NFL free agency 2014: A case for S Antoine Bethea

USA TODAY Sports

One of the more underrated players in the league, Bethea could be an unlikely steal on the open market.

It's no secret the Kansas City Chiefs need a free safety to replace Kendrick Lewis. Everyone who watched the team sees a glaring hole, one that must be dealt with before the beginning of the 2014 campaign.

Enter Antoine Bethea, the veteran free safety of the Indianapolis Colts who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market. Bethea, who will turn 30 years old in July, has been a rock for the Colts since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Over the last six seasons, Bethea has played every game and amassed at least 95 tackles in each year, including 100+ in every season except 2009.

Indianapolis might pony up the cash to keep Bethea in Nap Town, but if it doesn't he would be a nice option for Kansas City. Entering the age-30 zone, Bethea is not going to cost a ton. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and owner Jim Irsay have made some interesting personnel decisions recently (see Richardson, Trent), so letting Bethea walk despite ample cap space isn't out of the question.

There isn't any guesswork with who Bethea is as a player. There is no wondering if he will perform, like you have to worry about with a rookie. He's not a guy with potential who hasn't reached it yet. No, Bethea is a steady, durable performer who has played in, and won, big games before.

Now, Bethea is aging and isn't the player he was five years ago. Pro Football Focus has him as a player coming off two seasons of marginally below-average play. Of course, Kansas City general manager John Dorsey doesn't have the cap space to go out and sign Jairus Byrd, so he might have to roll the dice on a player getting a change of scenery.

Over at Stampede Blue, here is what writer Josh Wilson had to say about Bethea:

The 8-year veteran (all with the Colts) has also topped 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons and in 5 of the last 6 years. In 2013 he recorded 110 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions. Statistically, it looks like another great year from Bethea, but in actuality he wasn't great. He wasn't nearly as bad as Landry was, but for the second season in a row Bethea was not that good. Toward the end of this season, however, Bethea really started to emerge and played very well, but overall it was a disappointing season for the free agent to be.

One of the biggest questions the Colts face this offseason is whether they will re-sign Bethea. He wants to come back to Indianapolis, but at what price? That is the real question, as I'm sure the Colts would welcome back the team leader and veteran presence who never misses a game and is always good for 100+ tackles - it just depends on how much money he wants. And he is no longer a guy that you absolutely must re-sign no matter what, as he has had two average to below average seasons in a row.

Immediately, he doesn't seem like a guy you want the Chiefs signing because you read things like 'not that good' and 'disappointing season'. I get all that, but Kansas City has to try and find a short-term solution while developing a kid like Sanders Commings.

Should Commings emerge in training camp, then all the better. Let the kid play, sit Bethea, and move on. However, that is no guarantee. Commings was a fifth round pick, and while he could be good he could also be DaJuan Morgan.

I would like to see Dorsey bring in a veteran like Bethea or somebody else like him, and let the battle rage in August. The Chiefs don't need an All-Pro at this position in 2014, they just can't have a disaster.

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