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What We've Learned About the Kansas City Chiefs After the Start of Free Agency

Brett GeringCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2014

What We've Learned About the Kansas City Chiefs After the Start of Free Agency

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports|Edited by Brett Gering

    NFL free agency is well underway, and none of the Kansas City Chiefs' (re-)signings has lit up comment sections nor sent local hearts aflutter. 

    Spare the rant. I get it. 

    Same old Chiefs, teasing brilliance and bringing home C-pluses, fanning Arrowhead's flame just enough to sell season tickets, only for fans to wake up on Sundays holding a pair of pipe dreams.

    Another year, another Ponzi scheme. 

    If you find yourself spamming Twitter with the above rhetoric, inhale, exhale and rub your temples, Cujo. The Chiefs aren't nosediving back into the AFC's abyss.

    More times than not, the biggest free-agency "winners"—the teams who sign gangs of household names—are dysfunctional, mismanaged franchises whose front offices are lined with hot seats and reek of desperation. 

    That, or a new regime is taking over one of said dumpster fires, in which case free agency prompts a 16-week, traveling talent show.

    Ring a bell?

    For the Chiefs, the last 48 hours have doled out five clues pertinent to the team's future, and contrary to what the armchair quarterbacks will claim, there's greener grass over the horizon. 

     

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

5. Chiefs Departures Spotlight Free-Agency Myths

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    Before the floodgates of free agency opened, a Twitter search for Chiefs rumors returned a hodgepodge of speculation—clustered tweets suggesting that the Chiefs were keeping cards close to their vest, explaining the shutdown at the local rumor mill. 

    Thanks for the tarot reading, but don't quit your nine-to-five. 

    Look, this whole "hometown discount" thing that dreamers have become enamored with? It's a myth. 

    You always hear about it, and every once in awhile, a player opens Pandora's box by hinting that it exists. But ultimately, its rumors live and die as nothing more, and the idea is decisively debunked for the umpteenth time.

    In the land of free agency, pleading for a "hometown discount" is like channeling mating calls for Bigfoot. 

    Case in point, in the wake of winning Super Bowl XLVIII, per Pro Football Talk, Golden Tate professed:

    I probably shouldn’t even say this right now but I’m going to say it anyway just because I love Seattle, honestly, I would rather take a little less to be happy and win ball games than to take way more and go to a crappy city where the fans don’t give a crap about the team.

    So, logically, Tate went to Detroit, a city fresh off filing for bankruptcy.

    After climbing the ranks of high school, college and the big leagues, relocating is nothing new to professional athletes. Their services follow the longest paper trail, and 90 percent of their critics would follow suit if given the opportunity. 

    Moral of the rant story? Don't expect charity from players who consider another city as their hometown.

    Branden Albert, Dexter McCluster and Geoff Schwartz lived in Kansas City for a combined 11 years—I've lived in the Midwest for 20-plus and could be yanked away for $20 and a Chipotle card. 

    Professional football is, above all else, a job. And at the end of the day, an extra $1 million cushions bone-jarring collisions slightly more than a few extra cheers do. 

4. Andy Reid and John Dorsey Are a Perfect Match

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    G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press

    Geoff Schwartz collected $700,000 in 2013. After one season with the Chiefs, he is, according to Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin, scheduled to cash in $4.2 million per year with the New York Giants

    Akeem Jordan amassed $735,000 a season ago. Aaron Wilson of National Football Post reports that he's currently drawing interest from six teams. 

    Quintin Demps progressed from a relative underachiever to spearheading a kick return unit whose 29.9-yard average set an NFL record

    Marcus Cooper landed in Kansas City as a late-round, no-name waiver acquisition. By the end of 2013, he added Chiefs rookie of the year to his resume. 

    The buzz-worthy trade for Alex Smith ended with an aerial onslaught on Wild Card Weekend (despite the loss) and No. 11's first Pro Bowl nod. 

    John Dorsey recruited all of the above players, Andy Reid and Co. coached them up and the joint effort produced a medley of career years. 

    Kansas City hasn't inked the crowd of free agents that it did in 2013, but remember, within one season, the bulk of local ticket holders went from Googling wikis of Schwartz and Jordan to waving pitchforks at the thought of life without them. 

    That, more than anything else, should give fans hope for the future. 

3. John Dorsey Wants to Build Through the Draft

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    Kansas City's 2013 draft class is infinitely better than what, at this point, meets the eye. 

    After an erratic first half of the season, the oft-injured Eric Fisher began acclimating to life in the NFL throughout his final five contests, allowing just one sack and two quarterback hits. 

    For better or worse, hearts went into overdrive every time that Knile Davis touched the ball. Out of players who received double-digit kick returns, Davis' 32.1-yard average finished No. 2 in the NFL. Also, while his 3.5 yards per carry isn't going to raise any eyebrows, the majority of his carries stemmed from garbage-time blowouts in which defenses preemptively stacked the box. 

    The skill sets of Travis Kelce and Sanders Commings are reminiscent of players drafted considerably sooner, but injuries limited the duo to just two combined snaps last season. 

    Throw in pickups Marcus Cooper and Tyler Bray, and the 2013 crop, if nothing else, oozes with potential. 

    With the number of notable free agents that the Chiefs lost, Kansas City's bound to receive a handful of compensatory picks in 2015. And said selections, by rule, range from third- to seventh-rounders. 

    Since Dorsey first headed college scouting for Green Bay in 1999, the current Chiefs GM has plucked more than his share of mid- to late-round gems, including Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Matt Flynn, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Kampman, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and T.J. Lang. 

    It's no secret that, historically, perennial playoff contenders shape their nucleus through the draft. This season, Seattle's band of overlooked overachievers served as prime examples of that. 

    Given his track record, Dorsey's draft-centric outlook ensures that the team is well-equipped for playoff pushes in the near future, long after Peyton Manning loosens his divisional death grip. 

2. Kansas City Has Less Cap Room Than Most Realize

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Time to crunch a few numbers (hold the excitement). 

    As of now, per Over the Cap, the Chiefs have $8.85 million in cap room. However, that number doesn't include the signings of Joe Mays (whose contract structure hasn't been disclosed) and Jeff Linkenbach (whose terms haven't been disclosed). It does, however, include the re-signing of Husain Abdullah.

    Adam Caplan relayed the following to ESPN:

    Mays signed a two-year, $6 million deal, which includes a $1.5 million signing bonus, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan. The contract includes incentives up to $4 million each year, the source said.

    Assuming the above details hold water, the signing bonus will splinter into $750,000 guaranteed in 2014. Also, Mays has played six seasons in the NFL, and per Spotrac, that entitles him to a minimum salary of (at least) $730,000.

    So, barring Mays being cut—which, due to dead money, isn't going to happen—he's scheduled to rake in at least $1.48 million this season. Realistically, the cap hit will be higher, as his contract will feature a mix of "likely to be earned" (factored into a team's cap at the time of the signing) and "not likely to be earned" (not currently factored into the cap) incentives.

    But let's err on the side of caution and stick with the $1.48 million figure. If that amount is subtracted from the current cap, the Chiefs are left with $7.37 million in cap room. 

    With four years of experience under his belt, Linkenbach is also owed a minimum of $730,000. (Again, his cap hit will ultimately be larger, but the terms haven't been reported.) Factoring that into the equation, Dorsey would have $6.4 million between him and the ceiling. 

    Considering that this year's batch of rookies will likely eat up another $5 million to $6 million, and Mays' and Linkenbach's cap hit will be higher than was previously mentioned, the Chiefs are, for all intents and purposes, an Alfalfa hair away from grazing the cap ceiling. 

    That not only answers why Kansas City hasn't been more active in free agency, but also why extensions for Alex Smith and/or Justin Houston are all but inevitable. 

1. Chiefs Aren't Rebuilding, but Prepping for What Lies Ahead

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    As long as the current regime stays intact, consider last offseason an anomaly. You're not going to see parades of players swarm to Kansas City for year-long auditions anymore. 

    Instead, expect the Chiefs to reward their star-studded playmakers, while replacing good-but-not-great talent by developing solid up-and-comers via the draft.

    Although Twitter and 24-hour news cycles have trained us to view everything through a myopic lens, take a second to look at the bigger picture. 

    The Chiefs are reportedly trying to secure Alex Smith and Justin Houston, arguably the most important names on their respective sides of the ball, for the foreseeable future. (And yes, Jamaal Charles is undoubtedly the best player, but quarterbacks dictate success far more than running backs do—see: winless 20-year playoff drought, see: “Are you [bleep] kidding me, Cassel?")

    If things go as planned, those two extensions will not only free up 2014 cap space, they’ll lock up both of the team’s top-tier 2015 free agents (Rodney Hudson and Anthony Sherman being the only other starters).

    That, in turn, allows Kansas City to extend a few 2016 free agents next offseason, a group that includes Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe, Sean Smith, Mike DeVito and Marcus Cooper, among others. 

    So, no, the Chiefs might not have re-signed Branden Albert or Geoff Schwartz. They might not have charmed the initials of Eric Decker or Darren Sproles onto paper. But what John Dorsey did do is ensure that a few more of Kansas City's Sunday standouts remain rooted at One Arrowhead Drive. 

    The Chiefs will still be competitive this season, but being that Denver's surgical signal-caller is on his last legs, getting a head start on the post-Peyton Manning AFC West isn't such a bad idea. 

    In reality, Dorsey didn't fall behind the competition, he quietly crept two steps ahead of it. 

     

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