Well, what was probably a foregone conclusion in the offseason has come to pass a few months early. Chris Chambers was put on waivers and picked up by Kansas City.
This move was facilitated by calling up practice squad rookie James Holt to help the thinning middle linebacker position after Tim Dobbins’s injury of yet unknown severity; however, with Kevin Burnett expected to return against the Giants, it speaks heavily to Chambers’s own performance.
With a total salary reaching to $5.7 million this year, Chambers was on a pace to make roughly $300,000 per catch, not a particularly good investment. By claiming him off waivers, Kansas City is now obliged to cover roughly $2.4 million of his salary (while more than half the season is left, that $5.7 figure comes from roster bonuses and other non-base-pay items).
This also sends a message that you aren’t necessarily safe just because you are an established veteran, a testament to concerns over a thus far underwhelming team.
The main benefactors of this will be Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee, both of which will be bumped up a slot, Floyd now starting and Naanee taking over third on the depth chart. Both have come away with more receptions than Chambers, despite playing behind him on the depth chart.
Floyd, over the last three years, has shown a great proclivity for the long ball, and is averaging 22.8 yards per catch so far this season. Naanee has taken the role of smaller slot receiver (only on this team is a 6’2’’ 220 wideout the smaller guy), and while his role has been somewhat limited thus far, he has shown great potential as a yards after the catch type of guy.
Both have shown flashes to justify a greater role in the offense, but the move does spark some concerns.
I have no real concerns for Naanee bumping up to third on the depth chart; he provides a great dimension that is otherwise unseen on the team. What does concern me is Malcolm Floyd’s status as the No. 2 wideout and the team’s overall depth at wide receiver now.
Presently, the team has five wide receivers on the active roster. That having been said, one is Kasim Osgood, whom the team seems steadfastly determined to keep only out on special teams (as its been three years since I can even recall seeing him on the field for an offensive down, I can’t say if this is deserved or not).
The other is Buster Davis, who has essentially spent his career being listed as doubtful or questionable on the teams injury report, and is likely gone this offseason.
With the ability to split Sproles or Gates wide instead of playing directly in the tailback or tight end spots, the team is not likely to put four let alone five wide receivers on the field at once, but they are one banged up guy away from no three-wide sets either.
There’s a term "robbing Peter to pay Paul" that seems especially applicable here. The team was painfully thin at middle linebacker and has countered by leaving themselves (slightly less) painfully thin at wide receiver.
The other concern is Malcolm Floyd. He has done tremendous things to warrant a closer look. His capacity as a downfield threat gives the team two home-run hitters that will keep at least one safety deep essentially all game.
He pairs with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates to give the team great leap-ball ability, with three 6’5’’ guys that stand a head above almost anyone covering them. That having been said, Floyd has decent hands, a willingness to wrestle jump balls away, and tremendous size, which gives him his deep ball ability.
What he lacks is crisp route running and a great sense of timing; these things are what separated Jackson from Floyd two years ago when both were similar in stats and potential. Jackson went from depth chart climber to possible Pro Bowler this year because he can put up five catches for 142 yard games (halves), but he now can also put up eight to 10 catch games for less yardage.
Floyd has not yet shown that other dimension, to run a crisp shorter route or break a route off when he feels Rivers in trouble. I think he is best suited to being a great third guy on the depth chart who can just run a deep post or fly route up against an overmatched safety or nickel back.
This capacity as a situational sniper feels more suited to his abilities. This is not to say he can’t develop those abilities in time, but I don’t think he’s there yet.
Ultimately, I am not so sure of this move. With Buster Davis essentially wasting space, and the salary cap holding no bearing on personnel decisions at this point, I would rather Davis go if they needed to cut a wideout, or even better C.J. Spillman (does a team with multiple positions thinned by injury really need to keep five safeties on active roster?).
Overall Chris Chambers was on his way out the door, he just wasn’t putting up the results expected of him; however, two or three games with he and Floyd doing a dosie-doe (or however that’s spelled) on the depth chart would have made more sense than a one game look at the personnel swap (especially when Floyd had one big catch and not much else, a five or six catch game would have left me more ok with this).
With all the factors looked at, and a few other options for the chopping block instead, you have to look at this as a statement move by AJ Smith. Here’s hoping the right people get the message and step their games up because the team has five tough games remaining on their schedule, and they will likely need to take three of those five to wrestle the division away from Denver, barring another mile-high plummet.
Good luck Bolts, and here's hoping we can find a nice possession guy in the offseason to complement the current troika.