The sting of an epic postseason collapse has worn off and the second year of the Dorsey-Reid administration is officially underway. The team is already in the process of shoring up the roster by offering reserve-futures contracts to several players. The free agency period doesn’t open for another eight weeks (March 11th is the official start date). Before we dive headlong into what Kansas City might be thinking about the 2014 NFL Draft, I’d like to take a look at what help they can get from current NFL players.
I’m certainly not privy to front office information, but I tend to think 2014 will be a fairly modest year for free agency spending in Kansas City. Things were different last year. John Dorsey, the team’s general manager, needed to patch several holes on a roster with a talented core of players. In 2014, he’ll have less work to do, but likely also fewer resources to do it with. The Chiefs have about a half-dozen notable players with contracts that expire over the next two months. Among them: Branden Albert, Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah, Dexter McCluster, Kendrick Lewis, and Geoff Schwartz.
After the best single-season performance of quarterback Alex Smith’s career, there’s also a pressing contract extension to consider. You quickly see why 2014 might be a year where the Chiefs will need young, contracted players to develop and a successful draft class. I’m convinced that we’ll probably only see two or three high-profile free agent signings this offseason. As young players will be counted on to step up and mature, Dorsey will also have to backfill the roster with talented depth. I expect a number of lower-profile signings to maintain the overall level of talent on the team.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a look at the players that should be available in this year’s free agent class. Today, I’d like to look specifically at offensive options. The following players aren’t listed in any particular order (we’re just numbering for the sake of organization). With all hearts and minds clear, let’s get started.
Despite the addition of Donnie Avery in 2013, the Chiefs still stand in need of improvement at this position. Avery was inconsistent at best and had only four big games the entire season. Junior Hemingway, while talented, has not yet proven he can be relied upon in this offense. Fortunately for Kansas City, Avery can play in the slot and make room for a true No. 2 receiver should Dorsey sign one.
1. Julian Edelman (New England Patriots)
The departure of Wes Welker in 2013 open the door for a breakout season on Edelman’s part. The Patriot receiver caught a career-high 105 passes in the regular season (36 more than he’d caught in 4 combined seasons with the Pats). The fifth-year veteran is sure-handed and is valuable in the return game. Dexter McCluster is also scheduled to hit free agency and Edelman would be an upgrade at the position. Dex is the better returnman, but Edelman offers more offensively. Overall, he’s a better football player and would be a good complement to Dwayne Bowe.
2. Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles)
The former Missouri Tiger is likely atop of most of the FA wishlists in Chiefs Kingdom. Despite a torn ACL in training camp last season, he still figures to get a serious look in free agency. I’d venture to guess he’ll be one of the most highly sought after free agents available. Maclin has publicly stated a desire to return to Philadelphia, but the Eagles have 4-5 notable players set to hit free agency. The fact that Riley Cooper is one of them may play into Kansas City’s hands.
3. Dexter McCluster (Kansas City Chiefs)
McCluster just capped off his best NFL season with an invite to next month’s Pro Bowl. He recorded career highs in receptions, receiving yards, yards per catch, touchdown receptions, and a number of punt return categories. He still hasn’t quite lived up to his draft position, but he’s a solid contributor to this football team. McCluster’s also proven to be dangerous in the return game under special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He lead the league in punt return touchdowns in 2013. He’s more valuable to the Chiefs than he is another football team. He’s also a humble player who shouldn’t be hard to re-sign to a reasonable contract.
4. Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks)
The four-year receiver out of Notre Dame’s career has been trending upward since he joined the league in 2010. 2013 was the best single-season of his tenure in Seattle. Tate averaged a gaudy 14 yards per catch last season and would clearly upgrade the position that Donnie Avery was signed to shore up a year ago. Both Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are scheduled for free agency come March. Percy Harvin has a 2014 cap number of $13.4 million. Bringing both Tate and Baldwin back would tie heavy coin up at the position. There’s a good chance that Tate breaks free and finds a new NFL home.
5. Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Sanders, a former third-round pick drafted by the Steelers in 2010, is an intriguing option for the Chiefs. He’s one of the lesser known wide receivers in this free agency class, but he’s young and has steadily improved since entering the league. Sanders is a fleet-footed option (he runs a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash) who’d help the Chiefs stretch the field. He’ll also contribute in the return game if called upon. In terms of his stature, he’s basically a lighter-version of Donnie Avery.
Tight end is another position group that got a lot of attention in 2013. The Chiefs made two free agency acquisitions (in Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath). They also used a third-round draft pick on former Bearcat Travis Kelce. Injuries plagued this bunch all season long. Kelce was placed on injured-reserve with a right knee injury. Fasano and McGrath both missed games throughout the year with an assortment of injuries. I think the Chiefs could do without a major signing here, but there will be help available to upgrade the position.
1. Andrew Quarless (Green Bay Packers)
Quarless is the second of two Packer tight ends scheduled to hit free agency in March. He’s spent most of his tenure in Jermichael Finley’s shadow in Green Bay, but could find some value on the open market. It’s also possible that he returns to Green Bay given the nature of Finley’s serious neck injury (that is reportedly going to require spinal fusion surgery). He’s unlikely to fetch a major deal, but would be a great third tight end with the blocking ability to play lots of snaps in Reid’s offense. His numbers won’t jump off the screen at you, but there are several quality pass-catching options in Green Bay. In an offense with fewer standout players, he could catch on and be productive.
2. Jeff Cumberland (New York Jets)
Jeff Cumberland is a name you aren’t likely to hear much of in the offseason. He’s a young tight end who just doesn’t have the name value of players like Finley. He’sslowly gotten better with each season in the league though. Over the past two seasons, he’s amassed 757 receiving yards on just 55 catches (good for 13.8 yards per catch). He’s been more valuable to the Jets offense than Kellen Winslow. Cumberland’s the kind of player I’d sign in Kansas City’s situation with two recent investments in the tight end position.
3. Dennis Pitta (Baltimore Ravens)
Pitta’s name has been thrown around quite a bit in Kingdom circles since the season ended. A dislocated hip sidelined him for three-quarters of the 2013 season. It’s been reported that he would like to return to Baltimore. There’s also been discussion about GM Ozzie Newsome using the franchise tag to retain him. Pitta would give Kansas City a much-needed boost on third down and in the red zone. Coming off of an injury, there’s a chance his open market value will be where the Chiefs need it to be to go back to the tight end well.
The Chiefs actually had a solid trio of offensive guards last year, but this season two of them are headed for unrestricted free agency (Schwartz and Asamoah). Given their performances, it could prove difficult to bring both of them back. In 2014, guard might be the richest position group among any on the offensive side of the football. Several young and ascending players are scheduled to hit the open market.
1. Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs)
Schwartz joined the Chiefs last year on a one-year deal to help add depth to a young and inexperienced offensive line. At the time, I thought this was perhaps one of John Dorsey’s best signings. The injury bug feasted on Kansas City’s offensive front in 2013. Schwartz filled in admirably and played some of the best football of any other player in the position group. He recently told 610 Sports that he’s looking for contract stability. That could be tough to come by in Kansas City, as he’s not the incumbent for any starting position along the offensive line.
2. Jon Asamoah (Kansas City Chiefs)
In terms of pure talent, the fourth year guard out of Illinois is one of the two or three best offensive linemen on the team. Since being drafted, he’s been one of the quietest members of that bunch. That’s largely because he’s the most consistent of those players. Guards who play well rarely have their names called. Asamoah’s a versatile guard with the strength to fit Reid’s drive-blocking preferences and the athleticism to get downfield and block. Being just 25, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be a priority to re-sign.
3. Lemuel Jeanpierre (Seattle Seahawks)
Jeanpierre converted to guard from a defensive line position early in his collegiate career with South Carolina. He went on to be acquired by the Seahawks in 2010 as an undrafted free agent. He has only eight career starts in three NFL seasons, but he’s played very well in spots. Signing him would give the Chiefs a quality and affordable insurance plan in case either Schwartz or Asamoah defect for another team.
We’ll pick this back up next week and explore defensive options for the Chiefs. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts about players you think can help this team in 2014. Use the comment section below to chime in. As always we appreciate your readership and support!
Until next time, Addicts!
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