2012 NFL Free Agency: Predicting the Kansas City Chiefs Roster
With the NFL standing on the precipice of this year's free-agency frenzy, Kansas City should be likewise poised to throw caution to the wind and throw itself headlong into signing the league's unemployed.
The Chiefs spent the last couple of years growing their team through solid draft choices and shrewd free-agent signings.
And while Kansas City's roster looks much better than it did in previous years, the Chiefs still face a number of holes preventing them from taking the next step towards the Lombardi Trophy.
Scott Pioli looks ready to bridge that gap by whatever method possible, openly campaigning for Peyton Manning to sign with the Chiefs.
But signing Manning alone won't complete the puzzle that shows Clark Hunt at the head of a ticker-tape parade down Main Street.
Fortunately, the rest of those pieces can also be found in this year's draft and free agency. Here's who they are and how they fit for the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs.
Incumbents: Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Tyler Palko, Ricky Stanzi
Prediction: Peyton Manning, Chad Henne, Ricky Stanzi
Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel took advantage of Carl Peterson's 2008 draft class and continued constructing a stout defense with a small arsenal of weapons on offense.
With Kansas City's open flirtation with Peyton Manning, though, the model of building through the draft looks ready to fly out the window.
It's not that the Chiefs aren't drafting well. But with a chance to bring in one of the best quarterbacks ever now and take a realistic shot at the Super Bowl, Kansas City will try to milk a few more moments of greatness out of Manning.
For a backup, Kyle Orton still stands high in the Chiefs' favor and could return. However, Orton likely wants a chance to start again in the near future.
The better choice would be Chad Henne. Already familiar with Brian Daboll, he could understudy for Manning for a couple years and return to a starting role in a couple years.
That leaves the Chiefs only with the unpleasant task of breaking up with their current starter. Matt Cassel, like Orton, will want another shot at starting sooner rather than later.
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks would likely provide that opportunity. Kansas City wouldn't get much in exchange for a player already on the way out, but the Chiefs should be capable of coaxing a fourth- or fifth-round pick from Seattle.
Incumbents: Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, LeRon McClain
Prediction: Jamaal Charles, Mike Tolbert, Dexter McCluster, Undetermined, LeRon McClain
Thomas Jones provided an outstanding locker-room personality for the Chiefs these last two years, and in 2010, he provided the heavy lifting in Kansas City's run offense to enable Jamaal Charles to come within one carry of breaking Jim Brown's season record for most yards per carry.
Unfortunately, Father Time caught up with Jones last season, and the Chiefs need a reliable hammer to complement Charles' speed and agility.
This year's free-agent class boasts a number of solid north-south rushers, including Mike Tolbert, Michael Bush and the recently-released Brandon Jacobs.
Tolbert presents the best option among those three. With only 450 touches in four years, Tolbert should still have plenty of tread left on his tires. And at 26, Kansas City should be able to secure his services with a five-year contract that will create a top rushing tandem for years to come.
As for fullback, LeRon McClain came to Kansas City under a one-year contract but lacked the opportunity to showcase how he can clear the way for Charles.
McClain has been an outspoken proponent of Romeo Crennel's, and should be amenable to coming back to Kansas City for the foreseeable future.
Incumbents: Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Terrance Copper, Jerheme Urban, Jeremy Horne
Prediction: Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Terrance Copper, Jeremy Horne, Undetermined
After the 2010 season, the Chiefs obviously needed serious upgrades to their wide receiver corps.
For 2011, Kansas City did just that. They converted their weakness into a strength with Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin.
Then rather than weaken the position, the Chiefs franchised Dwayne Bowe. In doing so, Kansas City should field one of the deepest receiver corps in the league.
Terrance Copper contributes as a solid special teams player, while Jeremy Horne remains a project player.
The only loss will likely be Jerheme Urban, who the Chiefs could replace with a late-round draft pick.
Incumbents: Tony Moeaki, Leonard Pope, Jake O'Connell, Steve Maneri
Prediction: Tony Moeaki, Dallas Clark, Jake O'Connell, Steve Maneri
Tight end became the weakest position for Kansas City last year. The start of the season saw Tony Moeaki sidelined with a torn ACL. The task of replacing Moeaki's 556 receiving yards and three touchdowns fell to Leonard Pope and Jake O'Connell.
Not only did they fall short on that end, but the pair also accounted for the highest number of penalties on the team.
Moeaki dropped to the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft due mostly to his injury history in college; for Kansas City to be successful, they must hedge their bets in the future for if/when Moeaki goes down again.
Fortunately, the Indianapolis Colts gift-wrapped the solution for them.
In the process of blowing up their roster, the Colts released Dallas Clark. Should Manning sign with the Chiefs, they would have the inside track to lock up one of the top tight ends in the league.
Clark comes with injury concerns of his own, which could make him a bit cheaper to sign. And with both Clark and Moeaki on board, Kansas City could run some of the formations New England's been so successful with featuring Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Incumbents: Branden Albert, Barry Richardson, David Mims, Ryan O'Callaghan
Prediction: Branden Albert, Undetermined, David Mims, Kareem McKenzie
The tackle position will see the most turnover for the Chiefs this season.
Considering their struggles on the right side, it's no wonder. Barry Richardson regressed last year, giving opposing defenders a clear path to Chiefs quarterbacks. And with Ryan O'Callaghan looking at retirement, Kansas City needs some additions to the roster.
The Chiefs should look to the draft for their starter at right tackle; my money's on Riley Reiff from Iowa. A first-round pick at right tackle will not only strengthen the right side, but provide insurance should negotiations stall with Branden Albert as he approaches free agency.
And just as they did at receiver last year, Kansas City can also lock up a veteran in free agency. Kareem McKenzie recently received his walking papers from the Giants, and at 32 should still have some mileage left.
The Chiefs' current offensive-line coach, Jack Bicknell Jr., recently came from New York and would have plenty of knowledge about what McKenzie is capable of and how he can help Kansas City going forward.
Incumbents: Ryan Lilja, Casey Weigmann, Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson
Prediction: Carl Nicks, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah, Ryan Lilja, Undetermined
If Kansas City intends on signing Peyton Manning, they'll have to field an elite line to keep him on his feet and prevent further injury.
In short, the Chiefs need to upgrade the left-guard position. Ryan Lilja is a solid defender and familiar with Manning. But Kansas City's line performance dropped with the departure of Brian Waters.
With Rodney Hudson stepping into the starting center role, a top guard needs to be in place to anchor him and Branden Albert.
Carl Nicks finds himself the benefactor of the Saints franchising Drew Brees, and Kansas City should, too. Nicks ranks among the best guards in the league and won't come cheap, but is definitely worth it.
The Chiefs could also look at Chad Hutchinson after his release from Minnesota, but Nicks is the crown jewel here.
Kansas City will also need to bring in a reserve center with Casey Wiegmann's impending retirement.
Defensive End Incumbents: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey, Brandon Bair, Wallace Gilberry
Prediction: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey, Brandon Bair, Undetermined
Nose Tackle Incumbents: Kelly Gregg, Amon Gordon, Jerrell Powe
Prediction: Amon Gordon, Undetermined, Jerrell Powe
Of all the defensive position groups, the Chiefs' defensive line is the least impressive.
Unfortunately, two-thirds of their starters are top five picks from their respective drafts.
Neither Tyson Jackson nor Glenn Dorsey ever developed into dominant defenders in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense. Dorsey remains miscast as a 3-4 end rather than the 4-3 tackle he was drafted as; Jackson has yet to develop into the position despite originally appearing to be a perfect fit.
At nose tackle, Kansas City continues to fill the gap with aged veterans. Kelly Gregg looks ready to retire after one year with the Chiefs; Amon Gordon performed above expectations but won't be headed to the Pro Bowl anytime soon.
This should be the year Kansas City addresses their shortcomings at nose tackle. Even if Jerrell Powe develops into a quality defender, the Chiefs could draft a quality nose tackle in the second round and work a solid rotation.
In the meantime, Kansas City will likely hold on to Gordon and see how much more he can provide this defense.
As for Wallace Gilberry, the pass-rush specialist should sign with another team for more money, following in the steps of R-Kal Truluck and Jimmy Wilkerson. The Chiefs will find a replacement in the draft rather than overpay for a specialist.
Outside Linebacker Incumbents: Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Cameron Sheffield, Andy Studebaker, Gabe Miller
Prediction: Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Cameron Sheffield, Andy Studebaker, Gabe Miller
Inside Linebacker Incumbents: Derrick Johnson, Jovan Belcher, Cory Greenwood, Brandon Siler
Prediction: Derrick Johnson, Jovan Belcher, Cory Greenwood, Brandon Siler
Kansas City shouldn't see any turnover in their linebacker corps. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are both Pro Bowl players under long-term contracts. Justin Houston, meanwhile, came on as a solid surprise and should finally provide the bookend pass rusher to make Romeo Crennel's defense hum.
The only potential loss at this point is Jovan Belcher. A restricted free agent, Belcher started slow but came on well later in the season. The Chiefs could find a better player to replace Belcher, but no team can expect to field a team with all-stars at every position.
If Belcher is the weak link, Kansas City shouldn't be concerned in the least. The Chiefs also re-signed Brandon Siler, who should provide competition for the fourth starting position.
Incumbents: Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown, Travis Daniels
Prediction: Brandon Flowers, Stanford Routt, Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown, Undetermined
The cornerback position's already seen its fair share of turnover. Faced with potentially losing both Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe to free agency, Kansas City signed Stanford Routt from the Raiders and franchised Bowe.
The Chiefs say they still want to bring back Carr with a new contract, but in reality, Kansas City can't commit the type of money Carr will command in the open market.
Plus, the Chiefs can't afford to spend $6.5 million (Routt signed for $19.5 million over three years) or more to a nickel back.
That sends Carr packing for much wealthier (if not necessarily greener) pastures. Travis Daniels might do the same as well, though for a lot less money. Daniels is a solid if unspectacular player who could find better opportunities elsewhere.
Incumbents: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jon McGraw, Sabby Piscitelli, Donald Washington, Reshard Langford
Prediction: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jon McGraw, Undetermined, Kyle McCarthy, Donald Washington
The Chiefs found out last year just how important Eric Berry is to their defense. Lost to a torn ACL in the season opener, the Chiefs suffered back-to-back blowouts to start the year.
Not all of that was because of Berry's injury, but few teams could continue seamlessly after a player of his caliber leaves the lineup.
That said, the Chiefs likely won't make many changes beyond what's already been done. Kansas City signed Kyle McCarthy from the Broncos, and will likely pursue additional depth in the upcoming draft.
Jon McGraw is a free agent this year, but the Chiefs should look to bring the veteran back for another couple years. McGraw is a stalwart on special teams and underrated as a reserve player.
Incumbents: Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford
Prediction: Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford
Kansas City doesn't have the best kicker or punter in the league.
For that matter, they don't have the best of either in their own division.
But the Chiefs really can't complain about either Ryan Succop or Dustin Colquitt. Colquitt ranks in the top 10 for net punting average and touchbacks.
Succop, meanwhile, came one blocked kick shy of the Chiefs' record for most consecutive field goals. The 2009 NFL Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant" may have a bit yet before becoming Kansas City's "Mr. Reliable," but he's certainly well on the way.