Well, these new guys sure know how to keep us guessing.
When you think they’re going to zig, they zag. For weeks, reports were coming out about unproductive contract negotiations with the Chiefs’ unsigned stars and our new GM’s affinity for the “draft-and-develop” and “best-player-available” approaches. When the new regime traded our 2nd rounder (and more) for QB Alex Smith, it seemed cemented that LT Brandon Albert would be allowed to walk, Bowe would be tagged and denied a long-term deal for another year and the Chiefs would draft the best tackle available.
Then, the team locked up all three of the team’s most important free agents – including Albert – in a day. Chiefs nation rejoiced. This made the offensive linemen a secondary need moving forward and freed our hands to do whatever we pleased in the draft. Then, just as suddenly, the team cut our second-best lineman at the opposite tackle spot.
RT Eric Winston’s $4.5-million salary was more than reasonable given his skill and the value of the position. Did they need the cap space? Well, by restructuring DE Tyson Jackson’s contract, they doubled their cap space for 2013 and they still have Matt Cassel on the roster due $7.5 million next year. More head-scratching ensues.
Maybe they want to go young? Perhaps they’ll move Albert to RT, or start the 1st-overall tackle selection there. But, they just traded a high pick for a veteran quarterback. Not exactly a rebuilding move. If there were any doubts that the new regime believes it can win now, those were certainly dashed by the signing of CB Dunta Robinson, who is 31 and will make an average of $5 million a year for the next three.
Immediately, speculation was rife that the Chiefs intend to move him to free safety. This of course did not stop CB Javier Arenas from mouthing off to a local blogger who had the temerity to suggest that the team that gave up 29 passing touchdowns last year (only four teams allowed more) could use some cornerback help.
After spending a few days trying to reconcile the seeming contradictory nature of these moves over the past week, I finally realized the simple truth that we can only see a portion of the plan right now. Free agency hasn’t really started and the Draft is still more than a month away. Trying to figure out what the new regime is doing is like trying to put together a puzzle with only about 10% of the pieces.
To me, this is what we are seeing:
Reid wants an O-line that can pass block
Overall, Pro Football Focus rated the Chiefs offensive line as the 12th best in the league in 2012, but that ranking was pushed up for them being the 8th best run-blocking unit. They were far less effective when you look at their pass blocking (14th) and amount of penalties accrued (15th). Winston was pretty much the embodiment of that. Winston is a gnarly run-blocker, but committed 10 penalties and isn’t at his best blocking for passers.
This is actually both a deep Draft and free agency year for tackles, so if HC Andy Reid and company think they can find better and cheaper pass-blocking tackles out there, then this move makes perfect sense. In the NFL, it is considered a gentlemanly move to cut players as soon as you are confident you will be moving on from them. Releasing Winston now gives him a jump on free agency and the best chance to get value for his services. Had they waited until after the Draft, most teams looking for right tackles would have likely already filled their roster holes and the money out there would be spent as well.
The names I would keep my eye on are Gosder Cherilus of the Lions and Winston Justice, who previously played for Reid in Philly and will come cheap. The team is also reportedly arranging workouts with top tackle prospects Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher.
The new regime respects this defense
I honestly expected a lot more turnover on the defensive side of the ball by this point. However, the fact that the Chiefs kept Jackson and reportedly want to hold on to DE Glenn Dorsey shows that they think that this defense doesn’t need to be fiddled with much. They picked up Robinson quickly after he was cut by Atlanta for a surprisingly reasonable price. Generally, players will get a bit more money before free agency opens up, because they are essentially allowing the team to fill a hole and narrow their focus before the floodgates open. Once it’s open season on free agents, everyone’s personal value goes down.
That’s why, to me, the Robinson signing smacks of opportunism. The team knew they wanted to bring in a starting quality CB or two, they sent Robinson an offer not looking at him as a priority target and it worked. The contract isn’t huge, but having Dunta gives them some flexibility. I would be surprised if we don’t sign at least one more free agent D-back (the Rams’ Quintin Mikell is my best guess).
This is what GM John Dorsey means by “best player available”
BPA is the new zeitgeist phrase of the Chiefs blogverse. It’s what Dorsey lives by, and I think it’s been largely misunderstood. In order to pick whatever you believe is the best value out there, you need to have a solid team in the first place. If your fridge breaks, you don’t go out and buy a second washing machine just because it’s on sale. Very few people will be excited if the Chiefs use their 1st-overall pick on an offensive tackle, but if Dorsey thinks that the guy is a future Hall-of-Famer and there’s no longer any gaping holes on the roster, I can live with it.
We still need to get ourselves a backup QB (ideally through the Draft) and fill in a bit of depth here and there, but I think we starting to see the new guys make their mark on this team. The O-line is going to be reworked (although we’re not quite sure how), but otherwise we will be a team that rewards their own and fights to compete every year.
My qualms with specific moves aside thus far, I’m increasingly optimisitic for where this franchise is headed.