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Drafting Ford Lets The Chiefs Keep Smith, Houston

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I’m not going to lie, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Kansas City Chiefs had picked DE Dee Ford, I was befuddled.

Drafting best-player-available is one thing, but when you pick a guy in the first round who plays the position you are currently the strongest in the league at, you’re going to cause head-scratching.

But, the more I think about this pick, the more I like it.

We will all be pouring over this and the Chiefs’ other picks for the next several months, but I like it for two main reasons: 1.) It sets forth a clear financial plan for the Chiefs amid a cap crunch 2.) It helps to establish a solid team identity.

Chiefs GM John Dorsey has said multiple times that the Chiefs were targeting four specific players with the #23 pick and mentioned that those picks depended upon other factors in various “scenarios.” One could brush this off as purely evasive and vague answers, but I think he was being pretty honest there.

The fact is that the Chiefs are up against the cap and need to re-sign or replace two players that are arguably their two most important at the end of the year — OLB Justin Houston and QB Alex Smith. They don’t have the money to sign them both, and they can’t cut anyone without creating a glaring hole somewhere else.

Going into the 2015 season, the highest paid Chiefs will be, in descending order, WR Dwayne Bowe, OLB Tamba Hali, and CB Brandon Flowers. There were already rumors that the team might trade Flowers, who isn’t a great fit for the defense, and nearly every mock draft on the planet had them taking a wide receiver in the 1st.

I think those were two of the very real scenarios that Dorsey was considering here. If the corner the Chiefs wanted was going to be available, I believe they would have dealt Flowers for a mid-round pick, thus jettisoning his salary and replacing him in one fell swoop. Likewise, the Chiefs need receiver help one way or the other, but they’ll definitely need it if Bowe continues to fail to perform up to his massive salary and they decide to part ways with him because of it.

It’s also possible that the Chiefs were considering drafting either QB Blake Bortles or QB Johnny Manziel, thus eliminating the need to sign Smith to a large extension. But, both of those guys were off the board. (To me, the lengths that Dorsey went to avoid answering whether Manziel was on the Chiefs’ board or was among the four targeted players in his post-Draft press conference, indicate that there’s some smoke there. Cleveland traded up just in front of the Chiefs to take Manziel, so that possibility was off the table, no need to start a QB controversy now.)

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With all of these things falling they way they did, Dorsey was left with a final scenario that would create cap relief and strengthen the team — go OLB.

First, on a football level, Ford is going to be an instant contributor in a rotation with Hali and Houston, and will be good injury insurance for the two of them. Why use a 1st-round pick on injury insurance? Look at the defensive stats for the Chiefs late last season when Hali and Houston were both fighting injuries.

When they were both healthy, the Chiefs allowed just 12.2 points per game on average. After they both got hurt in the Week 11 San Diego game, the Chiefs allowed 30.3 points per game. With a defensive scheme that stubbornly sticks to man coverage on the back end, you have to be getting serious pass rush or you will be torn apart. Give the Chiefs consistent pass rush to the end of the season and the team would have picked up at least another couple wins — not to mention the game-that-shall-not-be-remembered.

On the financial level, drafting Ford paves the way for the Chiefs to deal with their tough 2015 decisions. In short, Smith and Houston are going to be signed with Tamba’s money. Although it wouldn’t make sense to cut him now, the Chiefs will save $9 million in cap space by saying goodbye to him after the 2014 season. With a bit more finagling, that could be the difference in keeping Smith and Houston in red.

Meanwhile, they will get Ford for the next four years for about $2.5 million per year on a rookie deal. If he is all he is cracked up to be, then he will be an able replacement or better than the aging Hali.

Beyond all of the financial and medium-term-thinking smarts, I like this move because it gives us a greater hint at what the Chiefs’ identity will be under this new regime. The Chiefs are always going to play aggressive defense. We may not have world-beaters in the defensive backfield, but we’re not going to give you time to test them. Rain or shine, we’re coming for you.

Me likey. What are your thoughts, Addicts?

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Tags: Alex Smith Dee Ford John Dorsey Justin Houston Tamba Hali

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