The Chiefs had 5 Pro-Bowlers this year. That might sound baffling, but it’s not. Only Eric Berry and maybe Tamba Hali (who had a down year) didn’t deserve it, but they could have easily been replaced by Brandon Flowers and Justin Houston. Unfortunately for them, football is a team game, not a contest of who has the most Pro-Bowlers. This team was the perfect example of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. If you’re as poorly coached and poorly quarterbacked as the Chiefs and lose the turnover battle at a near record rate, you’re not going to win a lot of games. I don’t care how many talented players you have.
Fortunately, for the Chiefs, if they can get a solid quarterback and a solid Head Coach, they can compete in the next year or two. They don’t need any potential rookie quarterback to be an immediate savior like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, or even Russell Wilson. They just need someone to come in and be good, stabilize the turnover situation, make some plays, and the rest should fall into place. The Chiefs also have a few other key needs and a few other key free agents, but among their Pro-Bowlers, only punter Dustin Colquitt is a free agent. Unlike many teams picking #1 overall, they don’t need a complete roster overhaul.
This is a given. Matt Cassel was benched midseason and definitely won’t be brought back at his 7.5 million dollar salary in 2012. Brady Quinn, who took over, looked completely lost on the football field at times, completing 56.9% of his passes for an average of 5.8 YPA, 2 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. 2011 5th round pick Ricky Stanzi couldn’t even get on the field ahead of him. They don’t have anything resembling an NFL caliber starting quarterback on their roster and if they have any hopes of even being respectable in 2013, they need to find a new quarterback this offseason.
3-4 Defensive End
You wonder why the Chiefs are where they are. It’s not just the quarterback position. They spent two top-5 picks on 5-technique defensive ends in 2008 and 2009 and neither of them panned out. As a result, they ranked 28th in the NFL in pass rush efficiency despite having two of the best rush linebackers in the NFL in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. They didn’t get any pass rush from their defensive line.
Chief defensive linemen combined for 5 sacks, 7 hits, and 18 hurries on 1225 combined pass rush snaps, a pathetic 2.7% rate. For comparison, JJ Watt had 21 sacks, 24 hits, and 31 hurries by himself. Dontari Poe in the middle gets a pass because he was a 1st round pick rookie, but they really need help on the outside of their 3 man defensive line (assuming their new coach uses a 3-4, if he uses a 4-3, they’ll need pass rushing defensive tackles). Glenn Dorsey is a free agent this offseason and probably won’t be back, while Tyson Jackson is owed a ridiculous 15 million in 2013 (ah, the olden days when there was no rookie salary cap). He won’t be back unless he agrees to restructure. They need at least one new starter here, preferably two.
I wonder who had the brilliant idea to sign Stanford Routt before free agency even started (after he was waived by Oakland) so they wouldn’t have to pay Brandon Carr the money he wanted as a free agent, even though the Chiefs entered free agency with some of the most cap room in the NFL. Carr turned out to be worth every penny of the 50 million he got in Dallas, while Stanford Routt essentially stole 6 million from the Chiefs, playing poorly when he was on the field and getting cut with 6 million in guaranteed money in his pocket midway through the season. Javier Arenas did a decent job next to stud cornerback Brandon Flowers down the stretch, but they have no depth at the position and Arenas might be best suited as a nickel back.
It’s weird to say, but Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide opened up a hole in the Chiefs’ starting lineup at middle linebacker. Brandon Siler started a few games in his absence, but he really struggled, especially against the run. Fortunately for them, rush linebacker Justin Houston is so good in coverage (in addition to being an awesome pass rusher) that they really only need their other starting middle linebacker to be a two down run stuffer like Belcher was.
The Chiefs could use an upgrade at safety next to Eric Berry. Kendrick Lewis was decent in coverage this year, but missed 10 tackles to 25 solo tackles and did not have a single tackle go for a stop (a tackle within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards in 2nd down, and the full distance on 3rd and 4th down). For his efforts, he was ProFootballFocus’ 81st ranked safety out of 88 eligible. Abram Elam was decent in Lewis’ absence when he got hurt, but the veteran journeyman is a free agent heading into his age 32 season in 2013. There’s a reason the Chiefs were tied to Mark Barron at 11 in last year’s draft before he went 7th to the Buccaneers.
Dwayne Bowe is a free agent and there’s a general sense that he won’t be back with the Chiefs. Even if he is, they still need receiver help, but without him, they have a desperate need and unfortunately for them, I don’t think the answer is through the draft. They have some young receivers in the mix like 2011 1st round pick Jonathan Baldwin, 2010 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster, and 2012 4th round pick Devon Wylie. I think they need to let them develop and the solution is not more youth.
However, the fact remains that they need some veterans in the mix to help their new quarterback along. They can’t rely on a group of youngsters who have never proven anything (with the exception of McCluster, who is a decent slot receiver and probably nothing more). They’ll need to attract some veteran receivers without overpaying, which could be tricky. Meanwhile, Steve Breaston will likely be cut. One of Scott Pioli’s many mistakes as GM, Breaston is owed 3.8 million next season and was a healthy scratch down the stretch, playing 9 snaps total from week 12 on.
They could use a backup for Jamaal Charles. As good as Charles was, Peyton Hillis and Shaun Draughn vultured a combined 144 carries from him and he’s probably not a 300 carry back. Hillis is a free agent and as much as Romeo Crennel loved him, Shaun Draughn does not deserve to be getting meaningful carries in the NFL.
Dwayne Bowe isn’t the Chiefs’ only big name free agent. Left tackle Branden Albert was one of the league’s best left tackles before getting hurt this year. 3rd round rookie Donald Stephenson was miserable in his absence. If they can’t re-sign Albert, they may want to at least look at other options at left tackle, rather than rolling the dice that Stephenson will become an NFL caliber left tackle with more experience in his 2nd year in the league.
This is a similar situation to left tackle. Veteran left guard Ryan Lilja moved to center when Rodney Hudson got hurt and in his absence 2nd round rookie Jeff Allen was horrible, making 13 starts and grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 78th ranked guard out of 80. Lilja retired after the season. They may want to look into other options and at least add competition, rather than rolling the dice that all he needs is another offseason.
Dustin Colquitt was one of the Chiefs’ 5 Pro-Bowlers and a bright spot on this team, but he’s a free agent and will need to either be re-signed or replaced.
The Chiefs ranked 24th in the NFL in kickoff return average as Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster became bigger parts of the defense and offense respectively and were replaced by Shaun Draughn at kickoff returner. He struggled.