October 14, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki (81) reacts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When the Chiefs, with the 93rd overall pick, drafted Tony Moeaki in 2010, the team’s tight end situation was a mess. Tony Gonzalez had been traded following the 2008 season, and the 2009 season featured the Chiefs playing the likes of Brad Cottom, Sean Ryan, and Leonard Pope at the tight end position.
Moeaki came in and, once again, brought talent to the position that had been absent since Gonzalez. In fact, Moeaki surpassed Gonzalez’s rookie receiving record for a tight end with the Chiefs collecting 47 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs knew Moeaki had this kind of talent when they drafted him; they also knew the risk of Moeaki’s history with injuries.
At Iowa in 2007, Moeaki broke his wrist and dislocated his elbow on the same play. The injury resulted in missing the remainder of the season and the following year’s spring practice. Then, the following year, he was making a routine cut in practice and broke his foot. Trying to come back too soon from the injury led to hamstring and calf ailments, and then he suffered concussions against Iowa State and Illinois. In the NFL, Moeaki missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL and has now undergone arthroscopic knee surgery this spring, and won’t be on the field with the Chiefs until training camp. With his injury history, it’s no surprise that the Chiefs made tight end an emphasis this offseason.
On March 13, the Chiefs officially signed former-Dolphin tight end, Anthony Fasano, to a four-year contract worth $16 million. While many Chiefs fans thought that the Fasano signing was just to replace Kevin Boss and serve as a complement to Moeaki, the Travis Kelce-draft pick at the top of the third-round of this year’s draft put Moeaki’s future into uncertain terms.
Now, with Moeaki not able to compete for the starting job until training camp, one has to realistically expect Fasano and Kelce to carry the tight end load for next season while Moeaki battles for the third tight end spot. And yes, I do mean battle. Because if he doesn’t show that he is VERY much better than undrafted free agents Kevin Brock and Demetrius Harris, then the Chiefs could very well move on from Moeaki.
Moeaki is entering the final year of his contract, and is only scheduled to make $1.3 million this season, so there is not a strong financial reason to cut ties with Moeaki. I do think, however, the tipping point lies in Demetrius Harris, the undrafted tight end from UW-Milwaukee. Harris is the former college basketball player you’ve been hearing about this offseason, and while he is certainly no Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham – Harris hasn’t played football since high school – the upside Harris presents is promising.
While I think Moeaki is certainly a better option for 2013 than Harris, if the Chiefs wanted to put Harris on the practice squad, he’d have to clear waivers. Are the Chiefs confident that Harris would clear waivers? Maybe, but Nick Jacobs of TWC Metro Sports in Kansas City expects another team to “snatch him up” if it comes to that point. With Moeaki’s history with injuries and only one year remaining on his contract, would Harris’s continued development this offseason be enough reason for the Chiefs to get rid of Moeaki and move forward with Harris as the team’s third tight end option? After all, this is a new coaching staff and a new front office that doesn’t have an “I don’t want to give up on the guy because I drafted him” mentality.
What do you think Chiefs fans? Do you think it might be time to move on from Moeaki, or are you still a believer in a guy that can do this? Let me know in the comments section.