Free Agent Preview: First Look Chiefs Needs and Moves
By Nick Athan
With the NFL Combines set to begin next week, NFL Agents, General Managers and Head Coaches, will unofficially begin negotiations to land potential free agents. Though the free for all does not begin until March 9th, it’s expected many of the deals, will get done over the course of the NFL combines. So, what moves should the Chiefs make to better their 2016 AFC West championship team?
Find a Quarterback – For me, I don’t care if the Chiefs go after Kirk Cousins, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, or make a trade for New England Patriots Quarterback, Jimmy Garappolo. If they want to win a playoff game or two in 2017, they can’t put incumbent, Alex Smith under center ever again.
As I’ve stated since watching the game film of Smith’s meltdown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional round, the man can’t cut it as an NFL post season starter. I’ve already indicated grabbing Romo for one or two seasons would be ideal for Kansas City.
It would also allow the Chiefs to consider drafting a young quarterback, Clemson’s DeShaun Watson (Round #1), or my personnel preference, California gunslinger, Davis Webb (Round #2). If it’s the latter, he has Joe Montana stuff in his arm and football IQ to match wits with any of the expected first round quarterbacks that will be drafted in April. Put him behind Romo for a year or two, and Webb could be a star in the making at the quarterback position in Kansas City for a decade.
Sign Berry / Let Poe Walk – The more I’ve analyzed the contract demands for both Safety, Eric Berry and Defensive Tackle, Dontari Poe, I’ve concluded only Berry is worth the price of admission. I’ve learned that Berry has a contract offer (wink wink) from another NFL team, not named Kansas City but in the midwest, for roughly $45 million guaranteed. I believe the Chiefs have thru this weekend to get a deal done with Berry, or I’m confident, he’ll become a free agent. If they tag him again, Berry will stay in Atlanta until week 10 before we see him in a Chiefs uniform in 2017.
As for Poe, the more I hear he wants a deal in the $14 million per year range, the less I like signing him. With a history of back injuries throughout his career in Kansas City, I don’t think he’s worth the risk. With Jaye Howard, entering free agency in 2018, he’s a better choice at nose tackle and a recipient for a contract extension. With Chris Jones, locked in right at defensive end, and Howard in the middle, they’ll more than make up for the on the field contributions of Poe and his projected inflated contract demands.
Make a Deal with Philly – Rumblings suggest that Philadelphia Eagles Center, Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs Tight End, Travis Kelce, could be a cap casualty. As Head Coach, Doug Pederson cleans more of the house he inherited from Chip Kelly, he’s looking to find more dollars to jump head first into free agency.
If Kelce is indeed a candidate to be released, to insure he lands in Kansas City, the Chiefs would be wise to trade a conditional fourth or fifth round pick, to secure the services of the elder Kelce. The need to get Jason on the Chiefs roster is a two-fold answer. First, he’ll be a calming influence on his talented, but flamboyant brother, who sometimes leads by his mouth and silliness on the field.
Secondly, the insertion of the talented center in the Chiefs starting offensive line, would allow Kansas City to move, Mitch Morse, to right guard. Should that occur, KC’s offensive line would be from left to right; Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Kelce, Morse and Mitchell Schwartz.
That would give Reid, five mobile offensive linemen that could better protect Romo, Smith or any other quarterback that lines up under center for the Chiefs for the next three seasons.
Sign Five Free Agents – There are a handful of high profile free agents that would be ideal fits for the Chiefs. However, with some cap restraints and future cuts to make, let’s assume the dollars are short, and KC is looking for bargains – like the one they found in Running Back, C.J. Spiller on Friday – let’s hope KC has loftier goals in mind for March. If so, here are five, I’d sign.
LB A.J. Klein (Panthers) – Stuck behind a trio of All Pro defenders, Klein has recorded nearly 100 tackles the last two years as a back-up and emergency starter for the Carolina Panthers. He’s more than proven his worth to receive a starting gig elsewhere. He’d be a perfect fit in Kansas City to shore up their poor run defense. With the injury to All Pro Linebacker, Derrick Johnson suffered late in the 2016 season, that pushes his status, as an opening day option for the Chiefs, in serious doubt. Adding Klein would instantly make him a starter, giving the Chiefs, much needed depth at inside linebacker.
DE Andre Branch (Dolphins) – Entering the next chapter of his NFL career, Andre Branch, is a high riser among NFL defensive end prospects. He has modest numbers thus far in his NFL career, but he’s a starter, and would be an excellent fit opposite, Chris Jones at defensive end for the Chiefs. Yes, I know the Chiefs currently have, Allen Bailey, currently is plugged into the starters role for 2017, but I think he’s going to be cap casualty next month. Injury bugs have stalled his career, and Branch will be a better and cheaper option for KC on the field and on the books.
CB Stephon Gilmore (Bills) – Granted he’s one of the best free agent cornerbacks on the market (should the Bills not place the franchise tag on their top corner, but add him opposite All Pro, Marcus Peters, then KC’s defense jumps from average to above average with his signing. Now, he’s going to be expensive, but the Chiefs are still trying to figure out, who can play opposite Peters in 2017 and beyond. We know, Phillip Gaines isn’t the answer. Though DJ White has some promise, and so does Terrance Mitchell. But adding Gilmore to KC’s defense would put them in contention to compete head to head with the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West crown this year.
TE Jack Doyle (Colts) – I suspect the Colts, under new General Manager Chris Ballard, will likely make every attempt to re-sign the Colts tight end. However, should he hit the open market, he’d be a perfect complement to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs have tried for three years to find a counter to Kelce, and thus far, to no success. Andy Reid’s offense only works if he has two pass catching tight ends, especially if he goes with Smith in 2017, for it to be successful. Adding Doyle would be a great get for Kansas City.
WR Brandon LaFell (Bengals) – After a pedestrian 2015 season, the Bengals wide receiver brought his ‘A’ game to the Bengals offense in 2016. The 30-year old receiver had six touchdown receptions last season, and would instantly upgrade KC’s offensive arsenal. He’s rock steady, and should the Chiefs cut Wide Receiver, Jeremy Maclin if they are unable to re-structure his contract, LaFell makes sense for Kansas City.