The dust is still settling regarding the monumental trade between the Chiefs and the 49ers involving Alex Smith. The impact and fallout from this trade won’t truly be felt until well after the free agency period and the NFL draft. This trade has changed the entire scope of the NFL off-season. But that’s not what this column is about. I want to talk about “What’s Next?” for our Chiefs’ offense.
In researching this week’s article, I broke down the Chiefs’ roster player by player. I went to several different sources and found their contract lengths and how much we owe them this year. In doing that research I found some rather gaping holes in our team that certainly need to be addressed this off-season. If you thought quarterback was our only need, you’re sorely mistaken. I’d like to break down our offense first.
Beginning with the QB position, the Chiefs currently hold four signal callers under contract (or will as soon as the Alex Smith trade is finalized on March 12th.) Those four are Matt Cassel, Alex Smith, Ricky Stanzi and Alex Tanney. The fifth quarterback on the roster, Brady Quinn, was only with the team on a one year contract, and thus becomes a free agent with everyone else in just fewer than two weeks. It is almost a certainty that with the Smith trade, Cassel will have his pink slip taped to his locker. (Is that still how they fire players?) But don’t fret, Cassel supporters: reports indicate he may land on his feet in Arizona as part of the Kolb/Skelton love triangle. Still another rumor has surfaced indicating the Chiefs may be shopping their former starter to the New York Football Jets for a fifth rounder. If Dorsey could pull this off, he would have gotten more production out of Cassel than the last two years combinded. Either way, the Chiefs’ leadership would be silly to leave Cassel on the roster as they would owe him $7.5 million if his jersey still says “Chiefs” on April 1st. Regardless, the other two passers remaining aren’t a good combination as a number two and three. Thus, in addition to going out and securing Alex Smith, Reid and Dorsey may be forced to bring in another name to compete with the wonder twins (Stanzi and Tanney) for a backup role. I don’t think Quinn’s up to the job. Perhaps one of our two third round picks will be spent on a quarterback to come and fill this role. I hope I didn’t just strike a nerve.
Moving down the depth chart, our next stop is the wide receiver position. Obviously the biggest question mark here is Dwayne Bowe. We all remember the pins and needles we were on last season after Pioli handed him the franchise tag and Bowe sat out of training camp. While I was impressed with the football shape Bowe was in when he did arrive back in the BBQ City, I wasn’t impressed with how he played in a new offensive system after only having the playbook for a few days. As we come ever closer to the franchise tag deadline, I see that same predicament in our future. However, this isn’t Pioli and Crennel. Perhaps Dorsey and Reid don’t see a future for number 82 on the “new Chiefs” and decide neither to resign nor tag him. I think this is an unlikely scenario, as all indications are that the Chiefs are heavily entrenched in contract talks with Bowe’s agent. The holding point seems to be guaranteed money (isn’t it always?) as the Chiefs are offering 5 years with $24M guaranteed and Bowe’s agent wants 4 years with $30M guaranteed. I have to believe that Bowe and the Chiefs will come to a common ground, but his release is possible all the same.
A bigger question than all of this, though, is who lines up on the opposite side of the field from the D-Bowe Show? We haven’t really had a legitimate receiver combo in this town in a very long time. I was hoping that J.B. (Jon Baldwin) would step up and fill that role last year. While we can’t blame it all on him with the merry-go-round quarterback system Crazy Crennel adopted, he still didn’t perform when he needed to. We heard about all of these “circus stunt catches” he made in training camp and then when it counted we got nothing. I would love to see a veteran free agent like a Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace come in and take up that WR2 spot.
The next position I would like to examine is tight end. Last year, I was excited with the signing of Kevin Boss. With Tony Moeaki coming back from knee surgery and his fate uncertain, I was happy to see us sign a big, pass catching tight end. Then Kevin got smacked in the head really hard, he was cut from the team and it’s really uncertain if the guy will or even should ever play again because of the amount of concussions he’s had. I feel for Kevin, but that’s left a gaping hole in our offense. The leadership really needs to take a look at this because as of now, the Chiefs only have Tony and Kevin Brock under contract. I don’t expect Andy Reid’s offense to mimick the four tight end sets that have made Bill Bellicheck famous, but I would like to see a bit of depth added to the pass catching tackles. I would love to see us pry Dustin Keller away from the Jets or even Thomas Crabtree from the Packers during the free agency period. In my dreams, Tony G (who is also a free agent) would come back for one more season in the Sea of Red, but I think I’m just dreaming there.
The last position group I’d like to address on offense is our warriors in the trenches. (Please don’t tell Eric Winston I referred to him as a warrior. He might think I expect him to be a gladiator and fight a lion with a spear.) All jokes aside, I think Winston did a commendable job holding down the right side of the line last year. Of all the free agent moves that Scotty made in his last year at the helm, I think Winston was the most solid. In addition to Winston, we’ve got some great young talent there as well in Asmoah, Stephenson, Hudson and Allen. Actually, looking back, Pioli did pretty well drafting offensive linemen. It was the D-Linemen where he needed a seeing eye dog, but that’s a whole other post. I digress. For me, the biggest question mark here is Brandon Albert.
If you can’t read the writing on the wall, Albert is perhaps on his way out of Arrowhead. I don’t buy any of this smoke that Dorsey has been floating about “you put your best five linemen on the field.” Anybody that thinks Albert is going to resign only to be moved to right guard is smoking the good stuff. He has flat out said that he is a left tackle and that’s what he’ll play. If he’s not playing for us, it will be for somebody else. The biggest issue I have with the guy is his back. I think B.A. has played very well for us and only allowing one sack last season with a pair of quarterbacks that refused to get rid of the ball is extremely commendable. But back problems for linemen spell disaster, and I’d have a hard time applauding a deal that kept Albert in KC long term if it meant we had to deal with his nagging injury. As unpopular of a decision as it is, I would almost rather they draft this Joeckel kid with the first pick and let Albert walk. I know Brandon is proven and the rookie hasn’t played a down of pro ball yet, but to me it just makes the most sense.
Finally, I’d like to give a quick mention to running backs. Obviously, we have one of the most talented backs in the league in our beloved number 25, Jamaal Charles. The stable of young runners behind him did pretty well last year, I thought. Peyton Hillis’ contract is up and I say let him walk. I had high hopes for a thunder and lightning combo last season and it fizzled into a minor rain storm. If the leadership wants to run a two-back system, they could possibly find a power back in the later rounds of the draft, but with Draughn, Gray and Eachus I think we’re sitting ok on that front.
So that’s it, Addicts. That’s my take on the state of our offense as it stands right now. Am I off the mark or am I in the ball park? What say you?