I'm going to do my best to list the top needs for the Chiefs and rank those in order of importance. With the impending free agency of Branden Albert and Dwayne Bowe, both of whom I expect to return to Kansas City next season, this list will briefly mention where I'd have included them.
This one is pretty simple. It's the most important position on a football team and the Chiefs don't currently have a guy on their roster whose arrow helps this team point up.
Free Agents: Joe Flacco, Jason Campbell and Matt Moore.
The first thing that jumps out about this list is that Alex Smith, Michael Vick and Matt Hasselbeck aren't on there. They aren't technically free agents ... yet. While Smith and Vick are expected to be available this off-season, that's not currently the case.
Flacco is interesting because there's a chance the Ravens use the non-exclusive tag on him. Meaning that he could negotiate with other teams and the Ravens would have the option to match that offer, and if not, they would receive two first-round picks as compensation from the team that basically 'out-bid' them for Flacco.
It's crazy to think the Super Bowl MVP right in his prime wouldn't be back with the team he just won a championship with just last week. But it's not crazy to think the Ravens would allow Flacco to talk with other teams and see what kind of contract is out there for him on the open market. It's not like they couldn't match-it and I'm sure they're already prepared to break the bank for him.
Draft: Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and EJ Manuel.
I think we've exhausted the conversation on these guys already and we're still over 2 months away from the draft. I'm still a Geno Smith guy for the record. But I'll also acknowledge a couple of other players we could take a No. 1 that would really improve this team. Those can be found on this video.
*Left Tackle: I believe Branden Albert will be a Chief next season and I think we'll know that within the next two weeks. But this is where I'd put LT if order of importance heading into next season if that was not the case.
Finding a No. 2 CB is my next top priority. The NFL has become so pass-happy that defensive backs are becoming a higher priority than they were 10 years ago. Especially when talking about your No. 2 cornerback. I staunchly believe the Chiefs No. 2 CB opposite Brandon Flowers will come via free agency. There are several good options out there and it's too important of a position to just hand over to a rookie.
Free Agency: Aqib Talib, Adam 'Pacman' Jones, Brent Grimes, Sean Smith, Chris Houston and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
I really like the idea of Grimes because there could be exceptional value for him coming off an injury. He was a Pro Bowler in 2010 and was franchised before the 2012 season. I'm not sure what kind of deal he could be looking for after sitting on IR last season coming off an Achilles injury. But you're looking at a top talent that could be available for less-money than he's worth IF fully healthy. A "prove-it' type deal could be what you see with Grimes this off-season.
Draft: Dee Milliner, Johnathan Banks, Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant and Jordan Poyer.
Milliner is the class of this group from just about everyone you talk to regarding a pretty good class of CB's this year. There are plenty of good players that 'could' be able to play right away. I just prefer to bring in a vet to help bring along Javier Arenas and Jalil Brown for another year.
3. Strongside Inside Linebacker
This is where people are going to strongly disagree with my rankings. I think the notion that SILB isn't that 'valuable' to our defense is completely false. It hasn't been that valuable because we had no problem with having a 2-down player at that position in Jovan Belcher. The defense became too predictable when you had too many 1-trick ponies out there. I have this position this high because I believe an emphasis on finding a player that can stay on the field for all 3-downs would drastically improve our defense. Versatility breeds unpredictability.
Free Agents: Dannelle Ellerbe, Rey Maualuga and Brad Jones.
KaloPhoenix did a great write-up on Ellerbe the other day. He's the class of this free agent group and he's going to get paid like it. Both teams in the Super Bowl had 2 3-down inside linebackers in their 3-4 defense. Ellerbe and Ray Lewis for the Ravens, and Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis for the 49ers. It's important and they're hard to find.
Brad Jones is a name to keep an eye on this off-season because he just had a breakout season for the Green Bay Packers. New Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey will be very familiar with Jones and his versatility from his time in Green Bay. Jones was a 7th round pick out of Colorado in 2009 and spent the last three years as depth at outside linebacker. Due to a few key injuries for the Packers at linebacker Jones was asked to step in and play inside, and it was there that he thrived. Via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"Inside linebacker in (coordinator) Dom (Capers') scheme, you've got to be able to do it all. There's no singular-faceted linebacker that we have. You have to be able to cover, you have to be able to shed blocks. You have to able to move sideline to sideline. You've got to be the total package, and I think Dom does a good job putting us in situations to make big plays."
Draft: Arthur Brown, Kevin Minter, Nico Johnson, Kiko Alonso and AJ Klein.
I don't have a preference on whether or not it's a strong safety or free safety because I'm hoping to get a player that can do both. Eric Berry went on 810 WHB down at the Super Bowl in New Orleans and let it be known that he likes playing deeper. Hopefully we see more of that with Berry next season in a more free safety-type role. That means whoever the other safety is out there needs to be able to move around and line up at different spots as well.
Free agents: Jairus Byrd, Patrick Chung, Dashon Goldson and William Moore.
Moore would be the one that would be most popular around Kansas City. The former Missouri Tiger was a 2012 Pro Bowler for the Atlanta Falcons and really made a name for himself this season.
Draft: Jonathan Cyprien, Eric Reid, TJ McDonald and DJ Swearinger.
I'm personally going to sway towards Cyprien and McDonald in this group because I had a chance to talk with both of them down at the Senior Bowl. I liked McDonald before that game (and the TD he gave up to Michael Williams) and I still like him after. He was lined up all over the place at USC from blitzing off the edge as a FS, lined up in the box a la Berry last season, then played deep safety as well. He's got the bloodlines as his father, Tim McDonald, played in the NFL for 13 years and was a 6-time All-Pro selection.
Cyprien stood out from day one down in Mobile all the way to the end of the game. He's got the kind of fire you want from a defensive player and I'd be happy if he was a Kansas City Chief next season. He was also my first interview so he's got that going for him.
5. Wide Receiver
How important the wide receiver position is for the Kansas City Chiefs this off-season is completely dependent upon Dwayne Bowe's contract negotiations and figuring out what happened to Steve Breaston last season.
If Bowe is re-signed and Breaston has good-standing with Reid and Dorsey, I don't think WR is that important of a position to address. You'd have Bowe, Breaston, McCluster, Wylie and Baldwin already there competing. I also really think Wylie is going to be a solid player for the Chiefs next season in this new west-coast offense. He fits the Jeremy Maclin/DeSean Jackson mold in the types of receivers Reid likes to target. Smaller, quicker WR's that can separate.
A decent QB will make this group look much better than they're perceived to be right now.
Several draft experts believe that anywhere between 10-14 WRs will be drafted before the third round is over in April. There's a lot of talent there so if the Chiefs don't see a future with Breaston and/or can't come to terms with Bowe, they'd be in a good spot to take a wide receiver in the 2nd or 3rd round.
6. Defensive End
A lot of this also depends on what happens with Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. If both of those guys left then the Chiefs would really have a need at defensive end and this might be way too low on the importance scale. Ropati Pitoitua is a guy the Chiefs need to keep around after playing well last season once Dorsey went down with an injury.
Free Agents: Chris Canty, Randy Starks and Mike Devito.
Randy Starks is going to get paid quite a bit of money by someone. He's the best of this group and the bottom line is the Chiefs need to get a pass-rush from somewhere other than Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. The Chiefs finished 29th in the NFL in sacks in 2012 with just 27 as a team, and only FIVE of those came from the defensive line. (Jackson-3, Pitoituah-2)
Draft: Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd, Margus Hunt, Kawaan Short and Datone Jones
I've been saying it for a while now that if the Chiefs don't like a QB at No. 1 and can't trade down, Star could be the pick. Most Chiefs fans will blow off this idea because it's too hard to understand another DL with a top pick. But the truth is it might still be a huge need because it's possible that both starting DEs (Jackson and Dorsey) are gone this off-season.
Star CAN play DE and he would NOT be a reach at No. 1. The guy is an absolute beast.
Latest mock draft: Here comes Geno
7. Guard/Center depth
It's fair to say that Jeff Allen didn't have the season Chiefs fans would have hoped. But it's also fair to say that much like Jon Asamoah and Rodney Hudson (before injury), the plan was to have Allen sit for a year before getting thrown into the fire. Hudson's injury shifted the offensive line and had Allen playing before the team wanted him out there.
We could see the Chiefs make a move similar to what they did mid-season with Russ Hochstein. A veteran that can play a few different interior offensive line spots right away. You want to bring in competition for Allen without stunting any development from him. You also want to make sure you could potentially be upgrading the position and using a draft pick on one, even in the top three rounds, isn't a sure-thing. You know what you're getting from a veteran who has been in the league.
Free Agents: Brandon Moore, Louis Vasquez and Andy Levitre.
Vasquez and Levitre are young players entering their primes that might see pretty nice deals on the open market. Moore could be a target for the Chiefs because of his age. I'm not sure how much money would be offered to the 32-year old Moore in free agency. He's listed as the top offensive guard available in free agency according to Pro Football Focus.
Draft: Barrett Jones, Larry Warford, Travis Frederick and Brian Schwenke.
Jones is the all-everything offensive lineman from Alabama. He is famous for starting at three different positions along the offensive line in three different National Championship games at Alabama. He will miss all of the pre-draft workouts because of surgery on two torn ligaments in his foot that he played through in the final five weeks of Alabama's season. He'll probably go in the second round of the draft.
Schwenke is a guy who impressed a lot of people down at the Senior Bowl and he's seen as a 4th-5th round pick.
8. No. 2 Running back
With Peyton Hillis a free agent there's room for another running back on the Chiefs roster. Hopefully it's current-Chief and second-year player Cyrus Gray out of Texas A&M that can step in there and play that role. But either way it's a spot the Chiefs could look at to complement Jamaal Charles this off-season.
Free Agents: Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Woodhead or Peyton Hillis
It's really hard to find running backs that can step in and be effective on their second / third deals. The shelf-life of a NFL running back is so short these days that you almost have to always draft your running backs. Chiefs fans were high on Peyton Hillis coming into last season not only because we thought he'd be motivated and have a great season, but because he was reunited with Brian Daboll who had gotten the most out of Hillis when they were together in Cleveland.
Draft: Marcus Lattimore, Rex Burkhead, Robbie Rouse
I really like the idea of taking Lattimore in the 5th round or so if he's still available. It's a risk because of his injury-ridden career at South Carolina but the upside is there and a 5th round pick isn't really taking such a big risk. Burkhead and Rouse should also be available late in the draft.
Marcus Lattimore interview: 'I will never break'
You have guys like Kenjon Barner, Jonathan Franklin, Mike Gillislee and Stepfan Taylor that will go in the 3rd/4th round as well. Although that seems a bit high if you're thinking Gray has a honest shot at the No. 2 spot as we sit here today.
There's my list of our top 8 needs and how I see them fitting together with free agency and the draft. I really expect the Chiefs to address CB and G/C in free agency.
What are your top 8 needs for the Chiefs and which do they address in free agency?