Free Agency 2014: A Case For Dexter McCluster

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The Kansas City Chiefs have nine notable players headed for unrestricted free agency when the new league year begins. Among those players are Branden Albert, Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz, Akeem Jordan, Husain Abdullah, Quintin Demps, Kendrick Lewis, and Dexter McCluster. As has been previously discussed, I only expect three or four of them to return in 2014. We can debate the merits of that group of players, but I think a case can reasonably be made for a half-dozen of them. Today, I’ll make a case for perhaps one of the most maligned players in that bunch. I submit to you, former second-round pick Dexter McCluster.

The dimunitive wide receiver was originally taken by the Kansas City Chiefs 36th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. The four-year runningback out of Ole Miss found himself in hot water with Chiefs Kingdom the moment commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name from the Radio City Music Hall podium. Chiefs fans seemed to be unanimously opposed to him being drafted so high. The team appeared to have other more pressing needs at the time. McCluster had been electric in his senior season, but he was a smallish runningback who few people thought could be a consistent playmaker in the NFL. The level of expectation that accompanied the selection has hung over his head ever since.

Four years later, he still hasn’t quite won over all of his detractors. McCluster’s offensive numbers won’t surprise anyone. Since 2010, he has 2,162 yards from scrimmage and 6 offensive touchdowns. In the return game, he’s amassed another 2,046 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s given Kansas City 4,208 yards and 9 touchdowns over that span. That’s an average of a shade over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns per season. That’s a solid contribution for a WR3/return specialist who’s played 14.5 games per year since entering the league. Still not convinced he should be one of the players the Chiefs’ front office re-signs this spring? Fair enough, let’s continue.


That 14.5 game per year average is impressive considering McCluster’s a player who few people believed was big enough to stand the rigors of the NFL. The past three seasons, he’s only missed one game due to injury. Remember the road game against the New Orleans Saints in 2012? McCluster laid out for a poorly thrown Matt Cassel pass and landed awkwardly on his left arm. His elbow bent the wrong way and it looked as though he might miss significant time. McCluster was back out on the field in the Chiefs’ very next matchup with the San Diego Chargers. If nothing else, he’s a tough little guy.

Dexter McCluster’s often been criticized for ball security issues, but the fumbling problem has mostly been exaggerated. Over the past two seasons, he’s fumbled the ball only four times (on 186 touches). That’s an average of just 1 fumble every 46.5 times he’s had the football in his hands. He’s fumbled only 10 times over the course of his four-year NFL career (just 6 of them were lost to the opposing team). The numbers in that area suggest he’s been been a reliable ballcarrier.

McCluster’s biggest contribution to Kansas City has been his efforts in the return game. His 58 punt returns and 686 punt return yards led the NFL in 2013. The latter broke Tamarick Vanover’s 14-year franchise record (previously 640 yards). That performance earned him a nomination to the Pro Bowl. McCluster is perhaps more dangerous than he’s ever been under the tutelage of special teams maven Dave Toub.


Special teams weren’t the only area where McCluster posted career highs. He also had the most receptions, receiving yardage, and receiving touchdowns, of his young career, in 2013. In fact, he was the third most valuable receiver to the team this past season. Only Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery had more receiving yardage. He had the third-highest catch total of anyone on the team. Four years into his career, McCluster appears to still be improving offensively.

The Chiefs have offered futures contracts to both Joe McKnight and CFL standout Weston Dressler. Those two contracts lead some to believe McCluster’s time in Kansas City is up. It may well be, but I don’t think either player is a legitimate replacement for him. McCluster has proven his value to the Chiefs’ offense and those contributions won’t so easily be replaced by a runningback and an undrafted player who has spent the past six seasons playing Canadian football. There have also been reports that Jeremy Maclin and Golden Tate plan to stay with their current teams. Free agent pickings at wide receiver could be slim.

If the Chiefs were willing to offer McCluster 2-3 million dollars per season, I think there’s a strong chance that he stays. He’s a humble football player who appears to be happy in Kansas City. If John Dorsey makes a sincere effort to bring him back, I think he’ll be a Chief for the next 3-4 years. He’s one of the most diverse football players on the team and can cushion the blow to the return unit if fellow pending free agent Quintin Demps defects.

What say you, Addicts? Should McCluster be a priority for the front office to re-sign this offseason? Has he failed to live up to draft expectations and made the decision easy? Does he deserve a second contract? Use the comment section below to speak on it. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!

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  • Jason Seibel

    I’ve been a McCluster fan since he returned that kick on Monday Night Football against the Chargers in the “New” Arrowhead. Of all the players potentially hitting free agency, he’s the one I would most like to see in Chiefs “Red and Yellow” next season. Great piece, Reach!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I’ve liked the kid since Day 1. He’s always potentially a threat to make a big play. I honestly think he can continue to improve. He’s been a steady contributor since Day 1 and I’d like to see that continue in Kansas City.

    • berttheclock

      In case, Laddie Morse, drops by. Some of the returns by Dexter remind me of the song written by Peter Townshend, and, later sung by “The Who” in the rock opera “Tommy”. The song was called “Pinball Wizard”. Dexter just kept bouncing off opponents like a pin ball

  • berttheclock

    One thing lost by many in the discussions over wide outs for the West Coast Chiefs is this old system developed by Paul Brown, “The Ohio River System” transformed into the so-called West Coast, which are, either hybrids of “Air Coryell” or what Bill Walsh developed when he was an assistant to Paul Brown and even by Lavell Edwards at BYU, who coached one Andy Reid is the importance of precise route runners with excellent hands who are not afraid of crossing into heavy coverage. Yes, it is great to have speed attached to that, once, the running game and the short crossing patterns have been established in the minds of opposing players, but, the critical part is a receiver who can get open quickly on a precise route. For many posters, they keep wanting to see the old “Bombs Away” days of LaMonica in Oakland. That is not the West Coast, even though, Al Davis studied under the Sid Gilman plan of Coryell.

    Two problems Dexter had early on with the Chiefs was, first, his High Ankle Sprain, which cost him valuable practice and playing time under the tutelage of Charlie Weis. Then, he was forced into obvious passing sitiuations, such as against the Bolts, where Weedle knew the pass was being set up for Dexter and came up to jam him. Weedle, even, knew the next year, whenever, Dexter was going to be used on screens due to ineptness of the so-called offensive co-ord, Muir, and, in the most infamous case, stepped up and intercepted the pass thus ending the game.

    Dexter was just coming into his offensive game with Alex Smith. I know Dressler has signed a future reserve, but, in the past, the Chiefs have learned the importance in having depth as injuries can raise their ugly heads at any moment. I hope Dorsey can find the best financial ways to keep Dexter.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Excellent points. McCluster has some of the best hands on the team and runs solid routes.

  • Jason Seibel

    If you look at the contract Devin Hester from the Chicago Bears received in 2010, I think Dorsey could definitely work something to bring DMC back. Hester and McCluster both filled similiar roles and were drafted is very similar spots (Hester was a 2nd round pick as well going 57th overall)
    Hester got a 4 year deal worth $21.9 million with $5 million guaranteed. I did a little beer math on Over the Cap and if the Chiefs gave DMC a four year worth $21.4 million with $6.25 million guaranteed they could bring him back with a decent cap hit for the next couple of years. It’s very doable.

    • berttheclock

      But, that 2010 year, the base for Hester was only $750,000, with a signing bonus of $833,333, however, the miscellaneous was $5,250,000, so there was a $6,833,333 cap hit for that year of 2010. This is up at Sportrac.

      • Jason Seibel

        That’s where I looked at it too. But the thing is, in 2010, Hester received his base salary: $750K, his signing bonus: $2.5M, a workout bonus of $250K and a roster bonus of $5M. So, in 2010, he received $8.5M. If the Chiefs gave DMC a base of $750K, a signing bonus of $4M and a workout bonus of $250K, that would give him $5M for the 2014 season, but only a cap hit of $2M because the signing bonus is prorated through the life of the contract ($1M per year.) That’s how I figured it out.

        • berttheclock

          BTW, have you read that Hester may be heading for Tampa Bay to re-unite with Lovie Smith. However, he will, definitely, not be flying to Atlanta, as Mike Tice, who relegated him to 4th string wide out, has been named the new offensive line coach. I have really respected Tice since I met him in Seattle and I took a bus tour south with him to Portland to play the ponies on Off Track from Santa Anita at Portland Meadows. Great guy, but, he really missed the boat on Hester.

    • KCMikeG

      Thank you! I have heard nothing specific but lots of speculation that there is “no way” we can afford to keep him. Sanders from the Steelers only got $2.5M last year so not sure why some think he will get more than we can pay him. He has contributed as a KR, PR, WR & RB (500 yards when Charles went down and should have been given more carries!). He is a total team player that has performed in the chaotic shit storm that we have been until 2013. His best year yet once he has some decent coaching. Mark my words – we haven’t seen the best of him yet. I just hope it is in a Chiefs jersey.

  • 3rdgen CHIEFS fan

    I think Schwartz and McCluster should be the top two on the list. McCluster really blew a couple of games open with his returns for touchdowns and may have been losses if not for the momentum and points he produced.

    • 3rdgen CHIEFS fan

      I was at the Giants game and watching Dex return that punt was awesome to watch and most memorable part of that game for me.

    • sidibeke

      If I could only keep two, those are the two I would keep.

  • Montez K.

    I know it doesn’t make sense financially and it may not be a smart decision “football wise,” BUT the kid has that energy…it can’t be bought and it will be difficult to replace. Field position was crucial for the Chiefs this year….McCluster has the intangibles…smart GM’s pay for intangibles. Easily one of my top 5 favorite Chiefs players right now.

  • sidibeke

    I don’t think he’s quite lived up to the 2nd round pick, but he’s a good player who won’t be easy to replace. In the end, I think it will all depend on the money he demands. KC can’t afford to overpay for a slot guy and return man, especially when you get the feeling Toub can turn just about anyone with some wheels (Demps, Davis and McC running them back) into a good return man.

    • berttheclock

      As to living up to a 2nd round pick, I would suggest you visit the 2nd round of that 2010 draft and peruse the players taken. Only one player, Gronkowski, made more of an impact and who knows when he may be able to return to the playing field. T J Ward, finally, came into his own as a top cornerback, Zane Beadles is an excellent offensive lineman for the Broncos, while, Lawrence really strutted his stuff defensively as a LB for the Cardinals, his off field activities may cost him in the end. Golden Tate has had his moments, but, overall, Dexter has played far better than most of those 2nd round picks.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Second round picks pan out far less often than some people realize.

      • sidibeke

        Thanks for your suggestion, Bert.

    • 3rdgen CHIEFS fan

      I bet he takes a team friendly deal to stay.

  • colt schneiter

    I would like to see him back but he isny vital

  • freshmeat62

    I’m one of those that has never been a McCluster fan. Considering his size, I’m surprised he’s still playing. I never thought he’d last this long, he is one tough dude. This past year was probably his best, mainly because of his punt return ability. He scares the devil out of me catching those punts w/ the defender almost on top of him, but he does pull it off and so many times is able to make a move and get away for some yards. I think he could be thrown too a little more. I think he has some of the best hands on the team.

    But his size still bothers me, and signing him for another long term contract, I think would be a mistake. I’m just afraid one of these times he’s going to get laid out and not get back up.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      He’s already played longer than the average NFL player. He’s small, but he’s got a solid, chiseled frame. I think he’ll be fine.

  • Hawthorne

    I think McCluster is gone. Even if we could retain him at last years pay, we need all the space we can get. Dressler and/or Frankie Hammond JR will probably replace him.

    • KcNdaRock

      Dresser will be cut by training camp- he belongs in the cfl

      • Hawthorne

        You could be right, however Dressler has shown that he has amazing hands. With our receivers propensity for drops, I hope he sticks.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        I’ll be shocked if he make this team’s practice squad.

  • Tyler_KC_Fan

    I love DMC and he’s probably one of few players who legitimately cares about fans, and I would love to bring him back to KC. BUT, how much are we will to spend on him? The thing I keep thinking is yes he made the Pro-Bowl, but as a punt returner. Not as a WR. So instead of thinking, how much are we willing to spend on a punt returner. He has been a quality WR but he is more of a punt returner than a WR.

  • KCMikeG

    THANKS STACY!! I’m all in on Dexter McCluster! Bottom line is Reid loves Dex and Dex loves KC. Many aren’t aware that Dex was next on Reid’s 2010 draft list before we took him and oh by the way Reid has been vocal in his pleasure with Dexter on multiple occasions. It would be like Toub letting Hester get away in Chicago – not going to happen. The BEST PR in the NFL in addition to his 500+ yards in receiving. Over 4,000 total all around yards in four seasons and he is just now starting to peak. Start thinking Jenkins AND McCluster = Jackson & Maclin under Reid in Philly. I believe we will see more of both out of the backfield and even some reverses. We already know what Dex can do in space. I hope Jenkins can bring that too.

  • Stan Colbert

    I love DMC! He fulfills so many roles! He can run, catch, return, run reverses! All have to be gameplanned by opponents! He is such a benefit to the community with the appearances he makes! It seems Andy/Dorsey seem to like players who play multiple positions.

  • tazer15

    I’ve been saying it all along.What does everyone expect out of a 2nd round pick.I always hear he hasn’t lived up to the pick.Thats just ridiculous the guys was a damn pro bowler this year.Has been tossed around position wise his first couple years.Helped in every way he could.I think he’s been a great 2nd rounder.I challenge those who keep saying live up to the pick.To look around the league and see what you get in the second round from other teams.Then compare them to Dex a 2nd round pick is no big deal.A starter in the NFL is living up to a 2nd round pick.