From the FanPosts -Joel
As the end of the 2013 season gets closer and closer,
the numerous draftniks, free agent watch dogs, and coaching fanboys here on AP are gearing up for the endless debates about who should be targeted in the upcoming offseason. Intense strategies, that will never be heard by anyone of any importance, will be drawn up on the best ways for the Chiefs to improve moving forward. Terms like "Quarterback of the future (QBOTF)", "natural position", "ceiling/floor", "injury concerns", "fits the scheme", "for what we do", and "sleeper" will be thrown around all over AP ... to the point that many of the more casual readers will probably get sick of it. But what can I say? Some of us absolutely love the schemes, planning, and intricacies associated with running an NFL franchise.
So far I have covered WR and DE, so now I turn my attention to what many people feel is the most important position of the offseason...free safety (FS). I'll start by saying that I don't agree with many who believe we have to get a top-tier player at this position. FS is the position on defense that is most affected by the play of everyone else. If the pass rush gets to the QB ... the FS has an easier job. If the front 7 can stop the run ... the FS has an easier job. If the CBs can hold their coverages or chip the WRs ... the FS has an easier job. Everyone else on the defense can affect the FS in a huge way. But that doesn't mean we don't need to address this issue. Unfortunately, this might be the wrong year to be looking for a FS.
We know what we have...and dear God I hope we can get better!!!
Kendrick Lewis - Arrowhead Pride's resident scapegoat. Honestly, he has more than enough troubles on his own, but it amazes me how he gets blamed for almost everything else along the way. Kendrick Lewis is a terrible tackler ... but that doesn't mean he makes other people miss their tackles as well (cough Dunta Robinson cough). Lewis is simply too slow to be a ball hawk and too small (fragile?) to be a hitter. But the fact he is still the starter is pretty telling about what else is out there.
Quintin Demps - If we could combine Lewis' head for the game with Demps' physical ability, we'd have one helluva football player on our hands. But we can't ... so we don't. Demps has all the physical tools you want a FS to have, and no idea how to use them. He can't read routes or QBs. He takes terrible angles. And sometimes I question whether or not he knows the difference between being a FS and a CB, because of how far out of position he is.
Husain Abdullah - Probably the only guy that we can list as "competent" at FS, Abdullah really doesn't have the raw foot speed that we need back there. He is more of a SS who has been pressed into service at times because of need. It will be interesting to see what his future holds regarding potential retirement and whether or not he would be re-signed by the Chiefs. If he's willing to stick around, he's definitely worth holding on to.
Sanders Commings - Regardless of any hopes, desires, speculation, "scouting", "reports from sources" or anything else ... we know absolutely nothing about Commings' ability to play FS. The guy was injured during his very first practice (where he was lined up at CB) and then injured again almost immediately following his return. Unless he falls apart, or the competition is overwhelming, Commings will be back on the roster next year, and we will find out if he can do anything for us.
Ron Parker - The backup of a struggling player is always the most popular guy amongst the fans. Credit where it is due though ... Ron Parker made some plays during his limited time. BUT, also credit where it is due ... he made some pretty bad plays during his limited time as well. Honestly, the big concern I have with Parker isn't that he couldn't beat out Lewis ... it's that he couldn't beat out Demps either. That tells me there is some kind of issue there to keep an eye on before anybody gets overly excited about him.
So from that list of current options on the team, I would say there is only one player that we can be relatively sure will have a roster spot in 2014. Apart from Sanders Commings, everybody there is either on their way out or will have to put up one hell of a fight to keep their job. Looking ahead, there are a few options available, but this group has its limitations.
First Stop: Free Agency
Jairus Byrd - Buffalo Bills: The top free agent name at FS this offseason ... and probably not a target of the Chiefs. You simply should not (ever) spend the kind of money that this guy wants on a FS. The Bills did it last year with the franchise tag, and it got them nothing. Signing Byrd would cripple our ability to do anything else this offseason. There is no (plausible) scenario under which I would think this is a good move for the Chiefs. I'm not even going to bother telling you about what he can / can't do on the field.
T.J. Ward - Cleveland Browns: While a little more cost-effective than Byrd, it's probably not enough given our current cap outlook. Ward is going to get a good deal from somebody. He's talented, though not a superstar. Ward has decent speed and reads the opposing offense pretty well. Ward is a solid tackler with play-making ability. With a quality front-7, he is the kind of player that can take advantage of mistakes by a pressured QB. However, I wouldn't want to rely on him too much in situations where the QB does get some time, which is a red flag for a team running a single-high safety look.
Nate Allen - Philadelphia Eagles: Certainly has to be a possibility because of the Andy Reid connection. Allen is a good, not great, S who has the physical ability to play in just about any role you need him to. He can drop back and be a ball hawk, come up and be strong in run support, and has the speed to be in a single-high, traditional, or two-deep safety approach. Allen fell off the radar after an impressive first year. This appears to have been due to a leg injury as he resurfaced this year with a solid season. His contract won't break the bank anywhere, but will be a moderate one. Reid may be tempted to pressure Dorsey on this, but I doubt the Philly ties play too strong a role. This will depend largely on the market surrounding Allen.
Brandon Meriweather - Washington Redskins: Another example of a guy who left New England to achieve nothing, Meriweather being signed by the Bears was considered an absolute coup at the time. However, he has not been anywhere near the same player that he was with the Patriots. Meriweather should definitely be an affordable player at this point, but there will be some sort of backstop in place with this. Whether that is a draft pick or Sanders Commings, I don't know ... but relying solely on Meriweather to revive his career would be a huge risk.
Mike Mitchell - Carolina Panthers: Mike Mitchell is not going to blow anyone away with his play ... but he is an adequate option to have at FS. Mitchell is a veteran who has been a part of some pretty good defenses, as well as some terrible ones. He had his best season this past year with the Panthers, which shows how a good defense can affect the play of an average safety. Mitchell may be the best cost/production player available to pair with Sanders Commings.
The free agent options at FS aren't terrible, but the Chiefs will have to act fast to get one that is a good combination of talent and cost-effectiveness if they want to come out on top here. We don't want to wait until the top tier guys are gone and the best of what's left can mark up their prices.
Next Stop: The Draft
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix - Alabama - 1st Rd: For most of the 2013 season, "Ha Ha" was pretty much considered the top (and only first round caliber) safety in the draft. He's slipped on a lot of boards recently, as questions about his speed, physicality, and tackling have started to come up. He does have an excellent break on the ball though that helps alleviate some of the speed concerns. There is also the issue of teams having been snake-bitten by Alabama defenders in recent history. In my eyes, Clinton-Dix is the safest pick at safety in this draft, however I don't see him standing up well when compared to the safety class of 2012.
Calvin Pryor - Louisville - 1st Rd: A recent surge up the boards has a lot of people talking about Pryor. He certainly has talent, but I have a hard time calling it 1st rd caliber. Shares a lot of the same strengths and questions in his game as Clinton-Dix, but also has the caveat of not playing against the same level of talent that "Ha Ha" did. Pryor is likely a boom or bust pick, and I'm leaning more towards bust at this point.
Dion Bailey - Southern Cal - 3rd Rd: Dion Bailey might be the most talented player on this list, but since he has never played FS, he is pretty much an unknown commodity. All Pac-12 at both OLB and SS, Bailey's build is better suited for FS in the NFL, and that could be a huge advantage for the Chiefs. However, going with Bailey and Commings as our options at FS is a HUGE gamble. Bailey also has struggles in tackling that will likely keep a lot Chiefs fans from jumping on board. However, he does have the natural athleticism and coverage skills that you want in a ball hawk FS.
Terrence Brooks - Florida State - 3rd Rd: Brooks is another talented coverage guy who brings questions about technique and speed into the equation. He's athletic and has tremendous leaping ability, as well as excellent hands, but is a little shorter than desired. His speed is questionable, but much like Clinton-Dix and Pryor, he has a quick reaction that allows him to close quickly. Prefers to try and put on the big hit instead of wrapping up his tackles, which will get him in trouble in the NFL. Plays with a Bernard Pollard mentality...but can't back it up as well.
Jimmie Ward - Northern Illinois - 3rd Rd (1st rd): Without a doubt, Jimmie Ward is the best player in the MAC this year. Stop laughing, it's still a pretty impressive achievement. Ward seems to have all the tools you could want in a FS, though a little shorter than desired, and is just flat out athletically gifted. He's currently considered a 3rd rd prospect, but I fully expect that to change. If the Chiefs want him, they'll have to take him in the 1st. But that may be too much of a gamble on a player that hasn't faced much top tier competition. If the Chiefs had (or end up with) a 2nd rd pick, he's a no-brainer there.
Jonathan Dowling - Western Kentucky - 7th Rd: You want a sleeper? Here he is for ya. If Dowling had stayed at Florida, he would probably be talked about as high as the 2nd rd. The guy is a tremendous athlete and a BIG hitter (6 FFs in 2013). On the field, he is basically everything you want. Fast, tall, strong, intense, and football smart. He has excellent coverage skills. However, it's off the field that you have to worry about him. Dowling is admittedly "no angel" and was kicked out of Florida by Urban Meyer for violating team rules, including skipping practices. He'll need to be bird dogged a little by the coaches and veteran players to make sure he stays committed.
So that's what I've got for you. My personal opinion is that pairing Mike Mitchell with Jonathan Dowling might be an absolute steal for us (especially if Dowling stays available until the 7th). But, I'm sure there are people I have forgotten, or maybe not even considered yet, that could also be good options. FS will probably be the most intriguing offseason move we make this year...and my guess is that it will also be the most controversial.
For more coverage, check out the previously published editions of "Looking Ahead"