Dec 18, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin (89) runs after a catch against Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams (38) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 19-14. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Three Remaining Questions For The Chiefs’ Offseason

For the Kansas City Chiefs and every other team in the National Football League, the initial casting of the wide net for players is done. Most free agents have been acquired, the Draft is behind us and college free agents have been selected. And like with every team, the next phase of the offseason is now upon us– where the Chiefs take their analysis of each player one step further to determine what their role will be on the 2013 roster.

I believe there are three roster questions that rise above all else this offseason. But first, let’s address the positional battles that I’m not as concerned about, because it’ll simply be a case of “may the best man win.” These battles– at corner, safety, the defensive line, inside linebacker and the offensive line– will be important, but it’s not any more complicated than having talented individuals compete to see who starts.

The likely starters at cornerback will be Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith, and the safety positions will likely be filled by Eric Berry and Dunta Robinson. In nickel packages and backup roles, we have a host of potential players, like rookie Sanders Commings; free agent Husain Abdullah; current backups DeQuan Menzie, Jalil Brown, Tysyn Hartman and Neiko Thorpe; and of course, former starter Kendrick Lewis. To start opposite Flowers and Berry at corner and safety respectively, as well as fill the nickel and backup roles, may the best man win.

Similarly, on our three-man defensive front, we’ve got Dontari Poe locking down the nose tackle and four options for defensive end in Tyson Jackson, free agent Mike DeVito, Allen Bailey and rookie Mike Catapano. I think Jackson and DeVito win out as starters, but again, may the best man win.

There’s another hot positional battle to play opposite Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker – free agent Akeem Jordan versus Alabama rookie Nico Johnson. May the best man win here as well.

My last “may the best man win” positional battle is our entire offensive line. For the first time since the glory days of Will Shields and Brian Waters at guard, John Tait and Willie Roaf at tackle and Casey Wiegmann at center, the Chiefs have the personnel to have a dominant offensive line and better-than-average backups. It looks like the Chiefs are going to lock up Branden Albert for the long-term. Joining Albert will be first pick Eric Fisher, free agent Geoff Schwartz and promising young talent in Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson and Donald Stephenson. With Albert and Fisher, this could be a unit for the ages.

The competition to start at corner, safety, the defensive line, inside linebacker and the offensive line will be a fight for the players and a great summer topic for us. But the arithmetic is pretty simple: if you outperform your competition, you will start.

These next three offseason questions are much bigger, because they have the potential to be multiplicative in nature, in that if they go bad, they create more than one problem. Not coincidentally, they all revolve around our receiving game. I’ll list them by draft pick:

1.  Jon Baldwin, first pick, 2011 Draft
2.  Dexter McCluster, second pick, 2010 Draft
3.  Tony Moeaki, third pick, 2010 Draft

We’ll start with wide receiver Jon Baldwin, whose off-the-field and on-the-field challenges have been widely documented, including a great post by Nathan Bramwell yesterday. I’d like to focus on his production, relative to his draft position. The Chiefs selected Baldwin in the first round as the 26th overall pick in 2011. As Nathan noted, other receivers who went in the first round were Pro-Bowlers A.J. Green at fourth overall and Julio Jones at seventh overall. Offensive “skill” players drafted after Baldwin included quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. The 2011 Draft class may be one of the weakest in recent history, but still yet, if Baldwin doesn’t play like a first-rounder this year, then not only are the Chiefs out a starting wide receiver, but the opportunity cost of losing a first-rounder puts the Chiefs at a competitive disadvantage, particularly in the AFC West. That year, the Denver Broncos got a gold mine in Von Miller with the second overall pick and the San Diego Chargers picked a two-year starter in defensive tackle Corey Liuget. Of course, the Oakland Raiders didn’t have a first round pick in 2011, because, well, they are the Oakland Raiders.

Next up: Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs selected McCluster with the fourth pick in the second round in 2010. By way of comparison, in 2010, offensive skill players chosen after McCluster included Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski and Seahawks’ receiver Golden Tate. McCluster has shown flashes of greatness but he’s also suffered injuries and the uncreativity of offensive coordinators on how to make best use of his explosive talents. We saw this year, when we didn’t have one, how valuable a second round pick is. If Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson can’t find a way to maximize McCluster’s talents, then once again, we will have failed to secure a starter and suffered the opportunity cost of losing a second round pick.

Finally, we come to tight end Tony Moeaki. Moeaki, who missed all of 2011 after tearing his ACL, was selected in the third round by the Chiefs in the 2010 Draft. Since he was drafted, Moeaki has 80 receptions for 1,009 yards and four touchdowns. In comparison to other third round tight ends from 2010, the Ravens’ Ed Dickson has 86 catches for 905 yards and six touchdowns, while the Saints’ Jimmy Graham has 215 receptions for 2,658 yards and 25 TD’s. Moeaki has underperformed, because of injury and outputs.

Each of these three players has stiff competition this year. For Baldwin, it comes from free agent acquisition Donnie Avery. For McCluster, it’s Devon Wylie. And Moeaki has free agent pickup and NFL starter Anthony Fasano and promising third rounder Travis Kelce to compete with for starter’s rights. I’m hoping Baldwin, McCluster and Moeaki each win out, because if they do, it shows that they do indeed have the talent to start and second, it’ll make the Chiefs’ initial investments whole.

I think it’s no accident that all three of the biggest potentially multiplicative problems are on the offensive side. In the six seasons since 2006, the Chiefs have had seven offensive coordinators: Mike Solari, Chan Gailey, Todd Haley (pulling double duty as Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator), Charlie Weiss, Bill Muir, Jim Zorn and Brian Daboll. This Chiefs’ offense has been in search of an identify since, arguably, the 2005 season when we went 10-6 under Head Coach Dick Vermeil and Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders (with a hat tip to Charlie Weis, who had the offense humming in 2010!). While the plights of Baldwin, McCluster and Moeaki are all individual position battles, each of them only make sense within a larger, cohesive system. If Pederson can pull that off, then he’ll help these these players find their way to a starting role.

Addicts, those are my top three offseason questions for the Chiefs to answer. What are yours??!!

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • scomstock55

    there is no “plight” of Baldwin, Moeaki, OR McCluster! They had NO QB PLAY worth a crap! Pile on putrid play calling and you have a recipe for disaster NO MATTER WHO your receivers are….oh, almost forgot…add a dash of I ONLY SEE DWAYNE BOWE OUT THERE! syndrome…and you have your explanation.
    If Alex Smith is anything close to what he is supposed to be, he will have been well worth the 2nd rounder we gave up….and he will make all these players better….I dont trust Mo-e “achey” to last, and expect Kelce and Fasano to be our starters in two TE sets for most of the year. In one TE sets I see Kelce being the man.

    • Chris Tarrants

      I don’t understand all the hate directed at Tony? He played great in 10, injured in 11 and had Quinn throwing him the ball in 12! I don’t hear people calling Charles or Berry injury prone? Even though they all had the exact same injury. I honestly think Tony Moeaki is the best TE that we have and if the kid or the journeyman want to knock him off his perch then they had better show up and bring some mad game

      • P Heitman

        Moeaki has been injury-prone since Iowa.

        • Bosco Cletus

          That’s correct, and apparently, he’s still not healthy missing the mini camp.

          • superman_25_58

            It wasn’t mandatory mini camp so he didn’t have to be there anyways. He is healthy he just had a knee scope nothing major like most people did that has had and ACL tear I thought.

        • superman_25_58

          I just don’t understand why people think Fasano will beat out Moeaki when Moeaki had like 200 more receiving yards than Fasano last year and he was coming off a major ACL injury.

          • P Heitman

            $$

          • superman_25_58

            Matt Flynn got paid a huge amount of money just to sit on the bench in Seattle so how much money you are getting paid doesn’t mean you will start IMO. This is bc the player with the best skill set to be a play maker/difference maker for their team will be the one to play hands down no matter what the contract is IMO.

          • P Heitman

            Those situations could not be more different, man. I think we’re gonna use them all, and if Tony plays well, awesome. But if you think they gave Fasano that contract to ride pine, you’re crazy.

      • scomstock55

        Im not hatin on him…he just cant stay healthy

      • BigGil

        He incurred so many injuries between 2007 through 2009 that Hawkeye fans began to refer to him as Mr. Glass (after Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Unbreakable) and joked about his seeming calcium deficiency. Dislocated elbow, broken wrist, broken foot, ankle injury, numerous head injuries, numerous calf/hamstring injuries (all in college). Add the ACL injury and numerous head and calf/hamstring injuries in the pros and a guy’s gonna get the “injury prone” label.

        I don’t think anyone could dispute that he’s capable of playing great when healthy… he just can’t exactly be relied upon to stay healthy…

  • Stacy D. Smith

    McCluster’s in great shape. Reid loves the guy and he’s not going to lose his job to Wylie. Baldwin and Moeaki are in SERIOUS trouble.

    • P Heitman

      Yup.

  • Phil Broz

    I think you missed one, very obvious, question mark in the QB position. Alex Smith with make or break Reid’s tenure at KC, so that’s one thing in itself. Secondly, I don’t know that the O line is as solid as you so cavalierly displayed. Yes, we got, what should be, a solid Tackle in the draft. But I question whether he and Albert can live together on the line. First off, BA’s a little bit over valued. He is only an “average” Left Tackle in my eyes. I think he could be great at right but he’s already made evident his unwillingness to make that move. We ‘might’ then have to replace Lilja, and I don’t know that it will be that simple.

    WR is the most glaring hole on this team, that I don’t believe was even remotely addressed with addition of Donnie Avery. Donnie Avery is not an improvement on Breaston, whom we let walk. I do feel that this is Baldwin’s last year to prove his worth and I’m not giving up on him. But even if he does pan out, we’re left with Bowe, Baldwin, and a hybrid in McCluster. That’s pretty shallow at the position. It does appear that we may be employing a multi-TE system, but that worries me somewhat due to the fact that Reid hasn’t done a lot of that in the past. I think we should have made a splash in FA and foster Baldwin, or at least taken one early in the draft. We did neither.

    Niko will need to be a big contributor as well. That last linebacker spot has been a hole for some time and if he doesn’t fill it, I don’t know that we have the talent on the D-Line to make up for it. They’re going to be above average, but you need good linebackers in a 3-4, or some beast men at nose and 3 technique.

    For the most part, I agree with your breakdown, just with some slightly different emphasis.

    • Chris Tarrants

      I highly suggest that you go back and watch ALL of the film you can find on Albert over the last 20 games. He is a top 5 left tackle! Your opinion doesn’t really matter when it sits next to cold hard facts. He is a great pass blocker and has done nothing but improve of his run blocking skills. People bump their gums about him not wanting to play RT? He wants to get paid to do the job that he has been doing for years. It’s stupid to think that you would play your cards any differently if your boss said we are going to pay you 9 mil for this one year but if you were a “TEAM” player then you would sign a new contract for about 7 mil and give us our two million back because now we don’t really want to trade you?

      • Phil Broz

        He’s given up 27.25 sacks and had 34 penalties in 5 years. He’s had 1 year in which he played every game. How about those numbers for ‘cold hard facts’? At best I’ll give him above average.

        • Chris Tarrants

          Ok but go back and crunch the numbers over the last two years and see what he has become, that my friend is not above average. Although he didn’t play all 16 games last season, he allowed just one sack when he did play and his run blocking was much improved. He is in the top 5 of left tackles! Don’t just take my word for it look up the opinions on anyone who works for ESPN. All he has done since coming into the league is get better and better, Inlike Fisher but don’t just assume that he is the better choice based on the fact that he was drafted first overall and then use what albert did 5 years ago as your base

          • P Heitman

            Last two years he’s given up less pressures and less sacks than both Ryan Long and Ryan Clady. Just sayin’.

          • scomstock55

            absolutely…its hard to average in the “learning” curve years for albert and apply them to his whole career…he did jump around positions a bit in college right? And isnt LT one of the most difficult positions to learn and dominate? I agree that he is a top 10 player at his position, and will be even more highly rated with a QB that can get rid of the ball without counting to 5 mississippi every stinking time

        • superman_25_58

          27.5 sacks and 34 penalties in 73 games played and 71 games started. That is only allowing 1 sack in basicly the fourth Quarter of every 3rd game he has played in and he is only getting better. I will take those odds all day long! Pay the man! To you people that question whether Albert and Fisher will get along my guess is they will do just fine. Fisher is the rookie and has already stated that he is willing to play RT. So ya looks like were destined for another bad azz line.

    • ArrowFan

      I’m sorry if you can’t see the possibility of a dominate O line but I sure can. We have been investing heavy in draft for several years now in our O line. If any position group as a whole gets the nod for easily the best on the team without trying it will be our O line.

    • scomstock55

      I agree with you on the QB …that is a question…but given the way he has played the last two years, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt…I think the big surprise on the o-line will be Schwartz…this guy is a stud…we will be fine there…on the d-line I think Poe takes a huge step forward and becomes a beast in the middle…I think we got rid of too many DEs from last year..but Im hoping that Bailey can step and produce. Devito and Jackson on the other side will be fine.

  • christian rajkovic

    I’ve never seen a more delusional fan base in my life. You were the worst team in the NFL.

    • Chris Tarrants

      worstthat’s pest team in the nfl? We had the worst record and I will give you that but the worst team in the nfl doesn’t send 6 players to the probowl son. Our team ended up with horrible coaching and even worse qb play for the whole season. I’m not sure who your team is nor do I really care to find out but this year you can take this to the bank that The Kansas City Chiefs will once again be a team that can run with any of the big dogs and ArrowHead will once again be the loudest, and most feared place to play in the NFL!

      • chiefdeorty

        Oh Chris I believe you are so right people will be shocked at the way that stadium will be on Sundays. With Andy Reid having fun again and with the team bring in the players that are hungry to compete with the players who looking for redemption it is going to be rockin at Arrowhead. donkeys be where signs ought to be put all around Arrowhead, it’s only right to warn about a big mean dog right?

        • KCMikeG

          Lord I hope you are right. The Arrowhead experience was so depressing last year. I’m ready for the Sea of Red to roar to a crest before drowning our opponents!

    • scomstock55

      whatever…worst record maybe..but def not the worst team…

    • P Heitman

      Just read all eight of your comments. You’re cute. Real nice guy. Good luck to the Dolphins this year, I hope overpaying for Mike Wallace was indeed worth it.

    • Chief Hokie

      What’s sadder? Chiefs fans discussing their favorite team with optimism, or people such as yourself having nothing better to do than to troll other teams’ sites DAILY? Time to get a hobby or find something better to do with your time ya fuckin wanker.

    • KCMikeG

      Try looking in the mirror.

  • ArrowFan

    If Baldwin struggles again against CB’s would it be worth trying him out in the slot to see if he would have any better chances of getting open when he is covered by an LB or Safety?

    • Canad-Ian

      Nickel is almost a base set for most teams these days so he’d still see a corner. Besides you want his size on the outside. If you put him in the slot you’re not gonna put DMC on the outside, you’ll end up putting him on the bench.

  • ArrowFan

    i’m also excited about our O line’s potential this year I can remember the P. Holmes years when every hand off was a given 5 yards or more. Or watching Green sit back in the pocket and patently wait for Tony G to squeeze open.

  • chiefdeorty

    I think McCluster Will be okay Baldwin I hope will have that break out year. Moeaki I would like to see him just over his injury prone self already but time will tell, he can catch and if healthy could be the best thing since Tony G. I happen to really like the pick up of Mardy Gilyard I followed him while he was at Cinncy, I like his story abd am really pulling for him to be a difference maker like he was in college. I do see receiver as the biggest Question mark. However I am not as concerned about ILB I think Nico will have that covered I think he will be great and become a household name in KC for a long time. I see some people are still knocking Alex Smith, Okay he has not taken a snap yet here but I think he will be the next Lenny, I don’t say that to donw play The great Len Dawson he is my all time favorite Chief I even got his autograph when the team flew back to Kc after pounding the faders in the1969 AFL championship game before they won the super-bowl 1/11/1969 on my 13th birthday wow what a present! I just like Smith at this time in his career, I think he is so focused and as hungry as that huge bear that just woke up from his winter nap! The o-line the talent is there Asamoah, Hudson and Miller were each ranked #2 at their perspective positions by the USA today predraft guide those years with considerable talent behind them I have high hopes for them to develop. I know this long and draw out but I don’t have anything else to do I am recovering from major back surgery.
    Also to the one who said we are delusional lets talk again this time next year to discuss just how delusional we are to think we as a fan base of a very talented team to be!

  • Adrian Morales

    So we get rid of arenas but keep brown thorpe and hartman uuuuhhhhhhh

    • P Heitman

      Haha. Yeah, real jewels, right?

      In all fairness, we signed Smith and Robinson, so…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ATM405 Aaron Morrow

    I would like to see Baldwin on the opposite side of Bowe with Avery playing the slot with his speed.

  • Jim Harper

    Miles your post was excellent as usual and right on target IMO. The only thing I took exception to was all the negativity in the comments below on a team that has yet to take the field, but I guess it is easy to be critical of other people you don’t know. I much prefer your “let the best man win” approach.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaelrhoward Michael R Howard

    I am confused as to why we didnt pick up another WR.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michaelrhoward Michael R Howard

      I think 9-7 is still probable.