With all of the mock draft posts going up, one thing that is bothering me a bit is that I see a few people posting what they think the roster will look like come 2011 andit usually is based on the grand assumption that we will resign all of our free agents, which are a few important players in key positions. I thought I would take a few minutes and give some ideas (and fears) about our current roster, resigning all of our important players in 2011, and who could/should be targeted to bring in.
First and foremost, our free agents in 2011 aren't quite as pressing now that we have extended Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles, as they would have been key losses; however, the potential free agents for us are still worrisome. Here is a list of expiring contracts in 2011 (and assuming that the restricted free agent clause goes back to 3 seasons), taken from walterfootball.com, listed in order of importance to the team, in my opinion:
Ok, quite a laundry list, with the delicates at the top needing some quick attention. Tamba is priority #1 for resigning in the offseason. This might be a little spiteful, but while most people see Tamba's desire to wait until the end of the season to discuss contract negotiations b/c as it was stated, he "didn't want to be a distraction", I'm unfortunately more inclined to think that this might have been the worst thing that could have happened for our chance to resign him. It was stated by Tamba's agent that there were discussions but both they and the team were in agreeance that they wanted to "wait and see how the season progressed"; this quote scares me more now b/c we are talking about the player that was 2nd in the league in sacks, which is a coveted stat in this league. This season has progressed better than either Tamba/his agent and the team could have imagined, and that means that Tamba will get some staggering offers from teams, I'm sure. Tamba himself has also stated that he wanted to "retire as a Chief", which looks good for the media, but when push comes to shove, players have to strike while the iron is hot, and if some ridiculous offer comes from a team looking to get his high motor and production, will we be able to match it? If not, would Tamba's loyalty show through and he take less money to stay with the Chiefs? I can't say for sure either way, but one thing is almost certain, Tamba will command some BIG money, and our only hope is that money is coming from the Chiefs.
Brandon Carr has been an important part of the resurgance of a stout and consistent KC defense, and for his part, he has been great as a #2 CB opposite Brandon Flowers. Carr should be another target of resigning based solely on keeping continuity with this young secondary that could become one of the greats, if not the best, in the NFL. Trying to replace him would be a challenge, as his height, speed, and coverage (which has been greatly improved this season), compliment the smaller, stronger, physical presence of Flowers and Javier Arenas. I have faith that Arenas could become our #2 CB and be successful, but his size could be exploited more regularly if he's on his own island instead of covering more in the middle; I feel that Arenas is made for the nickelback position and hopefully, we have Carr in place as the #2 CB for a long time.
Players like Mike Vrabel, Shaun Smith, Ron Edwards, and Casey Wiegmann, while maybe not the most talented players considering their age, bring experience and veteran leadership that is invaluable to this young team and has shown through this season as the Chiefs have been one of the most disciplined, consistent teams in the league. If Vrabelmoved on by retiring, hopefully the Chiefs would offer him some kind of coaching position if he wanted it. Smith and Edwards will need some replacing, but if they can be signed for smaller, shorter contracts, andthe team can find younger replacements, whether in house (Anthony Toribio?) or in the draft or FA, keeping a strong rotation of D-linemen, especially at NT, will be key. Smith has shown value as a multi-position player, and his success under Romeo Crennel through his career lends me to believe he will want to stay with the team.
Going back to Wiegmann, along with Rudy Neiswanger and Ryan O'Callaghan, these players provide depth (and leadership in the case of Wiegmann) for a very thin, depth wise, O-line, and as we develop players in our system, players with knowledge of the scheme, specifically zone blocking, will speed along this development. Wiegmann is the most important, as clearly he on the last gasp of his admirable career, as we bring in a replacement andpotential staple at center, which will be key going forth facing the strong D-lines of Oakland and SD, as well as playing better competition in our schedule the better we do each season. I don't believe Rudy will be resigned, but feel that Casey will be, as he may have to start at the least the beginning of one more season in 2011 as we groom his future replacement.
Mike Cox and Jackie Battle are important to our RB depth, as Cox has shown to be a fine FB in run blocking, and Battle could be a good short yardage back if we continue to develop him further. I don't think either of this players will find much interest on the market, so I would expect their return. Although, I do think we should continue to look for that staple, pro bowl caliber FB that we have been longing for since the days of Tony Richardson (is there any more underappreciated position on the field than FB?) but Cox should fill in nicely until that happens.
The rest of these names are minimal losses, in my opinion, as we have players in their respective positions that should pan out long term as starters and major contributors, or they just plain aren't good. Now, in the event of not resigning all of these players, which unfortunately is a real possibility, especially with the higher end players, a few names jump out at me in free agency that I hope... no, I BELIEVE, could be brought in considering this team's rise from awfulness to division winner; marquee free agents will want to come to a team on the upswing of potential greatness, they will want to be a part of building a championship team. I will just name a few players with their positions and the reasons why I think they could be successful with us.
Ryan Harris, Denver RT- Our RT position, as it has been filled adequately by Barry Richardson through this season, could be improved. Getting Richardson back to being a swing tackle and not an every day player would give him more time to mature into a professional, which is the only thing holding him back from being good-great, in my opinion. Harris would be a shoe-in as he already knows the zone-blocking scheme, has been a successful RT on a very successful O-line in Denver, and is only 25. ESPN is reporting that Harris will probably leave Denver; he has had a frustrating 2010 season as he was recovering from injury, was benched for a rookie in favor of more power-blocking, and didn't play up to his past excellence. It sounds like getting him healthy and into the right system will see him flourish.
Brandon Mebane, Seattle DT - NT may have the most expectations from the fanbase on getting a solid, marquee name in as the major part of a rotation. Mebane is highly underrated and not known widely outside of Seattle, but he has been steady, through his short career. While he's only played in the 4-3 defense, he's shown strong gap control and fighting through double teams to make plays, so I see no reason he can't adjust to NT. Seattle will look to resign him, but if he's known amongst GMs and coaches, he should get some decent offers. He's fought through some injuries this season, which might lend to him hitting the open market even more, but he's 6'1" and 311 lbs., giving him good height for leverage and good size for a NT. He could be another Shaun Smith-type of player that can play NT, DE, or DT in the nickel.
Manny Lawson, San Fran OLB - In the high hopes that Tamba is resigned, teaming him with Lawson could be formidable. Lawson is a former first round pick that really hasn't panned out as a premier pass rusher, as he was a DE in college and was drafted as a standup rusher as San Fran transitioned to a 3-4. However, Lawson hasn't had much help with the pass rush from his 49er teammates, so getting him teamed with a player the caliber of Hali could deflect attention from both of them, freeing up opportunities. Lawson has also been great in pass coverage and is recognized as one of the best at shutting down opposing TEs. San Fran's plan on resigning him is up in the air, as Lawson publically stated he wanted a new contract at the beginning of the season, but San Fran wanted to wait and see how he played this season, if he stayed healthy, etc. He hasn't lit the world on fire this season, finishing with only 2.5 sacks. He would be a great addition at OLB for the Chiefs.
James Jones, Green Bay WR - Jones is a strong, polished route runner that blocks well down field and can stretch the field when needed. He has been lauded for his route running, however suffers from inconsistency and focus (sound familiar?). I fully believe Todd Haley can work wonders with Jones on keeping his focus on being as good of a WR as he can be. Lined up opposite Dwayne "Pro" Bowe, Jones can be a great #2 that has all the skills to be a part of the "right 53".
Santana Moss, Washington WR - This is a little questionable, but looking at potential candidates to be consistent vertical threats, I like the thought of bringing in a solid vet like Moss that can still do what he does best: run straight down the field for the bomb. I would consider Moss to be the "Thomas Jones signing" of 2011: an experienced, yet aging player that can lend some knowledge to young players while performing well in his role. His skills can be the missing piece of the offensive puzzle, as we will definitely need to open up the middle of the field more for Bowe and Moeaki with vertical routes. Moss can give us that for the short term.
Matt Moore, Carolina QB - With the impending departure of Brodie (pretty please!), the backup QB position will need to be filled with what should be a veteran QB that can come in in emergencies, not lose the game and execute the game plan, which is usually run the ball and don't turn it over. Moore has been spot on with this dynamic in the past as a back up, and I believe he falls well into that "eternal backup" role, as he has come in as a smart yet fiery player that his teammates respect and will play hard for b/c they know he won't do anything stupid to lose the game. He has regressed a bit this season, only b/c I believe he folded under the pressure of being the starter, but as a backup with nothing to lose, he thrives, not unlike Bruce Gradkowski or Kerry Collins. He may not be as seasoned as other potential backups to Matt Cassel, but I like what he has to offer and he could be the backup for several seasons without the worry of retirement.
That's my list of top free agents I think we should target for positions that need upgrading. Other positions are definitely in need of upgrading, if not just for depth, such as center, ILB, safety, and any special teams players. But I think that positions like WR, OLB, and backup QB are better suited with veterans compared to rookies (for the shorter term of success). Thoughts are welcome about these players, our free agents and their potential signings/losses, and other players that could fill our needs.
And as always, while we are still in this season, GO CHIEFS!