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Buying or Selling Latest Kansas City Chiefs Buzz on the Free Agency Rumor Mill

Brett GeringCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2014

Buying or Selling Latest Kansas City Chiefs Buzz on the Free Agency Rumor Mill

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    Associated Press|Edited by Brett Gering

    Regardless of month, rumors permeate throughout the NFL like wildfire, and the first week of free agency never ceases to turn water coolers into fuel pumps.

    To no surprise, the Kansas City Chiefs never find themselves exempt from the annual gossip game. 

    So, as the rumor mill continues to churn out fresh-off-the-assembly-line factoids, which of the recent half-truths will ultimately unveil whole lies? 

     

    Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Salary-cap information provided by Over the Cap

Chiefs Target: Devin Hester, WR

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    As NFL.com's Ian Rapoport noted, Devin Hester shares past ties with Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, which sparked speculation that the 31-year-old could book a one-way flight to Kansas City. 

     

    The Upside

    Dexter McCluster signed with the Tennessee Titans, and a slew of teams are in need of a dependable slot option and/or decorated returner. 

    Out of players who cradled double-digit punt returns, Hester ranked No. 4 in 2013, averaging 14.2 yards per opportunity. With McCluster gone, No. 23 is a proven option that can fill the special teams void and perhaps find a niche within the offense. 

     

    The Downside

    McCluster is in the prime of his career and offers infinitely more as a slot receiver than Hester, who has a meager total of 14 career receptions to his name.

    Furthermore, while his explosiveness is beyond question (even at his current age), Hester, in a limited role, averages 4.25 fumbles per year. 

    Even with McCluster gone, there are plenty of younger, cheaper options to explore, especially considering the receiver and cornerback depth in the upcoming draft. 

     

    Buy or Sell (the Rumor): Sell

    Given the context, Hester is a luxury buy, and the Chiefs can receive more bang for their buck by signing a younger replacement for McCluster.

Chiefs Trade Target: DeSean Jackson, WR

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    Last week, 610 Sports Radio tweeted that "DeSean Jackson has been linked with the Chiefs in a potential trade."

    Of course, in the world of talk radio, "linked" is code for "speculation," which, thanks to Twitter, is just as likely to come from a local florist as a reputable league source.

    Regardless, similar (and verified) rumblings have brewed throughout Philadelphia in years past, and Andy Reid is the man who drafted the periodic Pro Bowler. 

     

    The Upside

    Kansas City is in desperate need of another receiving threat to complement Dwayne Bowe. Enlisting the help of Jackson not only provides said threat, after this year, it renders Bowe expendable. 

    Jackson spent five of his first six seasons in Reid's offense, and he has developed into one of the league's most revered wideouts and potent playmakers.

    Philadelphia's star is still just 27 years old, and unlike Kansas City's current set of wideouts, he can hurt defenses both over the top and underneath.

     

    The Downside

    Simply put, the Chiefs don't have enough cap space. 

    With rookie contracts factored in, Kansas City likely only has $3-4 million in cap room. Extensions will help, but considering that the team has a number of in-house free agents that it wants to re-sign, John Dorsey won't entertain the thought.

    Being that the remainder of Jackson's contract carries an average $11.75 million cap hit, the Chiefs are better off drafting a similar receiver for a fraction of the cost.

     

    Buy or Sell: Sell

    Putting stock into Jeremy Maclin's health is a leap of faith, making any trade involving Jackson a harebrained proposal. 

    Even if Kansas City worked a minor miracle and cleared sufficient cap space, Philadelphia would scoff at the idea of trading their second-best player for a late first-round pick and some change. 

Chiefs Target: Jason Avant, WR

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    Per Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star, the Chiefs have expressed interest in reuniting Andy Reid his former third-down specialist, Jason Avant. 

     

    The Upside

    This possible signing makes so much sense that it will be borderline surprising if Avant doesn't call Arrowhead "home" next year.

    Although the slot receiver is set to turn 31 years old this April, he started a career-high 14 games in 2013, and he has missed just four games throughout the past seven seasons. 

    Avant personifies the term "savvy veteran."

    He's a sharp route-runner who routinely spots cushions between zones, and his hands are secure enough to make ADT blush. Avant's catch radius has, throughout his eight-year career, proven to be a meticulously woven spiderweb. 

     

    The Downside

    In terms of playmaking ability, Avant doesn't hold a candle to Dexter McCluster, whose role he would fulfill if left vacant. 

    More times than not, his number of yards after the catch can be tracked on one hand, and his glory years have been relegated to distant memories. 

    Avant's modest ceiling will encourage defenses to suffocate the box, fearless of the repercussions he can bring about when given space. 

     

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    Though Avant is a stop-gap slot solution, that doesn't mean he's not an ideal fit—he is—for the offense he spent so many years familiarizing himself with. 

    Avant is a student of the game—something that would prompt a systematic on-field rapport between he and Alex Smith. 

    Critiquing the wideout's skill set, ESPN's Phil Sheridan told colleague Mike Reiss: 

    He's a sneaky route runner and very good possession guy. He's willing to do the dirty work, blocking on run plays and bubble screens. ... One of the most terrific plays in recent Eagles history -- DeSean Jackson's game-winning punt return against the Giants at the Meadowlands in 2010 -- was made possible because Avant decleated Zak DeOssie with a block.

    Whether between or outside the sidelines, Avant is a consummate, blue-collared professional who still has two to three years' worth of fuel swashing inside the tank. 

Chiefs Target: Darren Sproles, RB

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    Peter King recently joined The Dan Patrick Show to offer his two cents on some of the bigger fish in this year's free-agent pool. 

    When Patrick picked King's brain on the subject of Darren Sproles' possible wooers, the longtime columnist mentioned:

    I think it depends how the Chiefs are sitting with their backfield situation once free agency shakes out. ... I don't think he's done. I think he was impressive in the playoffs this year in his very limited role. He's still got some explosive plays left in him, and I think he's going to make somebody a good, reasonably priced, say $2-million-a-year, acquisition.

     

    The Upside

    Sproles is a walking mismatch who, like Dexter McCluster, can fulfill a variety of roles and present and array of looks. 

    Playing four years at Kansas State, he has local roots, and pairing him with Charles would create a pick-your-poison scenario for coordinators, particularly on third downs. 

    Despite a seemingly fragile frame, Sproles has been relatively durable throughout his career, and while his age lies on the wrong side of 30 (for skill positions, at least), he still ranks as one of the top open-field magicians in today's game. 

    Also, when juxtaposed with McCluster, Sproles' talents should account for a smaller slice of a team's 2014 cap share.

     

    The Downside

    McCluster is five years younger, and his production has steadily increased throughout each of his four seasons. Conversely, in all three facets (rushing, receiving, returning), Sproles' output has trended downward since 2011. 

    On top of that, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis will enjoy the lion's share of backfield touches. Sproles' talent justifies a healthy amount of playing time, but in order for him to see comparable snaps within the Chiefs offense, he'd likely have to convert to a full-time role in the slot. 

    That, in turn, would sprout another batch of questions. 

      

    Buy or Sell: Sell

    From a receiving standpoint, Sproles' numbers still trump McCluster's on an annual basis. That being said, playing alongside Drew Brees will swell any receiver's stats, while breaking a huddle with Charles will have the opposite effect. 

    From a franchise's perspective, getting older at a position is only deemed sensible if the elder player offers more value for the foreseeable future. In all likelihood, that won't hold true in this particular case. 

    The proverbial nail in the hypothetical coffin? In the above video, B/R's Mike Freeman notes that Washington is in the driver's seat for Sproles' services, while New England might also emerge from the shadows and make a run at the backfield blur. 

Cap Casualty: Geoff Schwartz, G

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Updates from Tuesday, March 11

    Per NFL.com's Kimberly Jones, Geoff Schwartz has agreed to terms with the New York Giants. 

    ---End of update---

     

    As expected, Geoff Schwartz has entertained plenty of suitors as of late. One of them, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jim Thomas, appears to be Kansas City's cross-state competitor. 

     

    The Upside

    Kansas City retains a chunk of change, which will offer some financial maneuverability going forward. 

     

    The Downside

    Well, for starters, if Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Schwartz relocate, Kansas City's projected starting lineup will redefine the word "makeshift."

    In 2013, Schwartz's versatility prevented the battered unit from coming unglued. He's capable of holding his own at guard or tackle—either side of center. 

    Thanks to sturdy fundamentals and above-average athleticism, the journeyman is proficient in both facets of the offense. That's one reason, among others, why the 300-plus-pounder should've headlined the team's offseason priorities. 

     

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    B/R's Matt Miller confirmed that, per league sources, Schwartz's 2013 deal was a one-year rental, and the once-undervalued guard won't be rejoining Kansas City in 2014. 

    There is little doubt that the Chiefs hoped to keep him on the payroll, but last season's spending spree boxed the front office into a conservative corner. 

    With Schwartz and Albert penciled in as departures, making a second pass at Asamoah becomes that much more rational. However, sources of former scout John Middlekauff relayed that Kansas City's other right guard has already agreed to terms ($4.5 million per year) with Atlanta

    Whatever the case, the roster currently pits Jeff Allen—who, like Eric Fisher, finally flashed signs of promise beginning in Week 13—Rokevious Watkins and Rishaw Johnson in a three-way position battle at guard.

    Until Dorsey addresses said void(s), there's no point in Alex Smith analyzing anything other than his quarterback slide. 

Cap Casualty: Dexter McCluster, WR

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Updates from Tuesday, March 11

    NFL.com's Ian Rapoport noted that Dexter McCluster inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Tennessee Titans

    ---End of update---

     

    According to the The Kansas City Star's Terez Paylor, a source confirmed that Dexter McCluster's next helmet won't have an arrowhead plastered across it.

     

    The Upside

    McCluster earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a punt returner, which is a skill that's displayed only a handful of times throughout any given Sunday. 

    He's quicker than he is fast, which, when lining up in the slot, limits his potential as a vertical threat. McCluster boasts average hands and route running, but his special teams prowess is sure to attract no shortage of suitors. 

     

    The Downside

    The four-year veteran posted career-highs in his first year within Andy Reid's offense, and he arguably reigned as the NFL's most lethal returner a year ago. 

    No. 22 adds a heavy dose of diversity to Reid's offensive scheming, and one could claim that he's the club's best home run hitter not named "Jamaal Charles."

     

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    There's no doubt that the Chiefs want to retain McCluster, but 2013's breakout season (particularly in terms of special teams play) will trigger a bidding war, and Kansas City isn't in any position to trade turns upping the ante. 

    The 2014 draft is chock-full of receiving talent, and reinserting Travis Kelce to the lineup will add another playmaker to the team's aerial attack.

    As far as return men go, the Chiefs roster is rich with potential replacements, including A.J. Jenkins, Weston Dressler and Joe McKnight.

    It's safe to assume that Quintin Demps' gaudy kick-returning numbers can be attributed to Dave Toub's coaching more so than Demps' individual skill.

    In McCluster's case, assuming the same is a riskier gamble, but if the aforementioned rumors see the light of day (and they likely will), then that's the hand that John Dorsey will be forced to play. 

    Unless Uncle Drew hired him to prank Clevelanders for holding Kyrie (Irving) hostage, No. 22 all but cemented his departure by, over the last 24 hours, following the Cleveland Browns' official Twitter account (as well as bands of Browns fans). 

Chiefs Target: Jermichael Finley, TE

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    The Boston Globe's Ben Volin revealed that Jermichael Finley has caught the eye of at least five teams, including Kansas City.  

     

    The Upside

    Finley, when healthy, is a worthwhile asset to any passing attack. 

    His skill set makes for a nightmarish matchup for any linebacker dropping back in coverage, and while he's not a burner, he still exhibits enough speed to exploit seams. 

    He showcases impressive footwork for someone of his size, and throughout routes, his breaks are occasionally more reminiscent of a wideout than tight end. Finley also effectively utilizes his frame, shielding smaller defenders from intended passes. 

     

    The Downside

    Finley's production doesn't always warrant past hype. He's an athletic tight end who, on occasion, will wow ticket holders with a jaw-dropping catch. However, he's an average-at-best blocker with inconsistent hands and durability issues (he has yet to be medically cleared following last season's spinal scare). 

    John Dorsey scouted Finley, though, and tight end doubled as a weekly question on Kansas City's 2013 depth chart. The rumored interest is genuine, but the veteran's value solely depends on his asking price. 

     

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    Finley possesses the talent of a top-five tight end, but due to the serious nature of last year's injuries, his asking price will be relatively cheap. 

    If that's the case, signing him, given his lofty ceiling, presents a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.

    Two-tight end sets featuring Finley and Travis Kelce (assuming he also returns healthy) would be an equally potent and puzzling one-two combo. 

     

Cap Casualty: Branden Albert, OT

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    Updates from Tuesday, March 11

    According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke, Branden Albert signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Miami Dolphins

    ---End of update----

     

    Pro Football Talk reported that Branden Albert is likely packing his bags for Miami. 

     

    The Upside

    If Albert re-signs with the Chiefs, Kansas City will be forced to cut a host of players, while penny-pinching just to sign the upcoming crop of rookies. 

    When healthy, Albert is one of the better pass protectors in the NFL. However, he has tallied nine missed starts due to injury throughout the past two seasons, and he's a pedestrian run-blocker. 

    Bidding farewell to him also allows Eric Fisher to revert to his natural position at left tackle. 

     

    The Downside

    Fisher finished 2013 on a high note, allowing just one sack from Week 13 onward. His performance(s) previous to said week will ensure that, entering training camp, his name will birth more questions than answers, though. 

    Although Albert isn't as gifted as his free-agency buzz would lead one to believe, losing a quality left tackle is never chalked up as a positive.

     

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    Obviously, Albert's new contract can't officially be recognized until 4 p.m. ET (March 11), but the blindside blocker just recently followed Ryan Tannehill (among other Dolphins players) and is already tweeting about Florida DMV—he's gone. 

    Considering that his recent past has been riddled with injuries, yet he still found himself as the most sought-after left tackle this offseason, anyone in Albert's shoes would've followed the guaranteed money. 

    It was good while it lasted, but at some point, every run eventually grinds to a halt.

    Unlike a year ago, Reid and Dorsey appear to be approaching 2014 free agency with an "out with the old, in with the new" mentality, although cap limitations have certainly dictated their mindset.

    Regardless, spring cleaning just started early at One Arrowhead Drive. 

     

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