Roughly five weeks from today, members of Chiefs Kingdom will face a harsh reality. The Kansas City Chiefs are almost certain to allow one or more former draft picks to hit the open market. Given a restrictive cap situation, it’s highly probable that several of the teams’ pending free agents will become unrestricted when the new league year begins. Among those players are Tyson Jackson, Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, Dexter McCluster, and Kendrick Lewis. If I were a betting man, I think it would be safe to say that few, if any, of them will be re-signed.
Roster turnover is a reality of the National Football League. It has been since the league instituted the salary cap in 1994. The Chiefs currently have one of the highest payrolls in football and will be one of the teams most affected by the cap in 2014. Every NFL season, when the free agency period begins, players defect for other teams. This has finally become a reality for Kansas City and while disheartening, I submit to you that this is a positive sign.
There are a number of reasons why a team’s cap situation can force them into allowing players to walk. Poor cap management is one such reason. In the Kansas City case, I’m not sure that reason applies. I think the reason why the Chiefs are finally in this position, after so many years in the NFL’s cellar, is because they have more valuable players than they can afford to keep. The general talent level has reached a threshold where the rate of personnel attrition may be higher than normal for a while.
Less talented rosters also deal with the departure of key players, but that’s generally for different reasons. Either players for those franchises wish to move on to more viable contenders or cap casualties are the effect of one expensive contract too many for underachieving players. The Chiefs are clearly loaded on both sides of the football. Ten players were named to this year’s Pro Bowl. There’s only so long that you can avoid losing players when that becomes your reality.
Successfully navigating the salary cap’s treacherous waters requires you to backfill your roster with viable talent. Although losing players is to be expected, you give away ground when you don’t have competent replacements available. Last week fellow AA writer Nicholas Clayton expounded upon defensive end Allen Bailey’s readiness to take the reins from current starter Tyson Jackson. He’s one of the likely candidates for unrestricted free agency, but having a successor with Bailey’s skillset potentially takes the sting out of losing him. The same may also be true of tackle Donald Stephenson with a Branden Albert departure from KC.
It might be time for the Chiefs’ fanbase to get used losing important players, a little more often, here and there. This is part and parcel of having a good football team. I’d hate to get your blood pressure up, but should you have the gall, take a look at the players scheduled to hit free agency come 2016 (it’s a long one). Now I won’t predict a pickle for the front office that far into the future. There’s just no good way to know whether those players will still be productive, healthy, and generally trending upwards when that time comes. I think you get the general idea though. The better this roster gets, the tougher it will be to retain all of its best players.
I feel a bit like this is the second half of the article I wrote last week on general manager John Dorsey. He’s going to face some interesting challenges over the next few seasons. His best talent was mostly inherited so he’ll have to prove that he can find successors for aging players like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson (both on that aforementioned list I cited). More specifically, he’ll be responsible for finding players who can be as or more effective in those roles. If he can’t, Kansas City risks sliding back in the basement of the AFC West when injuries, old age, and contract expirations claim those players.
How are you feeling about the prospects of losing players like Branden Albert and Tyson Jackson? Is this a natural part of becoming a football team with a winning culture? Should John Dorsey be held accountable when homegrown talent gets away from Kansas City? Have your take in the comment section below. As always, we appreciate your readership and support!
Until next time, Addicts!