2012 NFL Free Agency: Six Bargain Basement Deals for the Kansas City Chiefs
The NFL never sleeps, not anymore and not at any point in the year.
In March, for instance, it's free agent season. Marquee players find new teams and big money, while teams move as quick as they can to lock up the best talent. And 2012 marked one of the biggest frenzies of all with Peyton Manning and Mario Williams headlining.
The NFL draft is the big thing in April, not free agency. While teams interview and work out college prospects, those players left awaiting new deals sit forgotten like the square-wheeled train in the Land of Misfit Toys.
But to write off those players would be a mistake, even for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs. Having already filled their biggest roster holes last month, Kansas City has no serious needs at any position even before adding their upcoming draft picks.
But the Chiefs can continue to build depth with the veteran players still out on the market, even if it's just for one-year contracts popular among those who couldn't land major long-term deals last month. And at this point in the year, the best bargains can be found among these players with starting experience who may have a question mark about their ability going forward.
For 2012, the Chiefs needs some veteran depth to go with their high number of less-experienced starters. Here are six players who can do just that.
Dan Koppen, C, New England Patriots
Yes, the first player on this list is a retread from New England, but don't hold that against him.
Up until last year, Dan Koppen anchored the center of the Patriots' line after they drafted him in 2003. A fractured ankle cost him the 2011 season.
Now it looks like it'll cost him his roster position as well. New England seems less than interested in retaining Koppen, particularly after re-signing his backup Dan Connolly.
This works out perfectly for the Chiefs if they can make something happen. With Casey Weigmann likely to retire, Kansas City needs an insurance policy should Rodney Hudson experience growing pains as he elevates into the starting role.
The veteran Koppen could also pick up where Weigmann left off, teaching Hudson what it takes to have a long, successful career in the NFL.
Aubrayo Franklin, NT, New Orleans Saints
Chiefs fans clamored loudly for Aubrayo Franklin last year in free agency. Recently released after receiving the franchise tag from San Francisco, Franklin figured to be one of the bigger names in 2011's free agency class.
Instead, little happened in the market for his services. Eventually, Franklin signed a one-year deal with the Saints.
Now Franklin finds himself back on the market and in much the same situation as last year. With the draft fast approaching and few teams lining up to get Franklin's name on a contract, the Chiefs can come in with a modest offer and likely land one of the few true nose tackles in the NFL.
Franklin doesn't possess the dominance of a Haloti Ngata or Vince Wilfork, but he should do well in most situations and has more tread left on the tires than last year's pick-up, Kelly Gregg.
Andre Carter, DE, New England Patriots
The third name on this list brings another former Patriot coming off injuries.
Despite three seasons of double-digit sacks in five years, Andre Carter is another solid performer without a job. Nearing his 33rd birthday could have something to do with it, or perhaps teams are skittish about his quad injury last December.
Odds are it's both, but it shouldn't scare the Chiefs off from pursuing him.
Carter would not factor in to Kansas City's base package on defense; at 255lbs, he just doesn't have the bulk for a 3-4 end.
His true value, though, would come in the Chiefs' sub packages for passing situations. When Kansas City shifts to the nickel, Carter and Tamba Hali would come off their respective edges for the pass rush. That would also allow Glenn Dorsey to work out of his more natural 4-3 defensive tackle position.
Add in Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson working out of the 4-2-5 defense, and the Chiefs will field an aggressive pass rush defense that can lock down receiving options at the same time.
Kareem McKenzie / Marcus McNeill, OTs, New York Giants / San Diego Chargers
Just because the Chiefs landed Eric Winston in free agency doesn't mean the tackle position is solidified on either side of the line.
In signing Winston, Kansas City squared away both starting positions. Unfortunately, that's about all the Chiefs have right now. Even though clubs can carry inflated rosters during the offseason, Winston, Branden Albert and David Mims stand as the only three offensive tackles with the team.
That's not just a lack of competition for training camp; it's a lack of depth, which was the very thing that sunk Kansas City's season last year.
The Chiefs can correct that with one or maybe even two veteran signings. Marcus McNeill comes with plenty of injury concerns; he spent last year on injured reserve after a frightening collision with Aaron Curry last November that hurt McNeill's neck.
McNeill also suffers from spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column.
But when healthy, McNeill played as one of the best linemen in the league. If he can pass the team physical, he could be an outstanding addition to the Chiefs' roster.
Another tackle signing that makes to much sense not to happen is Kareem McKenzie. The former New York Giant played under current Chiefs' offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. McKenzie might not have many years left in the NFL (he turns 33 in May), but still turned in a solid year at right tackle for the Super Bowl champions.
McKenzie's familiarity with the Chiefs' position coach and Kansas City's need for a quality backup should make this deal too good for either side to pass up.
E.J. Henderson, ILB, Minnesota Vikings
If the Chiefs would like more depth and a bit of competition at inside linebacker, they could do worse than E.J. Henderson.
Henderson's spent his career as a 4-3 middle linebacker controlling the middle of the field. Adjusting to the 3-4 run-stopping role could take a bit of work and some small growing pains.
But if there's one thing Henderson does well, it's bringing down the ball carrier. Henderson racked up over 100 tackles in four of his last six seasons, and was on track for the same those other two if not for injury.
With Jovan Belcher only on a restricted free agency contract and Brandon Siler coming off of injury, Kansas City could use all the talent a linebacker they can get.
And so long as Henderson can stay healthy and whole, he could play at a high level for another three or four years. Even if he doesn't win the starting position opposite Derrick Johnson, Henderson would seriously upgrade Kansas City's depth and special teams play.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chiefs aren't exactly hurting for receivers after upgrading the position last year.
That doesn't mean Kansas City should pass on the opportunity to upgrade their depth. Jerricho Cotchery might not displace Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston or Jonathan Baldwin, but the veteran wideout should add a pair of reliable hands to the Chiefs' passing game.