Elite Free Agent LBs May Not Hit Open Market

Three names continually pop up around here when the discussion turns to fixing the mess we call the Kansas City Chiefs linebacking corps:

Terrell SuggsBart ScottKarlos Dansby.

Suggs and Scott, both 'backers for the decade long powerhouse that is the Baltimore Ravens defense, can both hit the open market once the clock strikes midnight on February 27th if the Ravens choose to let them walk.  But will they even make it there?

The Ravens slapped the franchise tag on Suggs following the 2007 season assuring themselves he'd be in purple for at least one more season.  Some folks at the time made the assumption that the franchise tag in '08 meant free agency in '09.  As Lee Corso says, not so fast my friend.

In an appearance on Sirius Satellite Radio, Suggs said (via PFT) he might be willing to take a "home discount" so that he can continue playing with arguably the best linebacker corps in the NFL including teammates Bart Scott and Ray Lewis (both of whom could be deemed too pricey this offseason).

“To line up and see somebody [different] behind me in my case, or lining up seeing somebody different in Bart’s case, line up with somebody next to you and it’s not one of the greatest defensive players of all time, it’s going to be kind of weird. Like I told Bart, he’s been like a big brother since I got there. This was his seventh year [and] my sixth. It’s been me, him and Adalius Thomas from Day One. We’ve already seen one of our other brothers walk. We really don’t want to see too many more of us walk away from the city of Baltimore. Hopefully we all can stay, definitely, on a home discount.

Uh-oh.  Suggs and Scott are two of the premier names supposedly hitting the free agency market come February 27th.  While as Chiefs fans we'll argue whether we're willing to pay what will assuredly be a $12 million/year deal to a player like Suggs or a deal in the $7-10 million/year range to a player like Scott, it appears it's not all about the money.  And for a rebuilding team like the Chiefs, money is about all we've got when trying to attract top flight free agents.

Bart Scott hasn't indicated whether he's willing to take a "home discount" but  would he be willing to adjust his contractual demands so that he can continue to play with two Pro Bowlers?

Karlos Dansby, like Suggs, had the franchise tag slapped on him by the Arizona Cardinals just two weeks before free agency began at the end of February in 2008.  With a one year tender of $8.065 million, the Cardinals can tag him again with a 120% pay increase which would put his franchise tender at $9.678 million (assuming that number is higher than the average of the top 5 highest paid linebackers in the NFL in 2009).

With all the NFL draft talk beginning to heat up, I've been under the mindset that the Chiefs would be best suited to address the linebacker situation in free agency and attack another need, like offensive or defensive line, in the draft.  But now that it appears there's at least a chance none of the Big 3 will hit the open market, our strategy might have to be adjusted.

Aaron Curry has been flying up draft boards the last few weeks and will undoubtedly be available with the 3rd pick in the draft.  With the talk of a "home discount" in Baltimore, and the very real possibility that the Cardinals will realize a $1.613 million pay raise is pennies compared to the importance of a star linebacker on a Super Bowl caliber squad, the Chiefs may be out of luck if they're looking to drastically upgrade their linebacking corps via free agency.

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