Jun 18, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray (7) throws passes during the mini camp at University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
5. Back Up Quarterback (Aaron Murray)
The number five spot on this list goes to the back up quarterback position. Unlike the other spots on this list, the Chiefs already have a suitable player here in veteran Chase Daniel. Daniel is a perfect NFL back up quarterback. He’s good enough to fill in here and there but not so good that he’s a threat to go somewhere else to be a starter. So why would it benefit the Chiefs enough to make this list if someone else stepped up and took his spot? Well, at the risk of invalidating my own list, in terms of on the field play next season it wouldn’t. Instead, if second year quarterback Aaron Murray stepped up and took the back up job from Daniel it would be more of a long term benefit.
First off, there is the widely discussed contract of Chase Daniel. While Daniel fills an important roll, KC is strapped for cap space this season and are still trying to figure out a contract for all world pass rusher Justin Houston. So if Murray beating out Daniel allowed the Chiefs to sign Houston to a long term contract that would be a huge long term benefit to the team that’s not even related to the quarterback position. While we’re on the topic of cap space, keep in mind that before the season starts some quality veterans will get cut from their current teams. If KC has a little extra cap space because they cut Daniel it could also allow them room to bring in one of these veterans to fill a spot where they may not have liked what they saw during the preseason (cough…offensive line…cough).
The other big long term benefit is having a young quarterback prospect that is showing signs of improving. Good quarterbacks are the top commodity in all of professional sports. If you have a good quarterback it makes everything else easier. I don’t care who a team has as their starting quarterback it is ALWAYS better to have a young prospect with upside as your backup than an old veteran (assuming their play on the field is equal). Yes, Alex Smith is firmly intrenched as the KC starter, but he isn’t a young player anymore and even if Smith plays well this season it benefits the Chiefs to have a potential successor coming up in the ranks.
If Murray doesn’t beat out Daniel this preseason it doesn’t mean that he won’t ever develop, but you would like to see a young quarterback at least be able to earn a back up role in his second full season. So as training camp and the preseason play out keep an eye on the Murray versus Daniel battle (I’m ruling out Tyler Bray as a candidate for the job) to see how things play out. I personally will be watching to see if early in camp Murray and Daniel split second team reps or if it is still all Daniel. This will be a key sign. If they are splitting reps then I believe it is Murray’s job to lose because it shows they are open to a younger player earning the job and Murray’s upside and contract give him the upper hand. If Daniel always gets the second team reps that means that Murray will truly have to unseat him and prove he is better right now. That could be a challenge given the complex nature of Andy Reid’s offense and Daniel’s edge in experience.
Next up, who will be the Chiefs number two tight end?