Upgrading At QB: What It Will Cost The Chiefs


We’re now headed into what will be one of the more interesting Chiefs’ offseasons we’ve had in a while.

As we’ve already discussed up and down on this site, the biggest question the Chiefs now face is what to do with the quarterback position. Matt Cassel has not looked like a franchise quarterback and we need a reliable backup 13 months ago.

While the backup market is going to be workable, it is not going to be easy to get a better starter. Another important point is that, while the Chiefs are making strides in certain areas of the team, we still have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and if we go all in toward one of the bigger name players out there, we automatically hurt our ability to improve the rest of the team — possibly for years.

So here are some of the notable options and what they would likely cost us after the jump.

Peyton Manning

Age: 35 Career Stats- RAT: 94.9 YDS: 54,828 TD: 399 INT: 198

Either fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Manning’s salary is so crazy high this year that, with his injury uncertainty, the Colts are likely going to have to either cut him or keep him. As a part of the five-year, $90 million deal the two sides signed last July, Manning averages $18 million a year over the full five, but it was weighted such that he is due to earn $69 million in the first three years alone. Most importantly, he is due a $28 million bonus on March 8 (in 46 days). Colts owner Jim Irsay has said that he won’t restructure the contract to make it trade-friendly, instead he will monitor Manning’s health and either keep him or cut him. Rumors are also swirling that Manning may choose to retire rather than ride the bench and mentor Andrew Luck.

Cost: Therefore, this leaves two possibilities – The Chiefs could still try and trade for him and absorb the enormous bonus check Manning is due to receive this year. It’s not clear what the trade market for Peyton would be, but if there are other teams out there that are interested in his services and are willing to pay (I’ve heard the Jets come up a lot) then trading for him could cost something in the neighborhood of a first- to second-round pick. If Irsay, for whatever reason, sticks to his word and decides to either keep the world’s most expensive backup on the roster or cut him and get nothing in return, there will be a very competitive market for Peyton as a free agent. Think Brett Farve. When #4 came back for the Vikings in 2009, he signed a two-year, $25 million contract with a base salary of $12.5 mil. Expect the Chiefs to have to pay more for Manning because, unlike with Farve, there are likely to be at least a couple of other QB-hungry teams in the race for his services, my guess is that it will take somewhere in the neighborhood of his old salary to get him back — $18-20 million. This would make him the highest paid quarterback in the league.

Likelihood We Get ‘im: Slim to none.

I think this move goes against the Chiefs’ identity as a team and organization in too many ways for it to happen in the end. First and foremost, Clark Hunt (Forbes’ seventh-worst owner in the league) hates to spend his money and paying one player $20-35 million in one season is just not his style. Plus, it doesn’t really fit the way this team is built either. The Chiefs have a young roster with some great young talent that needs to be re-signed. Manning would eat up about 25 percent of our total payroll. Plus, I am convinced more and more that Romeo Crennel is looking for the dependable game-manager type to run his conservative game plans that call on stout defense, and an offense who’s primary duty is to extend drives and eat clock. Not to mention the fact that Manning is 35 and coming off of his third neck surgery. I think that the most optimistic projection, he would remain a top-tier quarterback for another three years.

Matt Flynn

Age: 26 Career Stats – RAT: 92.8 YDS: 1,018 TD: 9 INT: 5

After two stunning, record-breaking starts for the Packers, Flynn is one of the hottest names in free agency this year. With a weak quarterback draft class, there are going to be a lot of teams in the hunt for Flynn. It is possible that the Packers might franchise him so that they could trade him and get something in return, but most likely, Flynn is going to left to take offers in open free agency.

Cost: Who ever gets Flynn is going to want to lock him up for many years, and add in a lot incentives. Although, Flynn was spectacular in his two starts for the Packers, they were still just that – two starts. Still, given the competition he is going to get some big offers. According to Pro Football Talk, the required franchise tag amount for Flynn would be about $14.5 million guaranteed — $6.5 million more than Aaron Rodgers is due to get, just for comparison. It would cost a team at least a second-round pick – and probably more – to trade for him. Then, the team would be required to lock him up to a long-term deal lest he leave in free agency the next year. Therefore, the Chiefs would have to put up the same kind of money it has guaranteed Matt Cassel, who signed a 6-year, $62.7 million deal with the team in 2009.

Likelihood We Get ‘im: Low. All indications are that new Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin will pay whatever it takes to bring Flynn to Miami to kick off his tenure there. Likewise, Flynn will probably realize that following his former offensive coordinator is going to give him the best chance to win, since he knows the offense already, and the most job security because he’ll be playing under a coach who is committed to him.

Jason Campbell

Age: 30 Career Stats- RAT: 84.2 YDS 14,417 TD: 74 INT: 50

There is absolutely no chance that Campbell returns to the Raiders, the team that traded for him two years ago, then invested a first and a second in Carson Palmer, not to mention a third-round complementary pick in Terrel Pryor. I think Campbell would be a really good option if the Chiefs decide to push Cassel with a legit competitor at the position. I have followed Campbell since his days with the Redskins (I lived in DC for four years), and he is a very high character guy, who has been repeatedly set up to fail in this league. These last two years in Oakland were the first in which he had the same offensive coordinator two years in a row, and he was making major strides before getting injured in 2011. Pretty much every time he has gotten settled into a place, the team has gone through coaching changes, and he has been booted out in the purge. Nonetheless, he has been a fairly consistent QB, who would be a big upgrade over Matt Cassel’s physical limitations. Campbell is not known for being a quick decision maker, but his body-type makes him ideal for being a long drop-back and deep-bomb-throwing pocket QB. He has the arm to hit any place on the field and has learned to be pretty good on his feet as well. With (hopefully) Bowe, Breaston and Baldwin as big targets that have the speed to get downfield, Campbell would give us a new dimension to our passing game if he won the job over Cassel.

Cost: Campbell will command $8-10 million a year and will likely look for a place where he can start. However, because of his on-paper journeyman status, I don’t think many teams are going to look at him as the answer. Likely the best offers he is going to get are the opportunity to come in and compete with a mediocre incumbent for the starting role.

Likelihood We Get ‘im: It’s certainly possible, as long as the Chiefs make the money right and convince him he is going to get a hard look as the starter. If nothing else, he would be one of the best backups in the league, and that alone would keep our season from spiraling off target with Palko or Stanzi under center.

Kyle Orton

Age: 29 Career Stats- RAT: 79.4 YDS: 14,532 TD: 80 INT: 57

Kyle Orton = Matt Cassel. Or so I asserted in a column last offseason. This season proved that the two quarterbacks are very comparable, although each has small edges over the other in different areas. Orton is a quick decision maker and is very accurate in short-to-medium throws, while Cassel is a bit stronger and more accurate with the deep ball. Most indications are that Orton will not be brought back, but if that is the case, then I think it indicates the Chiefs either aren’t interested in bringing in a real competitor to Matt Cassel at all, or Orton doesn’t want to come back for some reason. Orton was clearly more effective this year than Cassel – although improved defense and line play + Jonathan Baldwin with a healthy hand had a lot to do with that.

Cost: Orton will probably come with a slightly lower price tag than Campbell at $6-8 million. He didn’t get much interest as trade bait at the beginning of the 2011 season, and I don’t expect that to change – especially because the two teams rumored to be interested seem to have their own plans. Miami is going to make a big play for Flynn and it appears that Tavaris Jackson has earned himself another year in Seattle. Therefore, if the Chiefs want to bring in a solid competitor/backup to Cassel, I think Orton is the most logical answer. He knows the scheme and the players, he comes cheap, and without drama – he’s a famously soft-spoken guy who has ridden the bench before and seemed to get along fine with Cassel after being signed.

Robert Griffin III

Age: 21 Career Stats (College): TD: 78 INT: 17

Obviously, this is the name that the whole fan base really wants to talk about – the future second-overall pick of the 2012 draft. I don’t watch much college football, but his athleticism is phenomenal and everyone seems to say that he is like a beefier Michael Vick without the backyard full of dead, tortured dogs.

Cost: It is a huge jump to try and go from either 11 or 12 to two, but draft trades are also not an exact science. But, to give you an idea, moving from 16 to 10 in 2011 cost Jacksonville a second and a fifth. The Saints traded their entire 1999 draft (rounds 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) plus their first and third the following year to move from 12th to fifth to pick Ricky Williams. The next year, the Saints went 3-13 and Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka was fired over the deal. Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff is already on the hot seat after the Falcons were blown out in the playoffs the year they traded two first-round picks, a second and two fourth-rounders to move up from 27 to number six to pick WR Julio Jones in 2011. Trading into the top five in the draft is insanely expensive. And given that probably all of the NFL’s QB-hungry teams are going to be targeting the Rams’ second-overall pick to take RGIII, the going rate to move from 12 to two this year will be upwards of three first rounders. The Chiefs would likely have to throw in at least two more high-round picks to pull that off.

Likelihood We Get ‘im: More interesting than whether the Chiefs would make such a move, is whether or not doing so would be wise. Obviously, picking Peyton Manning or Tom Brady when they were in their early 20s would be easily worth a trove of draft picks. The problem is that for every Brady or Manning there are 20 Ryan Leaf s and JaMarcus Russels. Picking the wrong QB with a first-rounder can set your team back for five years. Potentially giving up the equivalent of multiple drafts can set you back for a decade. Although we might all look forward to see Kommissar Pioli fail in a bold move and be run out of town, I highly doubt he will do so. If anything, the “Patriot way” is all about trading back not forward, and Pioli will always remember being a part of the organization that took Brady in the sixth round. So, while it’s fun to think about, I think we have to let this fantasy die.

Drew Brees … Haha, just kidding.

We could discuss endlessly how the Chiefs would pick up some of the other QBs in the draft like Nick Foles or Ryan Tannehill, and we likely will. We are very early in the pre-draft evaluation process, and no one honestly knows how the top 10 picks in the draft are going to go, but I think we have every reason to believe that there will be at least four QBs taken in the first round, and I’m sure that teams are going to try to move up above the Chiefs to pick one of those two guys. I personally doubt either of them are going to make it to the second round.

Okay guys, I’m up to 2,300 words and I need to get back to work. Let me know what you think about these guys or other free agent/draft options for the Chiefs this year.

To be continued …