Feb 19, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
This time of the NFL year always brings a lot of intrigue. Franchise tags, trades, and free-agency moves leading up to the draft can—and do,—completely reshape teams. But that intrigue often turns out to be fairly hollow. There are always a few notable moves and surprises, but a lot of big names scheduled to become free agents get franchised or re-sign with their old team before ever hitting the market.
It is always fun to watch, but frequently produces more hype than actual news. This year, however, things look a little different.
Before the new league year even began on Tuesday afternoon, we had solid reports that LeSean McCoy would become a Bill, Ndamukong Suh would become a Dolphin, Julius Thomas would become a Jaguar, and Frank Gore would become an Eagle. Gore then quickly backtracked and actually became a Colt.
That sampling is a crazy amount of household names moving around the league. And they are not just names that you know because they used to be good and are now milking the last drops out of their careers. Each of those moves has potential to make an impact.
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And then the league year officially started . . .
The next thing we knew Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seahawks, Philadelphia and St. Louis were swapping quarterbacks, and Haloti Ngata ended up in Detroit. Oh, and Jake Locker decided to retire at age 26.
We all saw those moves coming, right?
What is crazier still is that the Kanas City Chiefs are taking part in all of this—and not purely as a loser (i.e. watching offensive linemen walk out of the front door at their earliest convenience, like last year).
Again before the beginning of the new league year, the Chiefs had parted ways with Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins, Anthony Fasano, Vance Walker, and Joe Mays. They lost Rodney Hudson to the hated Raiders but picked up Tyvon Branch from the Black Hole (it wasn’t a trade, and the Chiefs would have been losers if it was, but taking a Raider makes me feel a little better about losing Hudson).
Most of these moves were assumed to be aimed at keeping recently franchised Justin Houston in town. But the Chiefs placed a “non-exclusive” tag on him. That shouldn’t be a big deal, as even though such tags allow players to solicit and accept offers from other teams, it makes a player expensive enough that moves rarely happen. And then Pro Football Talk reported that Houston is “very upset with the Chiefs,” and his 22-sack season may be enough to cause another team to pony up the two first-round picks required to sign him.
Fans received some relief from the continuing drama of the Houston saga with news that the Chiefs would be reuniting coach Andy Reid with one of the top free-agent receivers on the market in Jeremy Maclin. On the heels of that news, Chiefs fans from all over, especially the ones in Missouri, started grinning from ear to ear.
Other than making fans ecstatic, news of bringing in Maclin also seemed to place the writing on the wall for Dwayne Bowe. Bowe has long been speculated to be a prime candidate for release due to his age, dwindling production, and oversized cap hit. Last year, he recorded 60 receptions, 754 yards, and no touchdowns in 15 games. By comparison, Maclin recorded 56 receptions, 773 yards, and four touchdowns for the Eagles in his rookie (and least productive) season, also playing in 15 games. Maclin is also four years younger than Bowe.
The cap space required to keep Houston and add Maclin prevented Bowe from being a realistic option moving forward—that is, if the Chiefs manage to secure both Houston and Maclin. In addition to reporting that Houston is looking for a way out of Kansas City, Pro Football Talk also managed to send a wave of panic through the Chiefs Kingdom by tweeting on Tuesday afternoon that signing Maclin was not a done deal. In addition, Tuesday also saw ESPN report that the NFL sent out a letter to all 32 teams informing the clubs of an investigation into potential violations of league policy (contacting free agents too early). Maclin’s deal is mentioned as one that is suspected.
Thankfully, Maclin became a good news story again as reports shifted back to his contract being all but a done deal with the Chiefs. Crisis averted, and I am now leery of any Chiefs-related news coming from PFT.
But all of the moves Kansas City has made thus far, though generally sensible, leave one big question mark. Actually, they leave five big question marks. One for each spot on the offensive line—a group that only had one starter most fans really wanted to see come back. And that player is now a Raider.
The last hope of what remains of the O-line is Eric Fisher, who is deserving of more time but has yet to inspire great confidence. Even if he had, a single player cannot constitute an entire line. More is needed, and unless the front office makes some monumental moves, the Chiefs will not have a lot of cash to make that happen.
In short, the offseason has already turned into a pretty crazy ride, and the Chiefs have been part of it. And given the remaining needs up front, they may not be done yet. Although, at this point, that may require pulling a rabbit out of their hat.
However, not all is chaos. In the midst of all the cuts, signings, and trades came a story without any downsides or provisos. And that was the news that Tamba Hali had greed to take a significant pay cut in order to remain a member of the Chiefs. Not only that, but he publicly thanked the Chiefs organization and fans afterward by posting this on Twitter:
As expected from Hali, pure class. If you did not love this guy before, you should now.