AFC West Draft Needs: Kansas City Chiefs
Todd Haley’s first year as head coach is in the books and the results were less than stellar as the team finished with a 4-12 record. Big changes have been made to the coaching staff as general manager Scott Pioli continues to construct a team that curiously resembles the New England Patriots. The Chiefs hired Charlie Weis to serve as offensive coordinator and Romeo Crennel to handle the defense, both of whom held the same positions in New England under Bill Belichick. In his second offseason on the job, Pioli will continue to build the Chiefs roster through the draft by selecting scheme-specific players in typical Patriot fashion.
Kansas City will make eight picks in the draft but does not have any choices in the final two rounds. They acquired an extra second-round pick from the Falcons last season in exchange for Tony Gonzalez.
Matt Cassel is making big bucks, but he needs better protection.
The Chiefs invested $63 million in Matt Cassel but failed to protect him as they allowed the sixth-most sacks last season. Branden Albert took a step back in his sophomore season and the team may move him to right tackle. If so, the Chiefs will need to find a quality pass protector for Cassel’s blindside. Kansas City also needs help along the interior of the offensive line. Casey Wiegmann was signed in free agency and will likely push Rudy Niswanger for the starting center job. At guard, Brian Waters is aging and Wade Smith wasn’t re-signed. Ryan Lilja was signed and should provide better pass protection. The team could use a starting left tackle and some depth along the interior to push the starters. Kansas City has visited with offensive tackles Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and Vladimir Ducasse of UMass, centers Maurkice Pouncey of Florida and Eric Olsen of Notre Dame, and Idaho guard Mike Iupati.
Elsewhere on offense, the Chiefs are in dire need of some weapons. Dwayne Bowe had a down year in the new system and at one point missed four games while serving a suspension. Chris Chambers was acquired midseason and performed better than expected. He was re-signed in the offseason, but will be 32 years old in August. The rest of the roster is filled with below-average players. Kansas City desperately needs to get a big-time receiving threat. They’ve hosted Dezmon Briscoe of Kansas, Eric Decker of Minnesota and Taylor Price of Ohio.
Replacing Tony Gonzalez is never an easy task. The Chiefs tried four different players at the position last season, but none of them were anything to brag about. A dynamic receiving threat at tight end would be a great outlet for Cassel. The draft is deep at the position and a quality player could be had in the later rounds.
Kansas City was ineffective at stopping all areas of the offense, but the run defense was especially poor. The Chiefs ranked 31st as they allowed 156.5 yards per game on the ground. They’ve already invested a lot in the defensive line having spent first-round picks on ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, but they still need help at nose tackle. Ron Edwards is just OK and the 3-4 requires outstanding play from the nose to be truly successful. One player who fits the description is Terrence Cody of Alabama, whom the team has already met with.
The linebacking corps is also a mess. On the inside, Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays were the starters and neither was stout. The team has been unhappy with the play of former first-round pick Derrick Johnson for some time and finally demoted him last season. Johnson will probably get a crack at a starting role next season, but even if he elevates his play a strong inside defender is a big need. On the outside, the team needs to get a better pass rush from their linebackers. Tamba Hali moved back from defensive end and had a productive season registering 8.5 sacks, but the same cannot be said for the others. The rest of the defense combined for just 13.5 sacks as Kansas City tallied the second-lowest total in the NFL. The team needs a dynamic pass rusher to pressure the quarterback off the edge of the 3-4 scheme. Some inside linebacker prospects the team has met with include Rolando McClain of Alabama and Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri.
In the secondary, the Chiefs like their two young corners in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Donald Washington was drafted last April to provide extra depth, so Kansas City is doing pretty good at cornerback. Safety is a different story entirely. Bernard Pollard was cut before the start of the season and went on to have an outstanding year with the Texans. Jon McGraw and Mike Brown ended up starting, and neither was any good. Jarrad Page has potential, but he and DaJuan Morgan spent most of 2009 on injured reserve. Safety is a major need for the Chiefs and they’ve already hosted all the top dogs in Eric Berry of Tennessee, Earl Thomas of Texas, Nate Allen of South Florida and Taylor Mays of USC. They’ve also met with Oregon’s T.J. Ward.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Mike Brown (wasn’t re-signed), WR Bobby Wade (wasn’t re-signed), WR Chris Chambers (signed for three years at $15M), WR Terrance Copper (re-signed), LB Mike Vrabel (re-signed for one-year at $3.425M), TE Sean Ryan (wasn’t re-signed), G Wade Smith (wasn’t re-signed)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Corey Mays (received second-round tender at $1.759M and signed), S Jarrad Page (received second-round tender at $1.759M), QB Brodie Croyle (received second-round tender at $1.759M and signed), QB Matt Gutierrez (wasn’t tendered, re-signed for one-year at $545,000), LB Derrick Johnson (received first-round tender at $2.621M and signed), G Ikechuku Ndukwe (received second-round tender at $1.684M and signed), C Rudy Niswanger (received second-round tender at $1.759M and signed), T Ryan O’Callaghan (received second-round tender at $1.759M and signed), RB Kolby Smith (wasn’t tendered, re-signed for one year at $545,000), G Andy Alleman (wasn’t tendered)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: LS Thomas Gafford (tendered), RB Jackie Battle (wasn’t tendered, re-signed), FB Mike Cox (tendered and signed), DB Maurice Leggett (tendered and signed), T Barry Richardson (tendered and signed), LB Andy Studebaker (tendered and signed).
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Chris Chambers, WR Terrance Copper, LB Mike Vrabel, LB Corey Mays, QB Brodie Croyle, QB Matt Gutierrez, LB Derrick Johnson, G Ikechuku Ndukwe, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan, RB Kolby Smith, RB Jackie Battle, FB Mike Cox, DB Maurice Keggett, T Barry Richardson, LB Andy Studebaker.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Thomas Jones (signed for two years at $5M), G Ryan Lilja (signed for three years at $7.5M), DT Shaun Smith (signed for one year at $630,000), WR Jerheme Urban (signed for one year at $630,000), C Casey Wiegmann (signed for one year at $2M).
PLAYERS LOST: S Mike Brown, WR Bobby Wade, G Andy Alleman (signed with Indianapolis), LB Wes Bacus, WR Devard Darling, G Mike Goff, LB Justin Rogers, TE Sean Ryan (signed with Washignton), RB Dantrell Savage, C Wade Smith (signed with Houston)
WIDE RECEIVER -- Kansas City has to provide Cassel with some weapons. Dwayne Bowe had a down year and Chris Chambers is getting old. All the other receivers on the roster are journeymen.
NOSE TACKLE -- The run defense will continue to get gashed until they get a stellar nose tackle in middle of their 30 front. Ron Edwards is nothing more than serviceable as the starter, and he’s 31-years old in July anyways.
INSIDE LINEBACKER -- Derrick Johnson’s future is still a mystery. He was demoted in 2009, but the team tendered him at a first-round level in the offseason. Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays are the two starters and neither is strong against the run. The inside linebackers are another reason for KC’s poor performance against the opposition’s rushing attack.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER -- Tamba Hali registered 8.5 sacks last season while the rest of the team combined for 13.5. A better pass rush is need from the outside linebackers.
SAFETY -- Jon McGraw and Mike Brown were below average starters last season. It certainly didn’t help that the team cut Bernard Pollard before the regular season, as he went on to have a monster year in Houston. Jarrad Page could still be a quality player, but he was hurt last year.
TIGHT END -- Tony Gonzalez is proving to be a tough player to replace. Kansas City needs a dynamic receiving threat at tight end to provide Cassel with an outlet.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE -- Ryan Lilja will be an upgrade in pass protection. Brian Waters is still decent but he’s getting old. The centers are Rudy Niswanger and Casey Wiegmann, and neither is great. More depth is needed.