Kansas City Chiefs Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
Retaining valuable members of their offensive front and finding reinforcements for a struggling secondary should be the blueprint the Kansas City Chiefs use for winning free agency.
Even with the league's final salary-cap figure being boosted to $133 million, the Chiefs will still need to shop selectively. Fortunately, that won't prevent them from finding the players they need.
It also won't stop general manger John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid from giving a new deal to a versatile and valuable member offensive lineman.
Here are the moves Kansas City should make to be successful this offseason.
Re-Sign Akeem Jordan
Akeem Jordan was a solid citizen along the Kansas City front seven in 2013. Re-signing the 28-year-old inside linebacker is a smart move, despite a strong market at the position.
The Chiefs have other needs more pressing than acquiring a new inside 'backer. That money should go toward keeping O-linemen and finding savvy defensive backs.
Jordan is no prolific playmaker, but he doesn't have to be paired with Derrick Johnson. Instead, Jordan is steady and a good blitzer, a valuable asset in coordinator Bob Sutton's defensive scheme.
Tying the ex-Philadelphia Eagle down to another short-term deal makes a lot of sense for Dorsey and Reid.
Bring Back Geoff Schwartz
The Chiefs are apparently aware of just how valuable Geoff Schwartz is to their offensive line. They have reportedly already met with his agent to discuss a new deal, according to Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star.
Schwartz is versatile enough to play multiple positions along the interior, as well as sliding out to right tackle. The performance of the O-line improved considerably when he was on the field in 2013.
But Paylor has a note of caution about the veteran blocker's chances of remaining in Kansas City:
Andy Levitre, Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 free-agent guard in 2012 with a grade of plus-17.3, signed a multi-year deal with Tennessee that paid him a base salary of $2.5 million last season and $6.5 million this year.
The No. 4 guard, Louis Vasquez of Denver (plus-12.7), signed for base salaries of $2 million in 2013 and $3 million in 2014. The No. 5 guard, Donald Thomas (plus-11.2), signed with Indianapolis for base salaries of $2.5 million in 2013 and $3.5 million in 2014.
Those are hardly prohibitive salaries in today’s NFL, but as it stands, the Chiefs will need to free up cap room to be a player in free agency. The league has set the 2014 salary cap at $133 million, which should give the Chiefs roughly $9.62 million in cap space, according to salary cap expert Joel Corry.
However, the Chiefs must also fit upcoming draft picks under the cap — which will take roughly $5.5 million, according to Corry — and it remains to be seen if they’re willing to pay what it might take to retain Schwartz.
The figures Paylor quotes may appear daunting, but Schwartz is too useful to let him walk. Sliding him out to right tackle and shifting 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher to the left would allow the team to comfortably let fellow free agent Branden Albert walk.
Offer a New Deal to Jon Asamoah
The Chiefs will need a contingency plan in case they are unable to bring Schwartz back, especially with Albert also on the market. That contingency should involve offering a favorable deal to guard Jon Asamoah.
The bruising blocker is a serviceable starter, if far from dominant. He can capably man either guard spot.
Asamoah carried a cap hit worth $1,551,030, according to figures from Spotrac.com. The Chiefs ought to be able to bring back the 25-year-old on similar terms, maybe even a little less.
It would be a move that helps to cover the bases with a trio of O-linemen set to test the market.
Seal a New Deal for Justin Houston
It would be a major plus if Dorsey confirms a new long-term deal for outside linebacker Justin Houston this offseason. Apparently, the two sides have already started the process, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (h/t Ben Nielsen of Arrowhead Addict).
Houston is scheduled to enter free agency next offseason. That is something the Chiefs would be loath to let happen, given how productive the 2011 third-round pick has become.
Houston has amassed 21 sacks in his last two seasons and become as important to the Kansas City defense as fellow rush linebacker Tamba Hali.
At just 25, Houston is one of the brightest young stars in the NFL. Knowing he will be suiting up in Kansas City for years to come would be a big step toward sustained success.
Target and Sign Red Bryant
It would be one of the coups of the offseason if the Chiefs signed Red Bryant. The mammoth D-lineman, recently released by the Seattle Seahawks, would be an excellent replacement for end Tyson Jackson.
Bryant is already attracting interest from the Chiefs, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson (h/t Ben Nielsen of Arrowhead Addict). It makes a lot of sense, considering Bryant is one of the most formidable 5-technique defensive ends in the NFL.
His ability to absorb and control multiple blockers is perfect for the demands of Sutton's 3-4 system. Like Jackson, Bryant won't make many highlight-reel-worthy plays.
But he will be more of a consistent and disruptive force against the run. Last season's 22nd-ranked rush defense needs that kind of player.
If the Chiefs make one splash move in free agency, it has to be signing Bryant.
Find a Nickel Cornerback
The Kansas City secondary needs a competent nickel cornerback. That is a pressing need for any team in the modern, predominantly pass-first NFL, but that's especially true for one that plays in a division featuring quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
Antoine Cason is a former AFC West resident who could be snared for a reasonable fee. The ex-San Diego Charger spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals in a limited role.
At 6'1" and 195 pounds, Cason possesses the frame to succeed in the press-based schemes Sutton likes to employ. Cason will use his size to take risks sometimes, but he is opportunistic.
He is also certainly an upgrade on the players the Chiefs tried at third cornerback in 2013. Rookie Marcus Cooper became a favorite target for quarterbacks, while veteran Dunta Robinson rated as a free-agent bust.
As an experienced bargain with physical attributes that suit the current system, Cason would be a nice acquisition.
Add a Safety
Adding a safety or two has to be an offseason priority in Kansas City. The defense was burned too often by poor safety play, particularly in deep areas.
If the Chiefs go through free agency to bolster the position, they ought to consider Stevie Brown. He lost the entire 2013 season to a torn ACL, but he was hugely productive for the New York Giants in 2012.
He picked off eight passes that season, showcasing the ability to be the ball hawk Kansas City lacks at the position. If the Chiefs can't be solid in the defensive backfield, they can at least be more opportunistic.
They should be encouraged by the positive progress Brown has made recovering from his injury. The player told Ross Jones of FoxSports.com that his rehabilitation has gone well.
Brown has indicated a willingness to re-sign with Big Blue in an interview with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live (h/t ProFootballTalk.com). Jordan Raanan of the Star-Ledger identifies the safety as one of the free agents the Giants will attempt to keep.
But New York also has players like linebacker Jon Beason and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks ready to test the market. They will likely not enter a bidding war for a player coming of a lengthy injury.
A reasonable offer could be enough to land Brown. It is a risk worth taking.
These seven moves represent the best way for Dorsey and Reid to use free agency to maintain the strength of their roster and the success of last season.