As I sat down to write my weekly piece I considered writing about the Super Bowl…..for about two seconds. Then I realized that you can read about who won (not Denver), the best plays (all by Seattle), and the best commercials (Radio Shack?) in about 100 different places this morning (check out Fansided.com for all the coverage you could ever need), but you don’t come to AA for Super Bowl rehashing. You come to AA to read and talk Chiefs. So let’s do it.
The past three weeks I’ve tried to help give you an idea of KC’s salary cap situation and some free agent targets at two of KC’s biggest positions of need. If you missed any of those posts, you can check them out at the links below.
This week’s piece is going to build off the overall theme of those pieces. In simplest terms, the Chiefs DO NOT have much money to be big players in NFL free agency. They will have to make cuts and restructure some big contracts just to sign their draft picks, re-sign any in house guys they want, and maybe sign a second tier free agent or two. KC fans that have their hopes for next season resting on some huge name, big splash, high dollar free agents coming to town are going to be sorely disappointed. If I can mention the Super Bowl once more, it would be to point out how Seattle built the best team in the NFL, by winning the draft and with bargain free agents.
That’s why I think the most important thing for KC to do this offseason is to re-sign some key in-house free agents before they hit the open market.
At this point you’re probably thinking of guys like Branden Albert, Tyson Jackson, and Dexter McCluster.
No, no, and no.
Look, I don’t dislike any of those guys and would love to have all of them back if they were to come back at a discount that wouldn’t hurt KC’s already sticky cap situation. However, there are three Chiefs that played well last season that could all be brought back at prices that are in KC’s budget. These aren’t flashy players. They aren’t household names. They aren’t guys that are going to make anyone say “This guy is going to put KC over the top next season!”.
Newsflash: Winning teams don’t have Pro Bowlers at all 22 starting spots.
Yes, you need big time playmakers on your team, as many as possible. Equally valuable are solid starters and role players that don’t hurt your team, but come at a decent price so that you have more money to spend on star players. That is exactly who I believe these players are. Starting with:
Geoff Schwartz – Offensive Guard
Schwartz is an NFL journeyman with stops in Carolina and Minnesota before landing in Kansas City last season. He started out the season behind starters Jon Asamoah and Jeff Allen, but eventually got some playing time due to injuries and played well enough that he stuck in the starting lineup and sent Asamoah to the bench.
At this point I’m going to take a time out on talking about Schwartz to mention that I’m going to once again use these players’ ratings by Pro Football Focus. The good people at Pro Football Focus take the time to grade every single player on every single play and assign them a score based on what they see. I don’t always agree with them and I certainly don’t think that their ratings define a player. However, it is a snapshot into their play. Players that are clearly struggling always have negative scores (Kendrick Lewis, -2.8) and great players always have positive scores (Jamaal Charles, 22.4). You get the idea. Now back to Schwartz.
Despite playing less snaps than either Asamoah or Allen, Schwartz still totaled the highest score of any KC guard at 15.2. For comparison, Asamoah finished with a score of 7.9 and Allen with a pathetic -12.0 (sigh). Not only was Schwartz’s score the best of KC’s guards, it was the best score of any of their offensive linemen. Brandon Albert was second with a 10.0. Schwartz ended the season as Pro Football Focus’s number eight ranked guard in the entire NFL, scoring better than perennial Pro Bowlers like Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda, Jahri Evans, and Logan Mankins. Now, do I think that Schwartz is the 8th best guard in the NFL and better than the four players I just listed? No, this is an example of where I think PFF sometimes falls short of really capturing a player’s ability. However, it does show that Schwartz is clearly a good starting NFL guard. He shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to sign and KC would be foolish to let him go when they don’t have anyone on the roster to fill that spot since Asamoah is also a free agent.
Re-signing Geoff Schwartz should probably be KC’s top priority at this point.
Akeem Jordan – Inside Linebacker
Akeem Jordan followed Andy Reid to Kansas City from the Philadelphia Eagles. He was basically a place holder to fill the starting spot left vacant by Jovan Belcher until rookie Nico Johnson was ready to start. However, Nico never stepped up and Jordan actually did a very good job of playing the two-down, run stopping, base defense inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson. Is Jordan an elite player? No. Is he good enough in coverage to stay on the field in the sub package? No. Does that mean he shouldn’t be brought back? No.
Once again, while it would be nice to have another Pro Bowler in the linebacking core, they already have THREE in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Derrick Johnson. Houston is going to need a new contract soon, so having a cheap run stuffer as the fourth man is fine as long as he does what KC asks him to do well.
So did Jordan do a good job of filling that role last season?
The people at PFF sure think so. Jordan finished the season with a score of 4.5. While that doesn’t sound all that high, it was good enough for 11th overall in NFL ILBs (DJ was third with a 15.4). There were 35 ILBs that ended last season with a negative rating for 2013. While Akeem Jordan wasn’t a super star he didn’t hurt KC. He filled the role they asked him to play. In fact, he finished tied for 5th in the NFL in PFF’s run stopping points for ILBs. Akeem Jordan could be brought back cheap and fills a need on the KC defense. John Dorsey would be wise to bring him back for another season until they find a long term replacement.
Finally we have……
Husain Abdullah – Safety
Husain Abdullah came to Kansas City after having taken a year off to take a pilgrimage to Mecca. Before that he was a former undrafted player for the Minnesota Vikings who eventually earned a starting spot for the Vikings in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. In 2010 Abdullah finished as PFF’s 18th rated safety and in 2011 he finished 25th. If you think about each team having two starters, that makes 64 starting safeties. So finishing 18th and 25th puts him in the top half of starters in the NFL (Kendrick Lewis finished 52nd last season).
Last season, Abdullah was credited with 240 snaps at safety with a PFF rating of 1.7 and 52 snaps at CB (he played some nickel corner in the sub package) with a rating of 1.2. That overall grade of 2.9 was higher than the grades of Kendrick Lewis (-2.8), Quentin Demps (-4.4), Sean Smith (0.9), Dunta Robinson (-5.3), Marcus Cooper (-3.0), and Brandon Flowers (-5.9). Should Abdullah be signed to a long term contract and handed the starting FS job? No, but he is a proven NFL player with starting experience who did more with his limited snaps than most other KC DBs. Once again, his price should be very reasonable and the fact that he’s versatile and a great special teams contributor makes this re-signing even more of a no brainer.
So there you have it Addicts, the players that the cap strapped Kansas City Chiefs should be targeting as the NFL offseason officially kicks off. They may not be flashy or exciting, but when you are trying to build a winner without much cap space finding (and keeping) quality players that don’t cost big dollars is the name of the game. As I see it, John Dorsey’s job this offseason is keeping these players, drafting guys that can help this team right away, and finding more under the radar guys like Schwartz, Jordan, Abdullah, Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker, and Sean McGrath. So while other fans scream at the top of their lungs about giving Branden Albert as much money as he wants and winning a bidding war for Jarius Byrd you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to understand that KC’s free agent approach may not make headlines, but is exactly the right approach for John Dorsey and Andy Reid to take.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!
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