Mr. John Dorsey, You’ll Earn Your Keep In Year Two

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Two weeks ago, Pro Football Writers of America named Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey their NFL executive of the year. Dorsey aided head coach Andy Reid in engineering one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in league history. The Chiefs made a nine-game improvement in 2013 and earned their first postseason berth in three years. Their season ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but the team still exceeded everyone’s first year expectations.

In 2014, John Dorsey will earn his paycheck. Kansas City has a number of key players scheduled to hit free agency, player personnel needs, a looming contract extension for their Pro Bowl quarterback, a restrictive cap situation, less than a normal slate of draft picks, and an ostensibly tougher regular season schedule. That’s quite a lot for a new GM to deal with in just his sophomore campaign. I tend to think Dorsey’s up for the job, but he’ll have to demonstrate that to sustain a high-approval rating with the members of Chiefs Kingdom.

Let’s take Dorsey’s year two assignment piece by piece.

Pending Free Agents

Kansas City has several pending free agents in 2014. The following list of players are scheduled for free agency in one form or another come March:

Branden Albert LT UFA KC TBD 29 $9,828,000
Tyson Jackson DE UFA KC TBD 27 $7,200,000
Jon Asamoah G UFA KC TBD 25 $1,551,030
Dexter McCluster WR UFA KC TBD 25 $1,400,000
Kendrick Lewis S UFA KC TBD 27 $1,374,725
Geoff Schwartz G UFA KC TBD 27 $700,000
Frank Zombo OLB UFA KC TBD 26 $640,000
Akeem Jordan ILB UFA KC TBD 27 $575,000
Thomas Gafford LS UFA KC TBD 30 $565,000
Husain Abdullah S UFA KC TBD 28 $555,000
Quintin Demps S UFA KC TBD 28 $555,000
Ricky Henry G RFA KC TBD 26 $555,000
Anthony Toribio DE UFA KC TBD 28 $555,000
Kyle Williams WR UFA KC TBD 25 $259,412
Richard Gordon TE RFA KC TBD 26 $65,294
Jerrell Powe DT ERFA KC TBD 26 $65,294

For cap reasons we’ll explore later, a few notable players on this list are unlikely to return to Kansas City. The challenge for Dorsey will be sifting the wheat from the chaff with a handful of starting-caliber players and a host of roleplayers. The football gods showed the Chiefs favor concerning injuries in 2013. They may not be as lucky next season and can’t afford a major dropoff in depth. It’s for this reason that I expect players like Abdullah, Demps, Schwartz, and Toribio to have a real chance at being re-signed.

Player Personnel Needs

One of the players I expect to defect when the free agency period begins is safety Kendrick Lewis. His departure leaves the Chiefs with a hole on the back end of their defense. Sanders Commings spent most of the regular season on injured-reserve and he’s still an unknown commodity. Dorsey can’t, in good conscience, stand pat at a position that proved to be the Achilles’ heel of the Chiefs’ defense. Free safety may well be one of their three biggest needs this offseason, but Kansas City will have options.

Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward are the best two free safeties scheduled to hit the open market. The Chiefs aren’t in good position to snare either of them. The two players are going to command big contracts if they aren’t retained by their current teams. Fortunately, a second wave of more affordable options will also be available: most notably, Mike Mitchell, Chris Clemons, Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps, and Husain Abdullah.

Alex Smith’s Contract Extension

Alex Smith is coming off of a Pro Bowl season where he posted career highs in multiple categories. His 2013 performance, a $7.5 million cap hit in 2014, and just one year left on his current deal gives Dorsey incentive to extend his contract. Smith’s presence was a major contributor to the turnaround in 2013. Leadership, efficiency, and a low turnover rate make him the answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Security was a prime factor in Smith coming to Kansas City so it’s likely that an extension will make him a happy man.

January 24, 2014; Kapolei, HI, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass during the 2014 Pro Bowl practice at Kapolei High School. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to say what we can expect from the Smith negotiation, but I’d venture to guess that Matt Schaub’s September 2012 extension might be a solid point of reference. The Texans gave Schaub a four-year, $62 million deal (with $30 million guaranteed). I’m not convinced he’ll get a deal quite that lucrative, but I think it might be in the ballpark. The key here is bringing Smith’s 2014 cap number down and that may mean a 4-5 year contract. It’s possible that this may be the first domino to fall this offseason.

Cap Restrictions

Kansas City is currently estimated to have about $2.5 million of cap space. That number will change when the new league year begins. The salary cap is projected to be around $126.3 million (a near 3% increase from 2013). Dorsey will have some work to do to get Alex Smith extended, players re-signed, 2-3 impact players from free agency, and his 2014 draft picks signed. He’ll be able to create space, but that will certainly require parting ways with a handful of players. It could also mean restructuring the contracts of others.

Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, and Eric Berry all have 2014 cap numbers exceeding $10 million. That presents Dorsey with a few good options to create additional cap space. Flowers was restructured just last year so he may be an unlikely choice to restructure again in 2014. The remaining three could all be paid a visit by Dorsey about their contracts. As close as Kansas City is to becoming a viable contender in the AFC, players could be more than willing to do so if it meant an improved roster.

Fewer Draft Picks

The acquisition of quarterback Alex Smith in 2013 cost the Chiefs a second-round draft pick in the forthcoming NFL draft. Disregarding any future compensatory picks, Kansas City will have a half-dozen draft picks in May’s draft. They’ll have only one Top 50 selection in 2014 and that pick will come in the bottom-third of the opening round. Even if Dorsey can pull a rabbit out of his hat with the salary cap, the Chiefs are unlikely to have as big a free agent class as they had in 2013. That makes hitting on draft picks all the more important.

Early mocks across the web project wide receiver, cornerback, defensive end, and tight end to be the positions that will provide the best value and players available when the Chiefs go on the clock. Of that crop, names like Kelvin Benjamin, Jace Amaro, Darqueze Dennard, Stephon Tuitt, and Allen Robinson come to mind. Kansas City could be looking for new starters at as many as three spots next season.

nfl_draft_14

Tougher Schedule

As has been mentioned many times in the past three weeks, the Chiefs’ 2014 schedule features all four teams that made the conference championships in the postseason tournament. In all, seven of the games they’ll play next season will be against teams that qualified for the 2013 NFL playoffs (eleven games will be played against teams with winning records). They beat only one such team last year (the Philadelphia Eagles in the Week 3 TNF matchup). On paper, a return to the postseason won’t be easy for the Chiefs.

Getting back will require keeping the talent pool steady and shoring up the soft spots in the roster. That will be an intricate balancing act between free agency, the draft, and the natural development of players already on the roster. Dorsey’s only responsible for the first two parts of that trifecta, but they’re key cogs in the wheel of success in year two. The Kingdom is going to learn just how good the Dorsey hiring was when all is said and done.

What say you about the job Dorsey’s tasked with this offseason? Is this a good litmus test for him or are you already convinced he should be the long-term answer at general manager? Use the comment section below to chime in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support!

Until next time, Addicts!

Topics: Kansas City Chieds

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  • kcpauly

    Sounds like a good test to me, I think JD will pull it all off and even suprise us all with a few things good or bad, I guess we will see what happens, and go from there, I am as always hoping for the best of course, but being a long time Chiefs fan am expecting the worst, lol not really though I am staying positive and optimistic about the new regime’ until shown otherwise, and good read Reach, oh yeah I almost forgot, Micah I love AS11 getting a new contract, if for nothing else just to burn your ass, and have to listen to you bitch and moan about it for the next 5 yrs. LMFAO…..
    Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      It’s an excellent test. Unfortunately, he’s inheriting the cap issues of the previous regime, but it’s a great cap management opportunity for him. He seemed confident about the offseason possibilities in a recent interview. That’s always a positive sign.

      • kcpauly

        Ya, I think JD has been around football enough to have a pretty good idea how to make his first run at GM a good one, he seems to be the kind of guy that succeeds at what he does, going to be a very interesting off season(again) As long as he gets rid of K.Lewis and finds us a real safety I will be happy LOL ;~b

      • KCMikeG

        Albert, Jackson & Lewis free up almost $18.5M. That should help with FA moves but honestly there isn’t a lot of premium players going to be available. After the year Bowe had and his pending legal issues he has to be receptive to restructuring, doesn’t he? Hali and Berry should too for the betterment of the team but may be tougher sells. Why extend AS11 if it will be a higher cap hit this year? How would they structure his contract to be less than $7.5M? Wouldn’t it be better to finalize something for 2015 during this year? Our schedule will be more challenging but it will also be the same as the rest of the AFCW except for the janitors in the basement getting a 2 game break. The depth at our positions of need in this years draft is very good. I would like to see us trade out of the 1st round to get a #2 and another in the 3rd or 4th. I have high expectations and great optimism in Dorsey’s being able to find the ways to make us better next year.

        • toperspective

          Those three guys are free agents so they are not part of the cap number. Hence the dire cap situation.

          • KCMikeG

            WTH! I thought that those were the cuts we could make to free cap?

          • toperspective

            No, free agents are not included in the cap. You can see the cap info at overthecap.com. A number of contracts were structured so that the cap hit was much larger in 14 than 13. That’s why there is little relief for Albert and Jackson dropping off.

          • Jason Seibel

            Unfortunately, no Mike. But, you’re right on the money with restructuring Hali, Berry and Bowe. If some head way could be made with those three, some serious cash would be freed up for this year, but that would just kick the can down the road until next year. But, if the Chiefs win a Superbowl, who cares, right?

        • Jason Seibel

          Albert, Jackson and Lewis don’t free up anything because they’re not under contract. Any numbers being talked about are strictly not counting them. So, the $3 Million available is without signing them. Count them as gone, but the Chiefs get no relief. Cutting Dunta Robinson frees up like another $3 Million, but that’s only $6 Million to re-sign anybody leaving. It’s going to be tight. As for redoing a Smith deal, they could give him a huge signing bonus and small base salary this year, that way he gets his payday, but it doesn’t crush the cap because the signing bonus is prorated out for the duration of the contract. For example, if they give him a $1 Million base salary and a signing bonus of $10 Million on a five year deal, his cap hit this year is only $3 Million, but he gets $11 Million dollars this year because the $10 Million is spread out over five years ($2 Million a year).

      • toperspective

        Some of them are of his own making. Last year’s FA signings have been underwhelming. Given a do-over after last year, do you think he would have signed any of them? Maybe they had to overpay to convince people that KC was a good place to play after the Pioli years.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          The Chiefs biggest cap hits are coming from players who were here before he ever showed up. Sure, Dunta Robinson didn’t work out, but his contract is structured in a way that we can cut him with little issue.

          • toperspective

            Without a doubt the biggest hits and also the biggest production came from guys that were already on the roster. However, Fasano, Devito, Sean Smith, Avery and Daniels take up almost 24M in cap. Are they worth it? Smith was ok but could that pot of money have been spent better? Also Robinson has a 5.3M cap number but only a 3.3M cap savings when he’s cut. I know every free agent isn’t going to work out and maybe the money couldn’t have been better spent. Someone more knowledgeable then me can make that assessment.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            Jury’s still out on Fasano.
            Devito and Smith were worth it.
            Avery wasn’t, but he came cheap.
            Daniel got $3m per. I heard a lot of moaning about that, but that’s really not a bad deal for a backup quarterback. His contract is structured in a way that he can EASILY be cut without much dead money sticking to the cap.
            Robinson was the worst of the group by far (no argument there).

          • toperspective

            Re Daniels – In ’14 he’s got a 3.4M cap number versus only a 1.4M savings. In 15 his cap jumps to 4.8M with a 3.8M savings. I’d assume he’s gone in 2015 with that cap number. I’m sure they are figuring that savings into the AS extension calcs. It is worthwhile to have a solid backup but those are big numbers for a backup….unless you figure the guy is the QBOTF….which I don’t think anything thinks Daniels is.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            I doubt seriously that Daniel will be here on that deal in 2015. $3.4m for a backup isn’t a bad deal. Cassel’s getting more than that in Minny.

  • Chris Tarrants

    He hasn’t proved a lot, yet. Dorsey seems to know what he is doing but several moves last year including the entire draft never panned out the way he had envisioned. Kelce, Commings, are guys who could add a real boost next year but this year they were never able to help this team. Robinson hurt this team more times than he helped them. Sean Smith is still up in the air, he looked really good and really bad at times. Cooper and Jenkins could both be a feather in his cap but to date they are both questionable still. Alex Smith was a good decision but I’m not sure how much of that was Dorsey and how much of that was Andy Reid?
    Dorsey came from Green Bay which gives him respect but Pioli came from New England and everyone was excited about it at the time with Cassel, and Vrable and the Patriots winning ways coming to KC! Then the bottom fell out. All in all Dorsey looks like the guy who can lead this team for the next decade but this year is the year that will define if he is a short term or long term guy. This team is a few players away from being “elite” but we are also a few free agent slips away from rebuilding. If we lose more quality guys than we can find or sign then it could get rocky

    • toperspective

      Agree. I appreciate how hard he works to find the hidden gems in waivers and undrafted players but last years draft and FA signings have been underwhelming…to date. I’m worried about the defense and next years schedule. Most likely a step back year, record wise, but I’m hoping they can improve enough so they can beat good teams and perhaps even win a playoff game.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Sean Smith was inconsistent, but still our best corner. Cooper was a scrap heap find who has the ability to be a quality starter if he continues to mature. He played lights out over the first half of the year. McGrath was signed for a sandwich and he had 300+ receiving yards and a pair of TD’s. Fasano was hurt quite a bit. Schwartz might’ve played the best football of anyone on the offensive line. Sherman graded out as one of the best blocking FB’s in the league. DeVito was one of the most consistent defensive linemen. Jordan was a serviceable player next to DJ. Robinson stunk out loud. Abdullah/Demps were big contributors defensively and on teams.

        I think he did pretty well with his first FA group.

        • toperspective

          Fair enough. He did do a great job on the waiver and under the radar pickups. I hope he is able to resign Schwartz.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            I like Schwartz a lot, but unless they give him Allen or Asamoah’s job, I think he’s gone. That guy wants stability. He won’t get it if all we’re offering is a 6th lineman role.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Most of his draft picks haven’t had much chance to play. Fisher and Davis made huge strides over the second half of the year. Commings and Kelce were hurt. Kush is a flyer and not yet ready. Wilson didn’t even make the team, but he was a late draft pick. Catapano played and flashed a bit. Johnson couldn’t win a job over a serviceable Akeem Jordan. He got year one contributions from his two of his three highest picks. Can’t be mad at that.

  • freshmeat62

    There are over $26 million listed above, that are FA’s, and yet the Chiefs have only $2.5 mil to work w/??? There is $8.5 mil tied up in Jackson and Lewis, that will probably be available. Is Asamoah, who lost his starting job, worth $1.5 mil, I think not. $1.4 mil for McCluster, mainly used as a return guy. Maybe he’s worth it if they use him in the passing game more. He does catch the ball. I’m not going to list them all, but there are 4 or 5 more on that list that may be happy to sign for what they can get.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Flowers, and possibly Hali (I seriously hope not Hali) be traded or released. Dorsey has said from the beginning that he believes in building thru the draft. I don’t see him doing much in FAgncy. I think last year might just have been a 1 year thing to bring the team up to speed just to be competitive.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Asamoah initially lost his job due to injury. He later became a healthy scratch in favor of Schwartz, but that guy’s pretty good too. I think at this point Schwartz is better, but Asamoah’s no slouch. He was the most consistent offensive lineman we had before 2013.

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