Kansas City Chiefs Could Target Free-Agent Bargains to Fill Remaining Needs
The Kansas City Chiefs have been quite busy this offseason. They aggressively pursued and re-signed their own key players, they probably gave up too much in a trade for quarterback Alex Smith, and they appear to have completely overhauled their defensive secondary via free agency.
So while the Chiefs were aggressive early and often in free agency, it would seem that they may very well be done acquiring front-line players until draft day.
Don't count on it.
Perhaps the Chiefs' greatest remaining need is to find a replacement for the late Jovan Belcher at the inside linebacker spot opposite All-Pro Derrick Johnson. Finding a solid veteran that is strong against the run would enable the Chiefs to let Johnson do what he does best, which is freelance and make big plays.
Here is a list of five viable options that could prove to be solid bargains late in free agency and would allow the Chiefs to find the final piece to their defensive puzzle.
Jordan may be slightly undersized to play inside for the Chiefs, but he is also very adept at finding his way to the ball-carrier on run defense. Another player who would likely only be a two-down player on defense, Jordan also does some of his best work on special teams.
After spending all six of his NFL seasons playing for Reid in Philadelphia, you would have to think he would be a relatively inexpensive yet productive option for the Chiefs in free agency.
After four consecutive 100-plus-tackle seasons in Tampa, linebacker Barrett Ruud left for Tennessee in 2011. After a subpar season that only saw him play in nine games, Ruud signed on with the Texans last season, when he once again turned in just nine games.
While his production has gone down and his staying power is definitely in question. Ruud does provide the necessary skill set to fill the Chiefs' need at inside linebacker.
From a cap perspective, an incentive-laden deal on top of the veteran minimum may be just what it takes to get Ruud into a Chiefs uniform.
If there's a player out on the free-agent market that the new Chiefs general manager should know plenty about, it's former Packers linebacker Frank Zombo.
Coming from a defense with Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk, many NFL fans may have no idea who Zombo is. And that means he could fit in perfectly in a Chiefs linebackers group with the likes of Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
If he is recovered from the hamstring injury that cost him all of last season, Zombo would give the Chiefs the instinctive run defender they need on early downs, as well as an overachiever on special teams. At just 26, Zombo could also be a player that could stick around for awhile if he can prove he's healthy.
The Chiefs' primary need in finding another middle linebacker is finding someone that is a solid run defender.
Former Cowboys and Texans inside linebacker Bradie James fits that description perfectly. The 11-year veteran uses his 240 pounds to fill the holes between the tackles and is a sure tackler in the running game.
His tackle numbers have declined the past two seasons, but that appears to be more because of his role than a decline in his skill set. He spent his final season in Dallas in a diminished role, and in his one season in Houston, he spent it surrounded by some of the best defenders in the AFC.
In a market loaded with unsigned linebackers, James could be a real bargain that fills the last remaining starting spot available on what is turning into a solid defense for 2013.
Since free agency began, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher would end his career as a Chicago Bear.
According to a report on ESPN, it appears that the two sides have agreed to go their separate ways after the Bears low-balled Urlacher with a one-year offer for $2 million, far below the counteroffer of $3.5 million from the All-Pro linebacker.
Should the Chiefs decide they want to go after Urlacher, he would give them what amounts to another Derrick Johnson on defense and almost certainly the best group of linebackers in the AFC.
At the age of 34 and coming off of a season where he played in just 12 games, Urlacher would not need to be an every-down player for the Chiefs. With Johnson as their primary linebacker in nickel and dime sets, Urlacher could line up as part of their base package and come out in obvious passing situations or step in and give Johnson a breather when necessary.