Flanny’s Five: Chiefs need to go all in with Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Five issues surrounding the Chiefs heading into the off-season.
ALL IN ON ALEX: Yes, the Chiefs have numerous decisions to make regarding their crop of free-agents, from Branden Albert to Dexter McCluster to Tyson Jackson to Kendrick Lewis and so on.
But they also need to take care of another player who still has one year left on his contract — quarterback Alex Smith.
The National Football Post reported earlier this week that the Chiefs indeed will try to extend Smith’s contract beyond the 2014 season.
Yes, it would be beneficial for the Chiefs’ organization to draft a quarterback this year and start developing that quarterback to eventually be Smith’s replacement someday. That’s even more reason to lock Smith into a long-term deal.
Smith could be an excellent tutor in that process.
Smith has earned an extension, and that won’t come cheap. He is set to make $7.5 million in 2014 and as the National Football Post pointed out, he is vastly underpaid compared to other quarterbacks of similar ability (Jay Cutler just inked a seven-year, $126.7 million deal).
Smith proved his doubters wrong this season, setting career-highs in completions (308), yards (3,313) and touchdown passes (23). He threw just seven interceptions as well.
And Smith was brilliant in the playoff loss, throwing for 378 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also displayed his tremendous athleticism with several escapes from the pocket, and he wound up rushing for 57 yards.
Granted, the Chiefs need to break their ridiculous trend of failing to draft and develop a quarterback. But in the meantime, they need to appreciate what they have in Smith, who has found a home in Andy Reid’s system and proved that by getting better as the season wore on.
BRING DEXTER BACK: It’s understood that in the NFL, rosters flip from year to year. You simply can’t re-sign all your free-agents.
But I still think that re-signing Dexter McCluster should be a priority, even though the perception among some observers is that he’s not a big enough weapon on offense to justify the financial investment.
McCluster, though, is an important weapon overall. Too many times teams underestimate the value of a game-breaker on special teams, and there simply are few better, if any, than McCluster in that category.
McCluster was the only player in the NFL with two punt returns for touchdowns this season, and he led the league with 686 punt-return yards. He can flip field position in a heartbeat.
And McCluster is a valuable piece for Smith in the offense. While McCluster has been removed almost completely from the running game (career-low five yards in 2013), he set career-highs in receptions (53) and receiving yards (511).
PUNT THE DUNTA: No one expected every deal that general manager John Dorsey pulled off last season to be a complete hit.
No general manager is perfect. But good general managers recognize mistakes, cut their losses and move on.
That should be the case with cornerback Dunta Robinson, who was benched earlier in the season and then was disastrous down the stretch and in the playoff loss. The Chiefs can find a better option at nickel back.
Robinson signed a three-year, $13.75 million deal last spring, but only about $4 million was guaranteed.
COMING BACK: One defensive back that should be back and most likely will be back is Husain Abdullah.
Abdullah, who had taken a year off from football on a religious pilgrimage, was a terrific special-teams player in his first season with the Chiefs and certainly showed a nose for the ball — he had a fumble recovery and a pick-six in the regular season, and two interceptions in the playoff loss.
Abdullah also was so well-liked and respected in the locker room that he was voted to be a captain for the playoff game.
Abdullah played for $750,000 last season on a one-year deal so re-signing him shouldn’t break the bank.
DRAFTING NEEDS: Obviously the Chiefs have several areas of need in this year’s draft but don’t be surprised if Dorsey goes after another tight end.
We all know tight ends are important to Andy Reid’s offense, and Dorsey comes from an environment (Green Bay) where drafting tight ends was a focus as well.
The Chiefs do have Anthony Fasano who, when healthy, was solid in the blocking scheme and a reliable receiver. Rookie Travis Kelce, hurt all season, could be a weapon in the passing game.
But expect the Chiefs to cover that position again in the draft where the top prospects are: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron (6 feet 4, 245), Texas Tech’s Jase Amara (6-5, 260) and Washington’s Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (6-6, 276).
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.