
Thomas Gafford owes his tenure with the Chiefs to a Jean-Philippe “J. P.” Darche injury. Darche was Kansas City’s former long snapper from 2007-2008. Gafford bounced around the NFL until November of 2008 when he took over as the Chiefs’ long snapper for their final 9 games. He hasn’t had a bad snap, that I can recall, since 2009. Kendall Gammon spoiled Chiefs Kingdom by being as dependable as they come in that role. Gafford is cut from the same cloth as Gammon and should figure into the team’s long-term plans.
3. Edgar Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
Jones was originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs in July of 2012. His value to this football team is primarily as a special teams player, but he’s a standout in that role. Edgar Jones lead the Chiefs with 7 special teams tackles in 2012. He also recovered two fumbles on special teams and returned an interception, thrown by punter Michael Koenen, for a touchdown in Tampa Bay. New special teams coach Dave Toub consistently fielded some of the NFL’s best kick coverage units while he was in Chicago. Keeping Jones around only improves Toub’s chances of doing the same in Kansas City.
There are only five weeks left before free agency opens around the NFL. John Dorsey is hard at work devising a free agency plan for this franchise. Hopefully some of the player names I cited over the past two weeks either stick with or make their way to the organization for the 2013 campaign. Dorsey comes from an organization that believes in building through the draft, but they also recognize the importance of identifying talent in free agency.
The debate about who to bring in will continue, but I’m sure most Chiefs fans will agree that this team needs to get the offseason started with a few key signings before the draft in April. I think I put a pretty solid list together, but you’re welcome to disagree with me. Please indulge yourselves in either commending my efforts or telling me how big of an idiot I am (below in the comment section).
Until next time, Addicts!