The Kansas City Chiefs have some serious holes that need to be filled. While the team made a franchise best turnaround last season going from 2-14 in 2012 to 11-5 and a playoff berth this past year, the team isn’t complete. The team of general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid will have their hands full this off season figuring out a way to fill those holes while keeping the Chiefs under the ever present salary cap.
Most would agree that the Chiefs have primarily three positions that are of huge need moving into the 2014 season.
The first one of those positions would a wide receiver. Having viable targets for Alex Smith to throw to is extremely important. While Dwayne Bowe was the leading receiver among guys with “WR” next to his name, he wasn’t the leading receiver on the team. This was due partly because the “D-Bowe Show” was never able to create separating or a rapport with his new quarterback until the latter half of the season. By that time, it was too late. The other reason was Bowe was constantly covered because other teams quickly figured out what other Chiefs fans already knew: the Chiefs didn’t have a threat lining up on the opposite side of the field from Bowe.
Yes, Donnie Avery served his purpose when he could hold onto the ball. Dexter McCluster served his purpose and Reid hasn’t hid the fact that he really loved using the diminutive receiver in special packages. But the truth was, there was never a threat that they were going to have a breakout game. Opposing defenses knew this and thus were comfortable leaving them in single coverage while they concentrated on Bowe.
So if the Chiefs really want to take their passing game to the next level, what do they do? They have plenty of homegrown talentthat could conceivably become that WR2. Our newest staff writer here at AA, Jospeh Hoyt, wrote a piece yesterday about A.J. Jenkins getting ready to break out. But, in addition to Jenkins the Chiefs also have Junior Hemmingway who had some brief flashes of brilliance last season as well as newly signed Weston Dressler who as our co-editor Ben Nielsen reported, was just signed this week by the Chiefs from the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Does the answer lie with them?
Turning to free agency, there are several talented wide receivers dabbling in the open market. The two biggest names that pop off
the page are the Denver Broncos Eric Decker and the Philadelphia Eagles Jeremy Maclin. Ben also covered Decker and the likelihood he signs with the Chiefs.
Turning to the draft, there are no shortage of wide receivers trying to make their break in the NFL this year. While the Chiefs have had rough luck with receivers since drafting Bowe in 2008, they could hope to break that streak this year. In fact, both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay drafted receivers to the Chiefs in their first post-Super Bowl mock drafts of the year.
The next position of need for the Chiefs is in the defensive backfield. The Chiefs need a hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety who can play center field when Chiefs pro bowler Eric Berry is patrolling the line of scrimmage. Many thought when Berry and free safety Kendrick Lewis were drafted four rounds apart in the 2010 NFL Draft, that they would be the “dynamic duo” that led the Chiefs backfield for years. After last season, it’s quite evident that’s not the case.
Looking to talent already on the roster could prove to be a bit more difficult than the receivers. Quintin Demps, Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker all played snaps in the safety position. All three of these players are serviceable backups but none showed any kind of flair for being a “lights out” starter. The only other name on the roster that is a bit of an unknown is Sanders Commings, the Chiefs fifth-round draft pick from last year’s draft. Commings broke his collar bone in the preseason last year and spent the entire season on the sideline.
Looking to the draft could prove to be a better option. Draft Tek shows three free safeties in the top 60 prospects on their “big board.” Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is the top prospect at this position and likely out of the Chiefs reach, as he currently sits in the top 15 overall prospects. The next guy on the list could also prove to be a huge pick up, but would be a slight reach for the Chiefs who draft at 23. Calvin Pryor from Louisville has shot up the draft board after the Senior Bowl and has caught the eye of many teams.
The problem is, if the Chiefs don’t draft a free safety with their first round pick, they won’t get another shot at one until the the third round. By that time, the top two prospects as well as the third potential pick, Ed Reynolds from Stanford, will be long gone. This leaves the Chiefs in a bit of a bind with drafting a free safety. They can trade up to get Clinton-Dix, reach to get Pryor or Reynolds or hold out and hope for the best with a later round pick.
Of course there is one other option for the Chiefs. There is one guy who is scheduled to hit free agency that will turn a lot of heads from a lot of teams. Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd hasn’t made any secrets about the fact that he doesn’t want to wear an over-sized cow on his helmet next year. In fact, he didn’t really want to play for the team this year, all but saying he wanted a trade out of Buffalo. He’ll have a huge price tag attached to his name, but if Dorsey was able to work the numbers and really wanted to make a splash in free agency, signing Byrd would be the way. Having Byrd and Berry in the same defensive backfield would create a situation that rivaled the Seattle Seahawk’s “Legion of Boom.”
The third position that the Chiefs need to seriously address this off season is on the defensive line. Unless something crazy happens, Tyson Jackson played his last game as a Chief on January 4 against the Indianapolis Colts. While Jackson made huge strides this season with his play and did the honorable thing before the season and took a huge pay cut to help the team, he’s going to want to get paid this season. I just don’t see that happening in Kansas City.
One of the biggest reasons for the decline in the Chiefs defense was their lack of pass rush in the second half of the season. That doesn’t look to change moving into 2014. Tamba Hali isn’t getting any younger and Justin Houston is coming off of huge injuries. Dontari Poe proved he could get to the quarterback if he had help along the line. Mike DeVito was an excellent run stopper, but didn’t get any push in the pocket.
With Jackson gone, the Chiefs will have to fill a huge hole on their defensive line. As with the other holes, the best — and cheapest — option would be to turn over the talent already on the roster. Earlier this week, AA senior staff writer Stacy D. Smith made a case for Allen Bailey to fill the void left by the impending departure of Jackson. While that may ultimately be what happens, there are a couple of other options.
There might well be a revolt in Chiefs Kingdom if Dorsey takes a defensive lineman with the team’s first-round pick this year. After the previous regime led by Scott Pioli took defensive linemen far too often — at least, it seemed like it — this fan base has no taste for the best pick their team holds being used on a big guy up front. Assuming that Dorsey agrees with this assessment, that would leave the Chiefs using a later round pick for a defensive end, which is possible.
The final choice would be signing a free agent that could come at a reduced cost but give the Chiefs a similar capability. One player that intrigues me is Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston. Now, before you go all crazy in the comments section, yes, I understand Houston is a typical 4-3 end and not a 3-4 end. However, he did play defensive tackle in college and if the goal was to add a player who could rush the passer, he may fit into this scheme better than many think. I think a front seven that included Poe, Lamaar Houston, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali coming after a quarterback would be a scary sight for any team who wants to keep their quarterback upright.
So that’s it, Addicts. The three biggest holes as I see them and the three possible ways to fill each one. What do you think? If you were in Dorsey’s shoes which direction would you lean? Let us know by sounding off below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!