Of those 15 players, there are eight I would green light for contract extensions. Their names are: Eric Berry, Sean Smith, Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito, Tyvon Branch, Frank Zombo, Daniel Sorensen, and Nick Williams. Sit down. I realize that I omitted Tamba Hali’s name from the list. I think it’s time that he move on. We have a first-round draft pick invested in his replacement.
Last year, we saw him flash. This season, I think it’s he took over for the elder statesman. I’m no fan of allowing the contracts of lifelong Chiefs to expire, but Hali’s best playing days are behind him and I think the franchise needs to look ahead to the future.
As for Sean Smith, he will command heavy coin as he prepares to hit the open market, but re-signing him is an expensive, albeit necessary, insurance policy. Which one of you is confident that Philip Gaines will return to form by the time training camp rolls around? I thought so. Right now, it’s anybody’s guess about whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to enter the season as the starter opposite of Marcus Peters.
The Chiefs have $33 million in cap space. There’s no reason why they can’t bring Smith back. Sure, he’s going to command a deal somewhere north of Byron Maxwell’s six-year, $63 million deal, but he also is unlikely to fetch the top contracts that average in the $14 million per year range. Until Kansas City knows Gaines will be the same guy when he returns, they can’t afford to gamble at such an important position in today’s NFL.
Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry rebounded from challenging 2014 seasons and proved they’re still the best players on the roster at their respective positions. The Chiefs do have two young inside linebacker prospects with some upside, but none bring the kind of presence and leadership you get with Johnson. Branch, DeVito, Zombo, Sorensen, and Williams are all roleplayers who’ve successfully contributed in Kansas City and keeping them on maintains a fairly deep defensive group.
The remaining players, save Jaye Howard, who is himself headed for a sizeable free agent deal, are fairly replaceable at little cost. Husain Abdullah’s 2015 campaign was marred by injury. Jamell Fleming’s stretch as Sean Smith’s replacement was abysmal. Dezman Moses flashed an excellent first step, but his on-field production did nothing to justify him staying on. The others are “just guys.”
With these eight in mind, let’s take a look at the options available at two key positions — safety and outside linebacker. The Chiefs could stand a few additional bodies even if the aforementioned names are retained. Who’s out there? I’m glad you asked, and since you’re asking, let’s check the names.
Next: Options in the secondary...