Upon further pondering. I should have titled this Top Priorities of the Offseason if I Were GM, when thinking of the timing of everything. It would be great to award new contracts to both Smith and Houston before free agency begins March 11th but unlikely to happen until after the draft. Things like cutting Dunta Robinson and restructuring/extending Eric Berry should happen to open up cap space for free agency.
John Dorsey has done very well in his first year as the General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Every move has not been successful but perfection is impracticable. The signing of Dunta Robinson was a mistake, the amounts paid to Chase Daniel and Anthony Fasano may have been too high (huge fan of Fasano) but the overall outcome was outstanding. Dorsey was a huge reason our beloved Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5. Bringing in Husain Abdullah, Mike DeVito, Marcus Cooper, Akeem Jordan, Branden Albert, and the trades for both Alex Smith and Anthony Sherman were all fantastic moves and improved the talent on the roster. The first draft class of the Dorsey/Reid era is, of course, too early to judge and was devastated by injuries, lessening their impact. All reports are positive when Sanders Commings is the topic; a healthy Travis Kelce catching passes perhaps will add another dimension to the offense; Knile Davis could in time develop into a high quality running back; Eric Fisher might not end up being the best player of the draft but in my opinion will be the best offensive tackle of the class. Mike Catapano is an intriguing prospect; Nico Johnson possibly will be starting next season but is a huge question mark; recent reports of Eric Kush indicate has the potential to replace Rodney Hudson; the only glaring failure was the 6th round pick of Brad Wilson who was cut before the season began.
Having Coach Andy Reid and Dorsey on the same page is an incredible advantage. It allows Coach Reid to do exactly what he was hired to do; coach and prepare players. Leaving Mr. Dorsey to deal with contracts, head the scouting department, and put the best players he can in the hands of Coach Reid. The NFL is a now league and improvements are expected every year, however, as GM you also have to keep the future in mind and therefore some unpopular and unexpected roster moves must be made for the greater good. Two of my first four moves I will now discuss are all but no-brainers but the other two you all may declare me a blasphemous traitor.
1.) Extend Justin Houston
My first move as GM would be to give Justin Houston a new contract. He is the most impactful player on the defense and from being a third round pick on his rookie contract is incredibly underpaid relative to his production on the field. As a move of respect and because he quite obviously is deserving of it, it is time to give the man a new contract giving him more money. He becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season and I am a big fan giving players a new deal the year prior and avoiding the stress and temptation of free agency. Houston in my opinion is the best linebacker on the team, he is underrated in coverage (not that he is asked to do it often, and for good reason), he is exceptional in run support, and is superb in pass rushing. Number 50 has the mental motor necessary to excel in the NFL and the athletic ability to outclass the lineman of the opposition. Making this man a Chief for life is the top priority and paying him this year could lower his asking price (cap number) over the long term. This move would undoubtedly increase his cap number this year, a year in which we already have an issue with the Salary Cap.
2.) Extend Alex Smith
My second move as GM is to give Alex Smith a contract extension. I have been back and forth on this decision over the past weeks but have decided that extending Smith is the correct thing to do. I hesitated because he is only a $7.5M cap hit this year and for a quaterback of his quality that is a great deal in today’s NFL. Allowing him to play out his contract and then at this time next year go into negotiations is a risky move as he could perform very well and then be tempted by other teams with lucrative contracts, as next year we will likely be in a similar limited cap space situation (unless John Dorsey takes my advice on my next two moves). We could also allow him to play out his contract and then franchise him the following one or two seasons. Depending on the contract awarded to the quaterback that might not be that much more expensive than a new contract. However, I feel like Alex Smith is not going to ask for an excessive contract. Being a first round pick in the former CBA Smith has made lots and lots of money and now I feel his main concern is playing for pride, respect, and superbowls.
I would sign Alex Smith to a contract making him a Chief for the next 4 (or 5) seasons hopefully lowering his cap number this year. As previously stated, next season the Chiefs will once again be struggling to stay under the cap so Smith’s contract would ideally be team friendly next season as well. That leaves bigger money on the back end f the deal for years 2016 and 2017 (2018) when Alex will be turning 32, 33, and 34. I have no doubt that in that time if not by 2016 Coach Reid can groom his next version of Kevin Kolb /Nick Foles to take over the team and with any luck be even better than those players were in Coach Reid’s system. Who knows maybe Tyler Bray will be that player.
3.) Trade Brandon Flowers
Here is one of those unpopular decisions.
Even though that Pioli fellow is no longer around (and thankfully so) some of his attempts at the Patriot way were not unwise, just poorly executed. One tactic of the Patriots that has helped them tremendously is knowing when it is time to get rid of players. Brandon Flowers was once again invited to the joke of a game that is the Pro Bowl (deserved?) and yes he is still in his "prime", but he is undersized and a bad fit for the scheme. Flowers excels at zone coverage and has been an excellent teammate throughout his career but, for the press man Bob Sutton runs he is a defensive liability (especially against larger receivers and who isn't bigger than him). Even the adjustment of having number 24 cover the slot receivers proved to be unsuccessful. Keeping B-Flo a Chief next season and having another unimpressive year would lower his trade value or even make him cap causality. Getting what we can for him now is the right move, especially considering his huge cap number over the remainder of his contract. Trading him this year creates $3M of space for this season and $21M over the following 2 seasons.
As we know it takes two to tango and pulling off a trade is much easier said than done. On the high end one can hope for the Bengals to trade their first round pick (#24) and the last pick I would trade him for would again be to the Bengals, their second round pick (#55). The Bengals have been great at bringing veteran corners to their team and watching them flourish. A terrific fit for both the Chiefs and the Texans would be to trade Flowers for the first pick of the second round (#33), reuniting Romeo Crennel with a player not only familiar with his system but a player who thrived in it. Other realistic partners may be the Redskins’ (#34), Falcons (#37), Jaguars (#39), Giants (#43), Rams (#44), Lions (#45), and Bears (#51) considering he would be a great scheme fit. For the same reason as the teams just mentioned I could also see the 49ers (#30) making the trade knowing he is an likely immediately more impactful than any player that could be drafted with those picks.
Losing Brandon Flowers leaves the defensive backfield of the Chiefs with Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper as the starting corners. Sanders Commings and Husain Abdullah (I would resign Abdullah but that’s another post) would then compete for nickel corner and free safety playing time (I believe both could play and switch between either and, as nickel corner wouldn't be a drop off compared to Flowers’ play at the position this past season). This leaves Eric Berry maintaining his strong safety role and Ron Parker as the fourth legitimate corner on the roster. Adding further depth/competition in free agency and the draft both is almost a certainty as well.
4.) Shop Tamba Hali
The fourth and what I am assuming will be the move you all will hate the most is; as GM I would shop Tamba Hali. I do mean shop and not necessarily trade if there was not a worthy offer. Having Tamba on the team would be great for he is a much more important player on the Chiefs right now than Brandon Flowers proved to be last season. Once again this is a trade in an attempt to move the player while he still has high value and before the wheels fall off. Hali has been beaten around in his time in the league, like Flowers, both are having trouble staying on the field for the full season.
Watching Tamba Hali wear the red and gold has been wonderful and his leadership is top notch. Nevertheless Tamba’s success has never come from extreme athletic talent. Hali has always won with unrelenting effort and sound technique in addition to his athletic ability. When the brick wall that is father time comes to number 91 he simply won’t be able to get past those left tackles anymore. That’s true for any player but I feel the time is near for the former first round pick.
Unlike Justin Houston, Tamba Hali has one trick, he simply cannot cover and teams have found success running on his side over the years. His trick, sacking the quaterback, is valuable and his 11 sacks and it got him another pro bowl appearance which would make a trade an unpopular decision. I do not like the idea of extending or restructuring his contract because he is too expensive to consider a restructure with only two years remaining on the deal and extending Hali is not an option in my mind due to his age.
The money being a huge factor in this decision would be significant. A trade would open up $5M this year and $11M for next season. While on the subject of money, cutting Hali right now would not be overly beneficial opening $5M with $5M in dead money this season however next offseason he is almost certainly to become a cap causality when cutting him would open up $9M while creating only $2M in dead money. So I would much rather trade him now and get value for the future. Trading partners in my mind would be the Saints (#27), Patriots (#29), Redskins (#34), Falcons (#37), Jaguars (#39), and Giants (#43) and to make this trade Dorsey and Co. would have to have confidence in being able to draft his replacement in this draft or know an affordable free agent.
Being a GM the future must always be in the thought process and all of these moves would be made to improve the future of the Chiefs while hopefully not sabotaging the present. With the 2015 salary cap looking to be an issue and Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Sean Smith, Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Allen, Mike DeVito all becoming free agents or entering the final year of their contract the Chiefs will need to create and massage the salary cap to retain 9 of their 22 end of season starters for the 2016 season.
Having said all this credit must be given to overthecap.com (cap numbers), Walter football (draft picks), and Lyle Graverson among many other Arrowhead Pride authors and Fanposts (citadelchief). I will also admit that I do not fully understand all the rules of the salary cap regarding trades and dead money, but I attempted some research and these are my opinions of what to do. Let me hear your thoughts, please. Sorry about the length but it’s ~2000 words of pure Chiefs passion.