KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The contracts of all soon-to-be NFL free agents expire at 3 p.m. Tuesday. And with just a projected $10 million or so of cap space available, the Chiefs will have to pick and choose carefully to determine which of their own 11 free agents they decide to bring back.
Also, don’t expect Chiefs general manager John Dorsey to get too wild and crazy with other teams’ free agents this time around.
Yes, Dorsey plugged several perceived holes through free agency last season. But Dorsey is a disciple of Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson (and Ron Wolf before that), a draft-and-develop guy who rarely dips into the free-agent market.
Dorsey, too, would like to take the Chiefs down the draft-and-develop road.
Now, if the Chiefs did dab their toes in free-agent waters, they might do so at safety to replace Kendrick Lewis. Mike Mitchell of Carolina and Nate Allen of Philadelphia are potential targets. And keep in mind that Allen was drafted by then-Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2010.
While the Chiefs certainly could use help at wide receiver, the draft is supposedly exceptionally deep at that position, so one wouldn’t think the Chiefs would spend financial resources on free agency there. But Packers wideout James Jones is someone Dorsey knows well, though Jones — strong hands and body — is not necessarily a deep threat to accompany Dwayne Bowe.
The Chiefs also could upgrade at tight end while they wait on last year’s draft pick, Travis Kelce, to develop. One target could be Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, whom Dorsey scouted. Finley is coming off spinal fusion surgery and is expected to be cleared to play for 2014.
As for Dorsey’s own free agents:
Branden Albert, OT: Dorsey has indicated that the Chiefs are talking to Albert’s reps for a possible long-term deal, but reports are that Miami, which tried to trade for Albert last season, is ready to land him as early as Tuesday. The Chiefs have fast riser Donald Stephenson and last year’s No. 1 pick, Eric Fisher, to step in. FSKC projection: Gone.
Dexter McCluster, PR/WR: If McCluster doesn’t command more than $3 million on the open market, there’s a chance the Chiefs will re-sign him. The latest buzz from CBSSports.com, however, is that McCluster already has multiple suitors and likely won’t return. This would open the door for Devin Hester or Darren Sproles to possibly sign with the Chiefs. FSKC projection: Gone.
Geoff Schwartz, OL: Schwartz is a versatile performer who has indicated he wants to stay in Kansas City, as long as the Chiefs show him a little financial love. It makes sense to find some cap space to bring Schwartz back as a starter. He’s that good. FSKC projection: Back.
Jon Asamoah, G: The Chiefs would love to have him back, even though he lost his starting job to Schwartz. The problem is, there might not be enough financial room. Asamoah is still young (25) and for a club-friendly price (under $1 million) he could be back to provide depth. FSKC projection: Back.
Kyle Williams, WR: The former 49er got hurt within about five minutes (it seemed) of becoming a Chief. There is at least a decent chance he comes back at the minimum just to see what he can bring to the party. At times Williams showed excellent elusiveness in San Francisco. FSKC projection: Back.
Tyson Jackson, DE: The gut feeling here is that some GM out there will overpay for Jackson and thus price the Chiefs out of contention. Jackson seemed to adapt well to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s system, though the Chiefs have said publicly they wish he had developed more pass-rushing skills. There isn’t a ton of depth on the defensive line, but this is where the Chiefs probably save some cap room and replace him through the draft. FSKC projection: Gone.
Akeem Jordan, LB: Jordan is a steady player with some veteran leadership qualities, but just not enough play-making abilities to bring back. The Chiefs were hoping rookie Nico Johnson would take this spot in the defense last season anyway, but Johnson couldn’t stay healthy in camp. Now it’s Johnson’s time to grab the job. Jordan was a decent stopgap. FSKC projection: Gone.
Frank Zombo, LB: A nice pickup, Zombo filled in adequately for the injured Justin Houston last season. Zombo also is a solid special teams player. Dorsey is partial to ex-Green Bay guys, so chances are Zombo comes back on the cheap. FSKC projection: Back.
Kendrick Lewis, S: The Chiefs have been saying all the complimentary things about Lewis lately, calling him the quarterback of the secondary and a guy who really keeps the defense together. But the truth is, Lewis is a liability in coverage and there’s a good chance the Chiefs upgrade here. The Chiefs also want to see what they have in last year’s fifth-round draft pick, Sanders Commings, who was hurt most of the year. Lewis is expendable. FSKC projection: Gone.
Husain Abdullah, DB: The Chiefs love his versatility, motor and nose for the ball, whether it’s on defense or special teams. He might not be starter material, but he’s a valuable guy to have around. He’s sure to get a bump from his $715,000 salary last season and frankly, he’s worth it. FSKC projection: Back.
Quintin Demps, DB: He did grab some interceptions on overthrown balls last season, but like Lewis, he’s a liability in coverage. Demps’ strength is on special teams, but the Chiefs probably can’t afford dishing out any more money for part-time players. If the Chiefs were well under the cap, they’d find room to bring Demps back. But they’ll have to curb spending eventually. FSKC projection: Gone.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.