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.

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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.

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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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