With a glimmer of hope showing in the ongoing labor talks between the owners and players, fans and coaches alike can start getting excited about this year's upcoming free agency.
However, while this should be one of the best markets for free agents as players locked up in 2010 find themselves able to sell their skills to the highest bidder, Kansas City finds itself short one player who should have been near the top of their list.
After back-to-back seasons of injuries and a torn ACL in this offseason, Chad Pennington has decided to trade his helmet and clipboard for a FOX analyst's chair in 2011. While he hasn't officially retired, Pennington has certainly taken himself off the market for a new team.
Now wait a minute... Chad Pennington for the Chiefs? Why don't they just bring Elvis Grbac or Steve Bono out of retirement while they're at it?
Yes, on the surface, this is definitely an "out there" concept. Pennington has only played two complete seasons in his entire career; he couldn't even attempt three passes before his shoulder landed him on injured reserve last year. What few "glory days" Pennington had between his trips to the trainer/surgeon are long past.
But the Chiefs shouldn't be looking for a savior at quarterback. What they need is a teacher. A team should, ideally, have three quarterbacks on their roster—their starter, a rookie to mold, and a veteran to guide them and keep the ship right.
Matt Cassel silenced a number of his detractors last season, but is still growing in his role as the starting quarterback. Ricky Stanzi, meanwhile, is a rookie with great intangibles and upside stepping into the pro world. Both players could use the voice of someone who's hit both the highs and lows of football on the sideline and in the locker room.
The best example of this would be the relationship of Carson Palmer and Jon Kitna with the Bengals in 2003. Palmer spent his rookie year on the bench as Kitna showed him the ropes, earning a playoff spot for the Bengals and Comeback Player of the Year honors for himself. Palmer has not been shy about crediting Kitna for teaching him about what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
Pennington could have been that person for Cassel, and especially for Stanzi. Like Stanzi, Pennington has often been criticized for his lack of arm strength and mobility. Despite this, though, Pennington had a respectable career in the NFL. He threw for 102 touchdowns in 90 games during his career, with only 64 interceptions. Pennington accomplished this by being, among other things, a student of the game. He played with intelligence, and could pick apart nearly any defense.
Both of Kansas City's quarterbacks could use a mentor with that type of resume. Only two years ago, Cassel was notorious for forcing bad throws and playing into coverage. He drastically improved in 2010, but can still get plenty better. Stanzi could easily see an older version of himself in Pennington, who could show him how to minimize his shortcomings and capitalize on his strengths to become a quality NFL quarterback.
The remaining options for a veteran backup are pretty slim. Most of the more accomplished players, like Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb, Kerry Collins and Matt Hasselbeck are more likely looking for one last shot at glory. The others, like Vince Young, Rex Grossman, and Matt Leinart, lack the credentials, experience, or demeanor to be the type of mentor the Chiefs could use on their roster.
So while few teams probably had Pennington on their radar, FOX Sports' gain is certainly Kansas City's loss. Perhaps the Chiefs can convince him to walk the sidelines in 2012.