Does Brandon Flowers' no-show at OTAs signal the end of his days as a Chief?
MAY 27, 2014 7:17p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tick, tick, tick.
At the moment (the moment being the last muggy Tuesday in May), it's merely speculation that the Kansas City Chiefs are looking to unload Brandon Flowers. Or supposition. Or logic.
Or, what the hell, all of the above.
Flowers will make $5.25 million this fall, with a cap number of $10.5 million. He got moved from "outside cornerback" to "nickel/slot cornerback" a matter of weeks into a glorious start to 2013, uprooted from his normal spot by a rookie snatched off the waiver wire who'd just been cut by the 49ers. According to the whiz kids at Pro Football Focus, he was also the worst defensive back -- cumulative grade: -5.9, lower than Dunta Robinson's -5.3 and whipping post Kendrick Lewis' -2.8 -- the Chiefs trotted out on a regular basis last fall.
While that rookie, Marcus Cooper, became something of a revelation, at least for a couple months, Flowers bit his lip and did the good teammate/good soldier bit. The Chiefs opened with a 9-0 record, so nobody complained much, externally -- No. 24 included. When you're damn near locked into a playoff berth by Election Day, it's not cool to start rocking the boat.
May? May's different.
No shock: Robinson and Lewis are gone now.
And as the spring-slash-summer preseason cycle continued along Lancer Lane -- organized team activities formally got under way Tuesday morning -- Flowers was, too.
No formal reason announced. No explanation on high from the team, prepared or otherwise.
Read into it what you will.
Mind you, "trade" is running at 10-to-1. "Cut by June 1" is 3-to-1, unofficially.
And if you saw rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines run last weekend, you'd take those odds.
Flowers was one of two Chiefs defensive starters to pass on what linebacker Derrick Johnson termed the "in our underwear, running around" hijinks on Tuesday. Outside linebacker Justin Houston was the other, and his beef is presumed to be about dollars more than, say, ego.
At any rate, after the sweatbox session had ended, the absent pair's teammates rushed to ... well, change the subject.
"I'm worried about playing quarterback, to be totally honest with you," quarterback Alex Smith said. "I've got enough on my plate. And I think that's the same for everybody here."
"This is a voluntary minicamp, or voluntary OTAs," Johnson said. "It's one of those things. You worry about the guys that are here. I'm a guy who's been there, been through this. It's not a big deal."
Which then led to this exchange with reporters:
You guys talk, right?
"They're friends of mine, so yeah, we talk," Johnson replied.
Did they say they didn't plan to show up?
To that, Johnson laughed.
"I can't say that. I don't know anything about that. When it comes to (the) business part ... we're friends off the field, but when it comes to (the) business part, I stay out of that, just because nobody gets in mine."
Fair enough, and even mere IRS mortals can understand Houston's gripe, even if we can't exactly empathize with it. With a cap number of $747,812 last fall and a base salary of $1.4 million in 2014, the Chiefs' top pass rusher is one of the biggest value buys in the NFL. If you were worried about Big No. 50 putting in the sweat and toil, the former Georgia star posted this video to his Instagram account on Memorial Day:
Of course, on May 17, Flowers posted this one to his Twitter feed:
Tick, tick, tick.
The Chiefs aren't in salary cap hell, per se, but they can smell the coals burning. Houston's rookie deal is up after this year; Smith's contract, is, too. According to OverTheCap.com, the Chiefs have an estimated cap space of just $4.476 million to play with.
NFL teams can cut a player on or before June 1 and spread the "dead" guaranteed money -- or cap hit -- over the next two seasons, rather than eating it all during one. Using the handy-dandy calculator tool over at OverTheCap.com, the Chiefs would gain about $3 million in cap space in 2014 by releasing or trading Flowers after June 1, and roughly $7 million if they do it on or before June 1.
If general manager John Dorsey is serious about extensions for Smith (who has a cap number of $8 million in 2014 and is reportedly seeking Joe Flacco money that would push that number to the $14-$15million range in the near future) and/or Houston, there's no getting around the obvious: moving Flowers off the books helps.
Finding a trade partner for a "nickel" corner with a $5.25 million cap number, now that's the tricky part.
One popular hypothetical doing the message-board rounds is the idea of a one-for-one swap for another non-OTA participant, disgruntled veteran Texans wideout Andre Johnson. In dreamland, it make sense: The Chiefs get a badly needed Dwayne Bowe complement on the outside; Flowers gets reunited with old pal Romeo Crennel, now Houston's defensive coordinator.
Trouble is, while that scenario may fly on your Xbox, it's a little trickier to pull off in real life: Johnson, 32, is slated to make $10 million this fall with a reported cap hit of $15.6 million. No. 80 might fit here, on paper, but the Pro Bowler would have to want to take a massive pay cut first.
Dorsey is a big-picture, long-view guy who seems to be making big-picture, long-view decisions. The Chiefs drafted an outside linebacker, Dee Ford, with their first-round selection; Dorsey spent his next pick, in the third round, on a cornerback: Gaines out of Rice.
The rook is 6-foot-1 and runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Sean Smith is 6-foot-3; Cooper is 6-2. Flowers is 5-9.
Can't coach speed.
Can't coach height.
"Brandon Flowers is a good football player," Dorsey said on May 9, shortly after Gaines was picked. "He is a good fit for what we do."
If the team was sending a message in the draft earlier this month, maybe the two veterans who stayed away Tuesday were simply returning it in kind. And, hey, in Flowers' defense, the only mandatory spring session for vets here runs June 17-19. So there's time.
Although this is interesting, too. On May 25, the Chiefs' corner made a point to retweet a nugget from rapper Plies:
Stop Thinkin U Suppose 2 Have What The Next Person Got If U Ain't Put In The Same Work As Dey Did....— Plies (@plies) May 25, 2014
Tick, tick, tick.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.