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2013: A Roster Odyssey


The Kansas City Chiefs have been in the midst of a youth movement for many years now, and it’s safe to say they are nearing the phase where the team’s cupboard is relatively full.  The 2012 season was the first of several, then, where this franchise attempted to take that next step: moving from a genuine rebuild to a genuine stockpiling of talent for a championship.

To do that, you always need to keep your eyes on the horizon.  The problem is that this transition can prove to be incredibly difficult for one major reason: all those rookie contracts you inked a few years ago during the youth movement are coming to an end.  All of a sudden, young whippersnappers you were paying pennies on the dollar are up for a new contract, and if they hit the open market, any player with talent will subsequently be overpaid by a team ahead of the Chiefs in the stockpiling process, a team that unlike the Chiefs, believes it’s only a player or two away.

How 2012 Played Out

I wrote about this very subject a year ago:

"But the Chiefs will be entering the stage in 2012 that is often a fatal stumbling block for teams that are trying to rebuild: retaining the young talent they’ve brought in/groomed/developed.  This is often a perilous step in rebuilding franchises, as established franchises are usually more willing than Chiefs-type rebuilding squads to throw bloated contracts at players looking for a second-contract. Teams on the up and up that can’t afford to frequently overpay, like the Chiefs will be, are often on the losing ends of these deals."

The 2012 offseason was really our first glimpse at this problem.  The following players were up for contract this offseason (starters are bolded):

QB Kyle Orton
RB Thomas Jones
FB Le’Ron McClain
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Jerheme Urban
TE Leonard Pope
OT Barry Richardson
C Casey Wiegmann
NT Kelly Gregg
DE Wallace Gilberry
ILB Jovan Belcher (RFA)
ILB Brandon Siler
CB Brandon Flowers
CB Brandon Carr
CB Travis Daniels
S Jon McGraw
K Ryan Succop (RFA)

That’s a hell of a list — that’s 11 starters!  Plus some key backups.

The results, predictable: two players received an extension midseason (Flowers & Succop), two backup players signed a one-year deal this offseason (Siler & Daniels), and two players will have signed a one-year tender, pending a longer-term deal (Belcher & Bowe). The rest, gone with the wind.  And while nobody is shedding tears over losing McGraw or Richardson, there was a ton of doubt over why the Chiefs didn’t pursue Orton or Carr.

The thing is: they probably did.  But look at everybody they had to rope in, and try to do it in financially reasonable ways.

Then throw in a team like the Dallas Cowboys, a team that believes it is only a piece or two away from championship contention.  They are always more willing than up-and-comers like the Chiefs to overspend (or “pay retail,” as Jerry Jones phrases it) for final puzzle pieces like both Orton (three years, $9 million to hold a clipboard) and Carr (five years, $50 million, legitimate #1 corner money).

Next year’s offseason is proving to be similarly challenging.  The following players will be up for contract in 2013 (we are not yet assuming Bowe gets a long-term contract):

QB Brady Quinn
RB Peyton Hillis
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Jeremy Horne
TE Jake O’Connell
OT Brandon Albert
OG Ryan Lilja
DE Glenn Dorsey
ILB Jovan Belcher
ILB Brandon Siler
CB Travis Daniels
CB Jacques Reeves
DB Kyle McCarthy
FS Donald Washington
P Dustin Colquitt
LS Thomas Gafford
Plus DE Tyson Jackson’s impending $15 million year, which will demand a response.

Starter-wise, this is looking a little less brutal, but is still going to force some major decisions for this team going forward.  Who will get the franchise tag (only 1 player can)?  Who will get a midseason extension (usually only two will)? Who will hit the free market and will subsequently get dramatically overpaid (as at least one of our key starters is likely to)? Who can be replaced via talent we already have on the roster, free agency and the draft?

What do you think, Addicts?

1. Who do you slap the franchise tag on in 2013?
2. What two Chiefs do you think we should get extended throughout the season.
3. Explain how you are going to replace or re-sign every other starter and/or key contributor.