Gauging the Flight Risk for Kansas City Chiefs' 2012 Free Agents

Derek EstesCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

Gauging the Flight Risk for Kansas City Chiefs' 2012 Free Agents

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    With the window for using the franchise tag closing, the Kansas City Chiefs face more than a couple questions as the floodgates of free agency prepare to open.

    Kansas City headlines two position groups with key free agents, along with a bevy of spot performers and role players. And with things on Arrowhead Drive tight-lipped following the arrival of Scott Pioli, leaks about their intent are few and far between.

    The Chiefs should have their essential free agents locked down before things get too crazy, though. Pioli's already mitigated their biggest potential losses, and might even have an avenue or two to get something in return for his players who are ready to relocate.

    So with Monday's deadline looming, here's a look at how likely Kansas City's free agents are to fly the coop and sign with another team, and what the Chiefs can do to keep hold of their best talent.

    Or replace their worst.

Unattended with the Squad Car Open: Players the Chiefs Want to Get Rid of

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    It's not that the people on this list are bad people, or even bad football players.

    But for the Chiefs to continue improving, they must separate the wheat from the chaff and these players definitely fit the bill for the latter.

     

    Tyler Palko

    Even though he showed a couple bright moments, Palko couldn't learn to forget his mistakes and tanked in games because of it. With Scott Pioli talking about competition in every position, Palko can't provide a legitimate threat to challenge incumbent Matt Cassel.

     

    Jerheme Urban

    A player brought in by Todd Haley, Urban never had much of a chance to show his worth after a season-ending injury in 2010. With Haley now in Pittsburgh, Urban could take a fifth receiver position with the Steelers as the Chiefs continue to upgrade their receiver corps.

     

    Anthony Becht, Leonard Pope

    Pope is a hero off the field, but he didn't save the Chiefs at tight end after Tony Moeaki went down for the season. In fact, Pope became one of Kansas City's biggest penalty magnets, regularly receiving calls for holding.

    Becht didn't do much better; both will likely be pounding the pavement elsewhere.

     

    Barry Richardson

    The ultimate goat for the Chiefs this year, Richardson looked completely inept in pass protection. One of Kansas City's top goals is to upgrade the right tackle position, and they should have no interest in re-signing Richardson unless he comes with a league-minimum contract.

Denied Bail: Dwayne Bowe Likely to Receive the Franchise Tag

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    Drops and occasional lack of focus aside, Dwayne Bowe is the best potential wide receiver who could reach free agency.

    Too bad for 31 other teams that it'll never happen.

    Kansas City faces losing not only Bowe, but Brandon Carr as well. The Chiefs would like to hold on to both, but Carr became incredibly expendable when Kansas City signed Stanford Routt from the Oakland Raiders.

    The Chiefs have yet to commit their franchise tag for Bowe, likely in hopes of getting his John Hancock on a long-term contract before the 3 p.m. deadline.

    If time runs out before that, though, Kansas City will pull the trigger and lock up their biggest free agent priority this offseason.

Million-Dollar Bail and High-Speed Pursuit: Brandon Carr Poised to Flee KC

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    Despite the talk about wanting to keep Brandon Carr in Kansas City, the Chiefs just don't have the room to keep him.

    It's not about the salary cap here, even though Carr should cash in big after two solid years in Kansas City's secondary.

    It's the depth chart. Keeping Carr in addition to Stanford Routt and Brandon Flowers puts one of those three as the nickelback, and $7 million is a steep price to pay a situational back.

    It also pushes Javier Arenas to their fourth cornerback and Jalil Brown to fifth or out the door. While the Chiefs would love to have that stacked a secondary, there are too many other priorities for Kansas City's roster.

    If the Chiefs can sign Dwayne Bowe before the franchise tag deadline, expect Kansas City to tag Carr and trade him to a team desperate for an upgrade to their secondary—likely New England or Dallas.

    Should Bowe not sign, though, Kansas City will have no choice but to watch Carr sign a large free agent contract. Even worse, the Chiefs will get nothing in return.

Flight from Authority: Players Headed for Bigger Money and Greener Pastures

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    Brandon Carr won't be the only Chief looking to cash in big with another team.

    Wallace Gilberry had a down year in 2011, but posted 7.5 sacks during Kansas City's AFC West title season.

    Gilberry's a solid situational pass rusher, and will likely always be just that for the Chiefs. Some team will see the promise of greater things and give him a more lucrative contract to gain his services.

    While Gilberry's operated in a 3-4 defense most of his career, the teams who should be most interested would be ones needing a 4-3 pass rushing end.

    Gilberry will follow in the steps of players like Jimmy Wilkerson and R-Kal Truluck, who found some success in Kansas City in spot work before moving on elsewhere.

    Kyle Orton should also find himself with another team in 2012. While the contract might not pay as much as what he's made the last few years with Denver and Kansas City, what will improve are his chances to start again in this league.

    Teams like Miami and Seattle would be the most likely landing spots. Neither team has a real shot at Robert Griffin III, and could use a more capable veteran quarterback than incumbents Matt Moore and Tavaris Jackson.

Hardship Release: Kansas City Players Most Likely to Retire

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    While players like Brandon Carr and Wallace Gilberry are just starting their careers, another group of players should depart Kansas City to play for the Family Room Couches.

    With age catching up to a number of players and new personnel coming in, here are the players who could be looking to hang up their pads for good and retire from the game:

     

    Casey Wiegmann

    Wiegmann turns 39 this summer and hasn't missed a snap since Moses played the game.  Outstanding ironman that he is, though, Wiegmann lost a huge step last year and is yet again facing free agency. At this point, odds are Wiegmann calls is a long and respected career.

     

    Kelly Gregg

    A short-timer from Baltimore, Gregg provided a solid stop-gap for the Chiefs last year. Gregg could decide to continue playing, but approaching 36 will cause teams to hesitate re-signing the consistent nose tackle.

     

    Thomas Jones

    The locker room leader and bruising tailback hit a wall of his own the last two years in Kansas City. Jones provided solid but not stellar runs in 2010; in 2011, he proved unable to should most of the carries when Jamaal Charles went to spend his year on the bench.

     

    Ryan O'Callaghan

    A former New England Patriot, O'Callaghan didn't pan out well for the Chiefs after picking him up on waivers in 2009. The offensive tackle spent all of 2011 on injured reserve, and is reportedly looking to retire.

Released on Their Own Recognisance: Chiefs Who Will Return to Kansas City

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    Kansas City may lose a number of players to retirement and free agency, but a handful will likely come back for another year playing for the Red and Gold.

    Le'Ron McClain

    One of Romeo Crennel's most outspoken supporters after Todd Haley's dismissal, McClain is a prime candidate for a respectable long-term contract and continued tenure in Kansas City. The former All-Pro fullback could do worse than block for one of the most elusive backs in the league.

    Thomas Jones' departure could also open more opportunities for McClain to run the ball, particularly in goal line situations.

     

    Jovan Belcher

    After a solid preseason showing, Belcher disappeared for the first half of the season. He came on strong later, but probably not enough to entice other teams to spend serious money on the inside linebacker.

    Belcher could stay in Kansas City for another year or two in hopes of improving his chances for a larger contract, or re-sign for even longer and help maintain continuity in the Chiefs' most complete position group.

     

    Jon McGraw

    The veteran safety provides Kansas City a respectable backup in the secondary and a standout on special teams. One of the Chiefs' more underrated players, McGraw could be one of Kansas City's priorities in free agency.