Picking the Ideal Free Agent to Fill Each of the Kansas City Chiefs' Holes
Everywhere that you look, you see Kansas City Chiefs articles stamped with "best free agents" in the headline. Then, you click it, only to see a lineup with the same usual suspects.
Jeremy Maclin is a human highlight who will be a cheap offseason pickup. Hakeem Nicks' stature and skill set are perfect fits for a West Coast offense. Jairus Byrd is an elite talent who can right Kansas City's free safety woes. Yada, Yada.
I get it.
Today, let's take a break from the monotonous horse beating, broaden the scope and scout five potential under-the-radar acquisitions who won't break the bank.
5. Guard: Joe Reitz
2013 Team: Indianapolis Colts
2013 Pro Football Focus (PFF) Guard Ranking: No. 30 of 143
Why the Need: Guards Geoff Schwartz—whom Kansas City desperately needs to re-sign—and Jon Asamoah are free agents, and the play of left guard Jeff Allen has been inconsistent at best (which is a borderline compliment, but I'll spare the rant).
Why Joe Reitz: Normally, you hear stories about college basketball players becoming tight ends. Becoming guards? Not so much, but there's a first for everything.
Reitz partook in only 149 snaps last season and one game of 30-plus (61 snaps against Cincinnati). However, in that particular contest, he allowed just one quarterback hurry and received a 1.5 grade (two is a perfect score) from PFF in both run and pass blocking.
Ideally, the Chiefs would reenlist Schwartz and Asamoah. Salary-cap limitations might prevent that, though. If so, Reitz is a cheap, athletic and improving alternative.
4. Defensive End: Leger Douzable
2013 Team: New York Jets
PFF 3-4 Defensive End Ranking: No. 31 of 79
Why the Need: Tyson Jackson's 2013 salary, alone, totaled more than that of every other Chiefs D-lineman combined. Considering that, among other things, he was the least consistent member of the three starters, his future visits to Arrowhead will come fitted with an away jersey.
Why Leger Douzable: For starters, the veteran end spent last season with the Jets, so he's obviously familiar with Bob Sutton's brand of 3-4 defense.
Douzable registered three sacks, two quarterback hits and eight hurries in a meager 242 snaps, and he doubles as a 284-pound run-stuffing road block. No matter which city he calls "home" next year, his production will easily trump his market value.
3. Outside Linebacker: Dekoda Watson
2013 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013 PFF 4-3 OLB Ranking: No. 13 of 94
Why the Need: When Justin Houston and Tamba Hali lined up opposite each other, the Chiefs showed the makings of a top-five defense. When Houston was sidelined and Hali returned at half-strength, the secondary's true colors were exposed, fans collectively yelled "Impostor!" and the defense regressed to a shell of itself.
Also, Houston's fill-in, Frank Zombo, didn't fare well and is set to hit the free-agent market.
Why Dekoda Watson: For whatever reason, Watson was grossly underutilized by Greg Schiano. Despite playing just 263 snaps, he netted two sacks, two quarterback hits and three hurries. Furthermore, while he only played 30-plus snaps in one of his three starts last year, Watson tallied 12 tackles in said game (versus San Francisco).
The four-year veteran has spent all four of his NFL seasons in Tampa Bay's 4-3, but he has the ideal skill set for a 3-4 strong-side outside linebacker (or "Sam"). Generally, with 3-4 personnel, Sams tend to fall within the 250- to 260-pound range; someone strong enough to shed blocks but athletic enough to cover in the open field.
Watson weighs in at 240 pounds. However, he's unusually powerful for a linebacker of his size (see shoulders) and could easily gain five to 10 pounds in an offseason. As expected, his base combine 40 (4.55, per NFLDraftScout) was faster than Houston's (4.62) prior to their respective drafts (in fairness, Houston was 12 pounds heavier than his current playing weight).
The former Florida State star would offer a layer of insurance behind the Pro Bowler and be a relatively cheap but pivotal offseason addition. And if the Chiefs, due to salary-cap restrictions, decide to cut ties with Hali next offseason, they could slide Houston over to the weak-side outside linebacker ("Jack") spot and promote Watson to the starting lineup.
2. Free Safety: Mike Mitchell
2013 Team: Carolina Panthers
2013 PFF Safety Ranking: No. 35 of 86
Why the Need: Kendrick Lewis.
For 95 percent of you, the above is self-explanatory. For the stragglers, Lewis, in the majority of cases, sauntered around the field as the lone safety valve and weakest link of Kansas City's defense. If you're football-challenged, a Cover 1 with Lewis at free safety is basically like running through flames to grab a fire extinguisher, squeezing the handle and watching diesel fuel spew out.
Like Lewis, Husain Abdullah—who was largely underused and should be re-signed—is an unrestricted free agent.
Why Mike Mitchell: He's not Jairus Byrd, but Mitchell's price tag will be considerably cheaper, and he's a consistent playmaker whose closing speed is light years ahead of Lewis'. Mitchell's game shares a lot of similarities with that of Calvin Pryor's, a prospect whose name has infiltrated nearly every Chiefs mock draft within the past two months.
Football runs in the 26-year-old's veins. He, like Pryor, has the physicality of a strong safety (a position he formerly played) but rarely loses sight of deep responsibilities.
In 2013, Mitchell recorded four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. His targets averaged just 8.4 yards per reception, and quarterbacks combined for a 56.2 passer rating.
1. Wide Receiver: Andre Roberts
2013 Team: Arizona Cardinals
2013 PFF Wide Receiver Ranking: No. 82 of 111
Why the Need: Donnie Avery is scheduled to collect $2.9 million this year and $4.1 million in 2015. Last season, he was also PFF's 105th-ranked wideout out of 111. (If you think Dexter McCluster is going to accept $2 million per year while Avery cashes in those kind of checks, feel free to Google "popsicle math.")
The Chiefs, with a few cuts (including Avery) and restructured contracts, could pluck a No. 2 receiver from free agency. That being said, No. 17's potential release may come on the heels of the draft, after John Dorsey and Co. know if they found a replacement in the first-round.
On a related note, while the Chiefs could pursue Jeremy Maclin, he's likely to sign a one-year, incentive-laden contract that, if the incentives are met, resides in the neighborhood of $5 million. Even in football context, that's a lot of money, especially for a franchise who's within arm's reach of the cap ceiling. And because Maclin didn't play last season, the union and league would have to decide if the incentives counted toward the 2014 cap ("likely to be earned" incentives) or 2015 cap ("not likely to be earned" incentives).
Regardless, Kansas City needs an upgrade.
Why Andre Roberts: Entering Week 1 of last season, the average age of players on Kansas City's roster was 25.7 years old, per USA Today. This offseason, the Chiefs will be scouring the talent pool for a vertical threat, so I looked at free agents under 30 years of age. Doug Baldwin, Andrew Hawkins (slot) and Joe Morgan would all be viable options, but they're restricted free agents (i.e. the Chiefs would be forced to forfeit a first- to third-round draft pick).
Golden Tate is an ideal candidate, but Dorsey would have to pull some salary-cap strings to potentially land him. The same goes for Emmanuel Sanders. Jerome Simpson? Incredibly gifted, but he makes an annual appearance in a police report for substance-related charges.
If the Chiefs don't draft a first-round wideout, Roberts, cap considerations in mind, may be the club's best bet. And due to a number of high-priority contract issues, he's all but certain to test the free-agent waters.
In terms of frame, Roberts (5'11" and 195 pounds) virtually mirrors Avery. However, he's a sharper route-runner with markedly better hands and open-field elusiveness. He also comes packaged with 4.4 speed, per NFLDraftScout.
Roberts is a consummate pro on and off the field (which isn't surprising, given his military upbringing), and his contract will likely be comparable to Avery's as well. Low risk, high return.
Follow Brett on Twitter: Follow @BrettGering