How Long Will The Chiefs Keep Chase Daniel?


Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel (10) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Am I the only one who is surprised that Chase Daniel is still a Chief?

I have nothing against the man, but I was not expecting him to make it this far through free agency.

I was excited to see the Chiefs sign Daniel in 2013. He had success at a college within the Chiefs Kingdom, and many of the fans were already familiar with him. He also spent the first three years of his career working under one of the game’s best quarterbacks in Drew Brees. That can’t hurt, right?

I had no delusions that Daniel would ride into town and solve Kansas City’s woes at the quarterback position. But I was confident that he could make a quality backup. Though his play in the last two seasons has been pretty limited — two starts in eight games played — as far as being a backup goes, he seems to be top-notch. If nothing else, we know he matches up well against the Chargers.

But a top-notch backup quarterback is like an expensive insurance policy. You hope that you never have to use it, and are generally wondering how much you could save on a simpler version. And we all know that the Chiefs could certainly benefit from the nearly $4 million that would be saved by eliminating his contract.

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Back at the start of the offseason, Daniel was a popular pick to be cut in order to make the room required to keep Justin Houston — largely for the fact that a backup quarterback pulling down several million is definitely on the high side. It is, in fact, the highest cap hit of any backup in the division. A little quick research based on depth charts from ESPN and contract information from spotrac seems to indicate that only Mark Sanchez is slated to cost his team more in cap space as a #2 quarterback in 2015.

John Dorsey and the rest of the front office have done an outstanding job of making room, not only for Houston’s franchise offer, but also for several other key additions like Jeremy Maclin and Ben Grubbs.  Unfortunately, it has left the Chiefs with the least amount of cap space in the league. Though it should be just enough to cover signing the Chiefs’ many upcoming draft picks according to Over The Cap. It would be incredibly close, but could happen.

So perhaps Kansas City is simply being risk-averse by holding on to Daniel. He may be an expensive insurance policy, but he was needed last season when Alex Smith suffered a lacerated spleen. And when given the opportunity, he performed well. With that being the case, the decision makers at One Arrowhead Drive may have determined that Daniel is a good enough safety net to warrant the money.

That gives Kansas City precious little wiggle room under the cap, but I could understand the logic if the Chiefs are not targeting any other free agents right now. But there are also considerations beyond cap space why Daniel may not make it through next season.

In particular, there is the issue of the Chiefs currently having a whopping five quarterbacks on their roster. It was considered odd that they kept four going into last season, so I doubt they will be trying to add to that total this time around. But this is where Daniel poses a bit of a catch-22.

Of the four backups on the Chiefs roster, Daniel falls right behind Smith based on known talent. However, the Chiefs need to be looking for the ever-elusive “long-term answer at quarterback” as Smith will be turning 31 during the offseason. And Daniel, as much as he may be a quality backup, is not going to fill that role.

Two of the other backups, Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray, might be able to pick up that mantle. At least, that was the theory when they were drafted. Over the past two seasons, precious little has been seen from either of them as both have been affected by ACL injuries in that time frame. Neither was a high draft pick, but both deserve the chance to prove themselves before passing judgment on their young careers. And for that to happen, Daniel may need to be out of the way.

And therein lies the rub. Based on what we know, would you be more comfortable slotting Bray, Murray, or recent addition Terrelle Pryor into the second spot on the depth chart? If Smith goes down, I find it hard to say yes to that question. So do you cut Daniel, save the money, and give the young players a chance to prove themselves? Or do you pay the money to keep the guy you know is good, but not the answer?

There is also the wild card of another quarterback coming through the draft. Andy Reid is known for drafting the position frequently, and as Laddie Morse recently noted here, there are increasing mocks that show Marcus Mariota available with the 18th overall pick. However likely or unlikely that scenario is, it would not shock me to see the Chiefs use one of their 10 picks on a quarterback this year if they feel there is a player with potential franchise status available. Heck, they took Murray last year when they had fewer picks and had not addressed their positions of greatest need.

Regardless of whether the Chiefs decide to bring in another young prospect or not, much of this saga is likely to play out in training camp. If the organization does not have to gain cap room from cutting Daniel, then why not keep the insurance policy while evaluating the rest of the talent? My guess is that has been the thinking thus far.

But if any of that talent knocks Daniel from the second string to the third, then his near $5 million cap hit goes from being hard to defend to impossible to defend.