Every year, free agency comes and free agency goes. And every year, I manage to work myself up into a borderline frenzy thinking that THIS year the Chiefs will sign impact players at multiple positions.
Does it matter that I'm very aware smart teams don't overspend in free agency? Nope. Does it matter that a lot of free agent signings don't pan out? Of course not. I"m BORED, people. I haven't watched a new Chiefs game in months, and I'm starting to get the shakes. So I, like the rest of you, spend my excess football energy imagining creative ways the Chiefs could upgrade the roster.
Last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Chiefs be major players (well, kinda) in free agency, signing multiple vets to clear areas of need. It was fun while it lasted (you know, prior to seeing Dunta Robinson play), and it definitely helped fill the void created by the offseason.
This year? It was slightly different.
In continuing with a long-standing (as in three years) tradition, it's time for Cheers and Jeers for the Chiefs free agency. As always, allow me to explain. TV Guide (I'm old) has a longstanding section where they say nice things (cheers!) and mean things (jeers) about various aspects of television. Because I don't care about being original, I do the same thing with free agency every season.
This is by no means going to cover every single move the Chiefs made in free agency (no, I'm not going to talk about whether Cory Grissom was a good signing. Because who in the name of all things holy is Cory Grissom?). This is more a "snapshot of things that made me feel feelings over the last few weeks."
Jeers: Lose many, gain few
I very, very much understand that good teams build through the draft. I get that the annual winner of free agency is almost never a major player once actual games start. Really I get it.
But for awhile there it started feeling like last call with the Chiefs, with the last guy out the door needing to turn out the lights. Some guys won't be missed that much (no, I'm not broken up that Quintin Demps is gone. Nice guy, bad angles). Others will (I thought we had something special, Geoff!). But regardless of actual football impact, it was slightly jarring to see Chief after Chief jump to another team.
I could make a long argument about the guys the Chiefs lost not being irreplaceable, and how it's smart to save "big" money for the guys who you NEED to retain (Justin Houston and Eric Berry, specifically). But man, that was a very, very not fun opening 48 hours of free agency.
Cheers: Stay calm and don't overspend
I know this is totally contradictory to the last couple of paragraphs (as if that surprises people), but I was glad to see that Chiefs GM John Dorsey kept his head and didn't completely break the bank on a "name." Just because we COULD fit a big contract under the cap by being creative doesn't mean it's the best decision long term.
Would I have loved to see the Chiefs throw $7 million a year at Lamarr Houston? Yeah, I would have. But really, if you can keep a clear head and not panic-spend as free agents start to sign with other teams you'll be better off in the long term.
It's worth noting that this is very different behavior from what we saw last offseason, when Dorsey arguably overpaid multiple free agents with a reputation for being "OK" players. I think what we saw there was a GM and coach who came in and saw a team that had absolutely gaping holes all over the roster. They needed instant upgrades at multiple spots if they wanted to even compete. And so they did what they had to do, giving "OK" players good money with a reasonable out (by keeping guaranteed numbers low) within a year or two.
I believe that we're now seeing what Dorsey feels is ideal for a team; very selective spending to go along with building through the draft and bargain-shopping. If Dorsey continues to show an ability to pick out players from the scrap bin who can contribute at a solid level, this plan will absolutely work. PROVIDED the draft picks pan out at an acceptable level. We'll see. But props for not getting desperate and handing over gobs of money.
Cheers: Retaining Husain Abdullah
Out of all the Chiefs free agents, Abdullah is one of the top three I wanted to keep around. He played a very limited role throughout the season (after seeing a significant number of snaps in Weeks 1-3, Abdullah didn't see more than 11 snaps until Week 17), but was competent when called upon. He was also one of our only defensive players to show up against the Colts in the playoffs, despite being unexpectedly thrown into the fray.
Abdullah isn't great at any one thing, but he's a steady player who doesn't exhibit any weaknesses on tape. He's decent in coverage, is willing to lay big hits, tackles well, has enough speed to get from A to B on time ... he's a solid player to have in the secondary.
Why didn't he play more this season? I have no idea. But hopefully they plan on giving him an expanded role in the defense moving forward, perhaps giving him the hybrid LB role on passing downs so Eric Berry can stay at a traditional safety spot. Regardless, I'm glad he was kept.
Jeers: Not Signing Chris Clemons
All those nice things I just said about Abdullah aside ... this was a mistake. Now, it could be the team is absolutely sold on Sanders Commings (and man, that'd be GREAT if he came in and upgraded the secondary), or that they think Abdullah is a fit at free safety. I have no idea.
What I DO know is that Clemons had a very solid year for the Dolphins, and is considered by most people I spoke with to be a good coverage safety. I also know that he signed a 2-year deal for $2.7 million in Houston ... practically peanuts for a solid starter at the position.
Maybe Abdullah and / or Sanders Commings make me forget all about Clemons as the year goes along, but as of right now the Chiefs passed up a guy who would have been a sure upgrade at a position that seems desperately thin. This was absolutely the most frustrating non-move the Chiefs made (didn't make?) this offseason. The Chiefs really could have used him, and I'm very nervous about the position that helped kill the defense down the stretch last year.
Cheers: Gettin' paid
Branden Albert, Dexter McCluster, Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah, and Geoff Schwartz ... what do they have in common? They were all Chiefs last year. They are all now elsewhere. And each one of them got paid very handsomely for being willing to relocate. The combined value of their contracts ended up being well over $100 million.
And I have to say ... good on them. None of those guys are necessarily elite players, but they are all solid and can help a team win ball games. All were good team guys during their time in KC, all played hard, and every one of them had moments that I'll remember from their time as Chiefs (with T-Jax, it'll mostly be memories of constantly defending him, but that's for a different column).
I'm not one who believes that money should be the ONLY consideration a player has when hitting the market, but all of those guys worked for this payday. Good for them.
Jeers: The current state of the offensive line
I won't get into this too much (mostly because I have some optimism about Rishaw Johnson and company), but our line looks... thin. Also very, very, very light on experience. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out allowing both Asamoah and Schwartz to walk, along with Albert. I would feel much more comfortable with the state of the team had they managed to retain Schwartz, whose contract turned out to be VERY reasonable for a solid starting guard.
It could well be that Eric Fisher / Jeff Allen / Rodney Hudson / Rishaw Johnson / DonaldStephenson (my anticipated starting group) surprise many. There's certainly a ton of physical talent on that line. But it's worrisome when your most veteran players on the line have only been around a couple years.
Geoff, if you're reading this ... any chance you'd consider demanding a trade?
Cheers: Signing Vance Walker
I was pretty "meh" on this signing when it first happened. What's a Vance Walker? Turns out...
1) He is the greatest Twitter follow of all time.
2) When I went back and looked at his film, I was very surprised with how solid he looks.
I won't get into a ton of the stuff I saw on tape (feel free to click the link for 4,000-plus words on the subject), but I'll leave it at this: Vance Walker seems to give individual offensive linemen problems when rushing that passer. That one trait has the potential to be HUGE on the defense, considering he will absolutely be seeing one lineman the vast majority of the time.
Throw in the fact that he's pretty solid against the run and this turned into my favorite signing of the offseason by far (not that there was a ton of competition). Unless Mike Catapano or Allen Bailey have taken a giant step forward (and don't rule it out for Cat), Walker is going to see the majority of the snaps and making a noticeable impact on our defense.
Kinda / Sorta Jeers: The Desean Jackson incident
I very much understand why Andy Reid and John Dorsey chose not to make a serious move for Jackson. The price is going to be high. The man is just not a great (or good, or even "neutral") locker room guy. I get it.
But man, it sure was fun for a little while thinking about an offense that had Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Jamaal Charles on the field at one time. Bowe and Jackson complement each other's skillset nicely, and Jamaal is just ... you know, Jamaal.
Odds are I'll be glad about this decision down the road (when Jackson is holding out again next year, or refuses to listen to coaches and practice punt returns, or whatever). But I won't lie, I had visions of a 30-plus points per game offense. All aboard the Odell Beckham train!
Cheers: Signing a known thumper in Joe Mays
I would really love to see the Chiefs invest in a three-down inside linebacker to play next to Derrick Johnson. Additionally, Akeem Jordan was a pleasant surprise last year and it was a bummer to see him go.
That said, I like the addition. Mays is a physical, physical player. The Chiefs absolutely need more of that on defense. I want a little more "I'm going to tear your head off" vibe when our guys are out there. And Mays, as we all know, has been known to tear off at least parts of heads. So that's a step in the right direction.
Jeers: Everything Denver Does
I really think John Elway might be good at this GM thing. Ugh. And don't tell me they'll be in cap hell in two years. They've been pretty smart about structure. Double ugh. Here's hoping it blows up in their face.
Jeers: Emmanuel Sanders and his agent
Especially after the whole, "There was no deal! I swear! They must have just misunderstood me!" line Sanders started spewing. Sheesh. There comes a time when you should just say nothing, and not try to pass off blame. Was I there for the negotiations? No. But does it make ANY sense that the Chiefs would have been upset over a "misunderstanding?" No.
That and, you know, Denver. I'm going to go club a baby seal now.
Final Cheer: Being relevant
You want to know what I didn't hear even one time this offseason? Anything resembling this sentence...
"The Chiefs are said to be suitors, but it may be a tough sell given last year's record and the team's direction. They may have to overpay to convince him..."
After hearing some version of that sentence time after time after time last offseason, it was WONDERFUL to hear it being said about other teams (hi Raiders!) and not the Chiefs. Does that mean my threshold for happiness is pretty low? Probably. But for now (until the season actually starts), I'll take it.
Here's hoping the draft (coming up in three years, or something like that) gives more reasons to cheer than jeer.