The Kansas City Chiefs this week extended the contract of linebacker Andy Studebaker.
"Obviously I'm excited," Studebaker told me after practice on Thursday. "It's not like it's something I'm settling with and I don't think that's the point of the whole thing. I'm excited to be here. To know that we've locked up a little bit of a deal here and being part of this process of winning games and eventually winning championships...It was an exciting week and I'm glad it happened but by no means does that mean I'm settled in."
All parties are quiet on the details of the deal and when asked how long he'll be a Chief, Studebaker responded, "Hopefully for a long time."
On the surface, it seems like just another contract, However, a closer look reveals that there was clearly a lot of thought put into this from both sides.
Studebaker becomes the first Chief to receive an extension from the Scott Pioli-led Chiefs. Matt Cassel's contract was more of a package deal with his trade and Mike Vrabel technically hit free agency before getting re-signed.
So, Studebaker becomes the first one to go through a full cycle in the Chiefs system and come out with a contract extension.
Clearly this means something. The Chiefs don't make moves that aren't well thought out so they're aware of what this says about Studebaker, and what it says to the rest of the team.
I think a key question the Chiefs ask themselves before they decide to make a commitment like this is:
What type of behavior do we want to reward?
Remember, there are 52 other players in the locker room and they'll hear about Studebaker's extension. Most NFL players play the game because that's their love but it also has to pay the bills and they all want to be financially rewarded for their work.
So what the Chiefs have done is let their actions speak for themselves. Players are going to see that Studebaker received a financial commitment from the team and they're going to think, 'OK, what did Andy Studebaker do to get that?'
And with that, the Chiefs are in a good position. They feel that Studebaker is clearly the type of player (and man) they want on their team.
He came to the team in November of 2008 and not only survived the regime change, but thrived in it. The players were told when the Pioli and Co. arrived that there is no us vs. them, or "Herm guys" vs. "Pioli guys". Either you buy in...or you don't. Studebaker is evidence of someone buying in while others that have since left are evidence of someone not buying in.
Studebaker's increasing role from last season to last Monday, and that he appears to be the long-term replacement for Mike Vrabel, provided him an opportunity to make a little noise about his role and his contract. But...he didn't. He kept quiet, did his job and was eventually rewarded. I think that's the lesson in all of this.
Studebaker is entering his third year in the NFL so the Chiefs didn't have to do this now. When the new labor deal is completed, most feel that the years to get to free agency will continue to be four years (or even rise to five). That means that the Chiefs could have let him play out this year and offer him a restricted free agent tender next year putting his contract negotiations off for two more years.
But they did it now. Why?
There's the uncertainty in the labor deal coming up and that they didn't know exactly what the rules would be, or what the prices on restricted free agents would be, so doing it now made the most sense. Plus, it gives the Chiefs a chance to provide tangible evidence to the rest of the team what buying into the organization's philosophy can do.
Studebaker's camp will tell you that it's not just the Chiefs that felt this was the right move. Clearly they did, too. Studebaker is a man of strong convictions and I was told that the union with the Chiefs is a perfect marriage. He believes in what the Chiefs are trying to do, how they're doing it and why they're doing it.
Studebaker told me that it was important to understand that this won't change anything and that it's just a byproduct of doing things the way he's been asked to do them.
"For me," he said, "let's take this one day at a time like I did before that. This is about team and winning games. Good things happen along the way and that's how it goes. I'm pumped to be here and that thing happened and I can be part of this process."
Way back when Pioli was first hired he said something along the lines of, 'The 53rd player is just as important as the first player.' I'll admit it -- I chuckled a bit when Pioli said that. But, at the time he said that, Studebaker was probably the 50th player on the roster.
And now here he is.
Maybe Pioli was onto something with that statement.