Kansas City Chiefs: Positions of Need in the Draft and Free Agency
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While much of the focus this offseason has been around the Kansas City quarterback situation, there are several other positions requiring attention this offseason if the Chiefs are to be competitive again in 2013.
Alex Smith is on his way into town, via a trade with San Francisco, but little else is being communicated by the Chiefs front office about their plans for free agency and the draft. Beyond their obvious efforts to re-sign wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and left tackle Brandon Albert, new coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey aren't tipping their hand about anything else.
On the following pages are the other positions the Chiefs must address this offseason, along with some potential options in the draft and free agency.
Rey Maualuga is the type of inside linebacker that would play well in KC's current 3-4 system
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The Chiefs need to improve at inside linebacker was apparent throughout 2012, but the team was put in an even more dire situation with the tragedy surrounding the loss of Jovan Belcher in December.
Belcher was the least talented of a linebacking corps that includes former first-round picks Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, along with rising star Justin Houston. Veteran Brandon Siler stepped in admirably the final five games of the season, but he is not the answer.
The Chiefs would love to see a player like Kansas State's Arthur Brown be available when they pick in the third round, but Brown's stock is rising after a solid showing at the NFL Combine.
While it is possible the Chiefs could find a serviceable starter in the draft, it appears more likely that they could address the position in free agency.
Former USC standout Rey Maualuga appears unlikely to re-sign with the Bengals after a 122-tackle season, and he could be an excellent complement inside to Johnson.
Others available: Brad Jones (Green Bay), Brian Urlacher (Chicago) and Erin Henderson (Minnesota).
Rex Burkhead won't be a sexy pick for Chiefs fans, but he would make an excellent compliment to Jamaal Charles
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Since figuring out that they had a stud in Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have made a habit of finding a journeyman backup for him, in guys like Thomas Jones and Peyton Hillis.
Bring in new coach Andy Reid, who is not shy about bringing in young hard-nosed backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield.
While there are high-profile backs on the open market with names like Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh), Michael Turner (Atlanta), Felix Jones (Dallas) and Reggie Bush (Miami); it seems more likely that the Chiefs will address this position with a late draft pick or with an undrafted free agent.
A player like Nebraska's Rex Burkhead would seem to fit what Reid looks for in a backup running back. He is a tough runner who may lack breakaway speed, but is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can be counted on to get those tough yards in short yardage situations. He should also be around in the fifth and sixth rounds, when the Chiefs would be most likely to address the position.
Tony Gonzalez may have waved goodbye to Atlanta fans after a playoff loss to the 49ers, but a swan song in Kansas City would fill a big need for the Chiefs
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The past few seasons has seen a Chiefs offense that has devalued the tight end position as a receiver.
In fact, whatever hopes for receptions out of the tight end position have been tied to the development of former third-round pick, and oft-injured former Iowa Hawkeye Tony Moeaki.
With the addition of new coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, it is important that the Chiefs find a safety blanket for Smith in the passing game. However, given the Chiefs' draft position, and the fact that they've traded away their second-round pick, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to select one of the top three receiving tight ends in this year's draft.
That leaves free agency.
What scenario would make Chiefs fans any happier than to see favorite son and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez come back to town?
Gonzalez, at 37, is coming off his best season since his last in Kansas City in 2008, with 93 catches and eight touchdowns. He was willing to leave Kansas City in a trade in an effort to get back to and actually win a playoff game, which he was able to accomplish in 2012.
What better way to end his career than to be Smith's top receiving target in front of a die-hard Arrowhead crowd who loves him?
Alabama's Dee Milliner is the best cornerback available in this year's draft and almost certain to be a top five pick
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The Chiefs defense felt the loss of cornerback Brandon Carr last season.
After attempting to replace Carr with former Raider Stanford Routt, the team cut ties with Routt after just seven games. By the end of the season, the Chiefs were at the bottom of the NFL rankings in interceptions with just seven, and in dire need of another starting corner opposite Brandon Flowers.
This year's draft class does boast some excellent options for the Chiefs, including the possibility of taking Alabama's Dee Milliner with the top pick overall. Milliner is the perfect size (6'0" and 201 pounds) and is capable of playing bump and run against some of the bigger receivers in the AFC West, such as Denver's Demaryius Thomas.
After Milliner, other draft options who may be available in the third round and beyond include Washington's Desmond Trufant and Boise State's Jamar Taylor.
There will also be several options for the Chiefs to address cornerback in free agency. Among those who should be available are: Sean Smith (Miami), Aqib Talib (New England), Brent Grimes (Atlanta), Chris Houston (Detroit) and Keenan Lewis (Pittsburgh).
EJ Manuel could be the perfect "future" quarterback behind veteran Alex Smith
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By agreeing to a trade with San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs made it abundantly clear that they weren't impressed enough by any of the quarterbacks in this year's draft class to invest a high first- or second-round pick.
That said, despite the team's acquisition of Smith, they are in needs of a backup. Former starter Matt Cassel has been released, and last year's part-time starter Brady Quinn is a free agent who is not likely to be targeted by GM John Dorsey.
The list of possible candidates in free agency is pretty short as well, with only Matt Moore (Miami) and Jason Campbell (Chicago) standing out as quarterbacks worthy of consideration for the Chiefs.
The draft, despite not having a can't-miss talent at the top of the list, is full of talented signal-callers if you're not looking to throw them into the fire right away. Players like Florida State's E.J. Manuel have the physical skills to be successful at the next level and just need an opportunity to learn behind a veteran quarterback like Smith.
Expect the Chiefs to invest a mid- to late-round pick on a quarterback in hopes that Smith can aid in their development the same way he helped Colin Kaepernick last season in San Francisco.
Utah's Star Lotulelei is talented enough to play nose tackle or end in the Chiefs 3-4 defense
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The Chiefs enter 2013 with one of their former starting defensive ends, Glenn Dorsey, likely to sign elsewhere, while they must attempt to renegotiate the contract of another in Tyson Jackson.
Dorsey, who has been playing out of position at end in a 3-4, is likely to sign as a defensive tackle for a team that runs a 4-3. That leaves the Chiefs' situation with Jackson, who is owed more than $17.4 million against the cap in 2013, and will almost certainly be a cap casualty if he doesn't agree to renegotiate his contract.
So Kansas City will be in the market for at least one defensive end this offseason, and they could very well address the position with the first selection in April's draft.
Utah's star defensive lineman Star Lotulelei has played defensive tackle and end throughout his collegiate career, and could be an excellent choice for the Chiefs with their top pick. While Lotulelei's draft status may take a hit because of a previously unidentified heart condition that came to light during the physicals for the NFL Scouting Combine, the Chiefs will need to determine if he's worthy of being taken first overall.
Free agent options could include: Israel Idonije (Chicago) or Matt DeVito (New York Jets).