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Chiefs mailbag: Tamba Hali, contracts and Game of Thrones

This week's Chiefs mailbag covers Tamba Hali, all those contracts up in the air and a Game of Thrones comparison.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I'd try to do some kind of humorous introduction to get things going (not that it would be funny, but I'd at least try). But today, we've got lots of mailbag questions and only so much time. I should warn those who are tuning in for the assignment of noble houses of Westeros: we're only doing the AFC West.  I'm sorry, I want nothing more than to do a 5,000-word column on every NFL team and where they fit in to the GoT universe, but I should study for the bar at some point.

Let's dive right in. And remember, send questions to or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan. I've got too many to do all I've gotten in the last couple days, so I'll be splitting them up. Don't worry, I'll get to yours person-who-doesn't-see-their-question-and-is-now-mad-at-me. I promise.

What are the odds that some of Tamba's weight gain was intentional? What if part of the plan all along was to have him play some at DE in passing situations to allow another pass rusher to get on the field? Now that we have drafted a pass rushing specialists would that make some sense?

Shawn Spencer

First of all ... quit playin', Shawn. Also, don't be this crevasse on my arm.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, your life isn't nearly as complete as it would be if you watched more Netflix)

To the actual question ... we've discovered since it was asked that the rumor of Tamba's weight gain (which circulated after the Chiefs drafted Dee Ford) was completely and totally untrue. Andy Reid went to bat for Tamba almost as soon as it came out, saying that no one works as hard as Tamba (which is absolutely, 100 percent true. He's a beast).

The reason I'm even still bringing it up is to show just how ridiculous things are in today's age: Someone hears something, apparently doesn't bother to verify, and then tweets it. The tweet makes the rounds and gets repeated enough until it's considered fact because "look at all the different people saying it!" There's a reason people treat reports with skepticism. The race to be right has given way to the race to be first. Blech.

That'll create a chaotic situation for QBs when they have no idea what Houston, Ford, and DJ are going to do when the ball is snapped. The possibilities make me dizzy.

Regarding Tamba at defensive end, I don't see it. We know he's at the same weight he's always been at per OTA reports. And also, nothing about Tamba's game screams "3-4 DE" to me. I think we'll continue to see Tamba in the same role he's been since we switched to the 3-4, rushing the passer from the weakside outside linebacker. That's what he's very, very good at.

If anyone is going to get moved around somewhat, it'll be Justin Houston. He's stronger at the point of attack than Hali (no offense, Tamba. You know Houston's a beast) and has more athleticism, so he can rush from multiple places. I anticipate he and Dee Ford (the pass rusher I assume you're talking about getting on the field) will run some stunts this year. If not, someone needs to have an intervention with Bob Sutton.

Also, I maintain that the best case scenario for the Chiefs defense isn't moving Hali / Houston around. It's Ford learning to drop adequately enough in zone coverage (he's MUCH more than athletic enough to do so) that he can play inside linebacker in the Chiefs 2-4-5 or 1-4-6 sets. That'll create a chaotic situation for quarterbacks when they have no idea what Houston, Ford, and Derrick Johnson (along with Eric Berry, who we all know will be blitzing at times) are going to do when the ball is snapped. The possibilities make me dizzy.

@RealMNchiefsfan If you were the GM, how would you handle the Smith, Houston & Berry contracts? Is Flowers gone this year? Tamba next year?

Chris Clark (@KCChiefs_58) May 29, 2014

I actually don't think it's as complicated as people think when it comes to contracts.  It's all about how the contract is structured. People see "$9 million per year" and think that that means a player will be a $9 million cap hit every year. That's not even kind of true. That's why the Saints could sign Jarius Byrd despite having only a buck-fifty in cap room (or something like that).

That said, you can't be COMPLETELY stupid with your cap money, or you end up in the kind of situation the Raiderswere in until now (where it takes two full years to dig yourself out of awful contracts). So it's a balancing act. The key isn't to NEVER pay guys big money. The key is to make sure you're RIGHT when you pick the guys to pay big money.

The question you have to ask yourself as a GM is two-fold:

1)  How likely is it I could get 90 percent of this guy's production for 50 percent of the cost?

2)  Does this guy play a position (or is our team built to) where even a 10 percent drop-off would be noticeable?

With Justin Houston, it's an absolute no-brainer.

You pay the man. That's it. Houston is one of the best players in the game at his position. The Chiefs actually got kind of lucky (contract-wise) that he got injured last year, because that's ALL that prevented him from being a defensive MVP candidate.

Houston doesn't get to go after the quarterback every down, but when he does he does it at an elite level. Per PFF, Houston created a sack, hit, or pressure on 14.1 percent of the snaps he rushed the passer. Out of all the 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends in the league, only three produced at a higher rate. The other three were Jerry HughesElvis Dumervil, and Robert Quinn.

The difference between Houston and other elite edge rushers is that he's not a one-trick pony. Houston is, bar none, the BEST run-defending outside linebacker in the league. He sets the edge wonderfully, can stonewall tackles that outweigh him by 50 pounds, and is fast enough in pursuit to chase running backs down along the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Houston can be dropped into coverage without presenting a weak spot on the defense.

In other words, you're not getting 90 percent of what Houston does for half the cost. It's absolutely not going to happen. He's one of the five best all-around defenders in the NFL. Pay the man.

Eric Berry?

First of all, his contract has a lot of people confused. He's got this year, then next year has a team option (from everything I've been told by those who know such things) in 2015 with a much-more-reasonable $8.3 million dollar cap hit. There's no rush with him to get stuff done.

Also, he's another guy you pay. I've talked enough about Berry that I won't do more here, so just know this. No other safety in the league could play inside linebacker one play and be lined up like this the next.


Yes, that's Berry back there.  Yes, I'm going to keep posting pictures like this until people stop saying ridiculous crap about Berry being exclusively an "in the box" safety. Pay the man.

Alex Smith

Nice try, but I won't talk about Smith in-depth. I made promises! My stance is simple: if Andy Reid believes the Alex Smith we saw in the final seven games of 2013 is what we'll be seeing all the time from here on out, get the deal done. If Reid isn't sure, there's no way I'm OK with paying him more $8-9 million a year. Which doesn't seem likely.

The real problem (as has been discussed elsewhere) is that there's no "good, but not elite" pay level for quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Guys like Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo are getting paid money that shouldn't go to anyone but Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Dre Brees. It's all out of whack.

So if Smith really IS looking to get paid elite-level money, I'd wait it out this year.  If he plays lights out, his contract isn't going to go up all that much from what he wants now (if, again, he really is looking for Cutler-type money). If he plays another identical season to 2013 (good, but not great) you can franchise him or let him walk. Of course, you'd better make sure to get Houston's deal done if you go this route.

I'll save talking about Tamba and Brandon Flowers for another time.  I think the writing may be on the wall with Flowers, but I sure hope there's a way to keep them around. Realistically, though, the Chiefs are not going to be able to afford both (or either, really) at the rates they're getting paid if they want Houston / Berry / Smith.

@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride who is more handsomer Alex Smith or Aaron Murray?

- Casey (@ReedKC) May 29, 2014

Oh, now we're cooking with controversy!  We're going to roll with Mrs. MNchiefsfan's opinion on this one. Not that I'm afraid to judge how sexy a man is, but because her judgment is likely the truth on the matter.

"Definitely that one (points to Alex Smith). Although the other guy looks really nice, like he's a good guy."

I can't say I can argue with her on this one.  I mean yeah, Aaron Murray's a good looking guy. But I mean...


Any time you're known for looking like a guy who generated a wave of memes about being irresistible, you're winning the "who is better looking" contest every time.

@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride Which player are you most excited for this next year?

- Andre de Souza (@Knightwolfbr) May 29, 2014

This is a tough one. There are a lot of players who could make an impact with a second year leap (Sanders Commings, Travis Kelce, Marcus Cooper, Eric Fisher). There are also players I think could really surprise with a year in the system (Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe). And of course, there's the all-consuming force that is Justin Houston.

All that said, I gotta go with The Big Man, Dontari Poe. He made a MASSIVE jump from year one to year two. The jump was so impressive that we seem to have all forgotten that this next season will be just his third, with only his second year in Sutton's scheme. I guess he might have reached his ceiling last year, but that's highly unlikely. Which means we could well have front row seats to Poe's ascending to the throne as the best defensive tackle in the game.

We could well have front row seats to Poe's ascending to the throne as the best defensive tackle in the game.

Hopefully he'll get a little more help rushing the passer from Vance Walker (and maybe even from Mike Catapano, who has apparently gotten some first team snaps and is looking huge), which will keep teams from repeating last year's plan of "let's double and triple team Poe every single play so he doesn't kill our quarterback" on a weekly basis. We'll see. But even without that help I expect Poe to be even better his third year. And that's genuinely frightening.

Mailbag question... If the AFC West teams were the noble houses of Westeros, which ones would they be and why?


See, there's no way I'm going to do this correctly. I'm a fan of Game Of Thrones, the television series. However, I haven't read the books and I'm definitely no expert. Which means I'm absolutely doomed to be subject to ridicule no matter how I do this. Which means it's time to mail it in in disgraceful fashion.

Denver Broncos

If they don't scream "Lannisters" to you, you're wrong. They're far and away winning the Game as of right now, and from all outward appearances everything is stacked in their favor. Their leader is an extremely unlikeable but highly competent mastermind, who specializes in bringing in allies to strengthen his position. Also, given their propensity to cheat to win (ancient NFL history rimshot!), there's just not better comparison.

Also, both have in common that their dominance might not be quite as complete as it seems from the outside. Both the Lannisters and the Broncos are one death (injury) away from everything falling apart. Peyton is their Tywin. If he goes down, the entire operation is going to falter. And while they've dazzled everyone with big expenditures, they're living on borrowed time (the Lannisters on debt, the Broncos on aging vets in Manning and Ware).

But at the end of the day, they're a dominant family and have to be respected.

Oakland Raiders

House Bolton. Because there's no one easier to hate than the Oakland Raiders and House Bolton. I hate them both so much. Also, there's something about gaining power through deception rather than strength that seems so ... so Raiders.  Is that fair? Absolutely not. But it's where I'm sticking.

San Diego Chargers

I'm going to roll with House Tyrell here. My reasoning for this is somewhat convoluted ... both the Chargers and House Tyrell SHOULD be taken seriously, but for some reason I just can't do it. Sure, the Tyrells are super rich and sure, the Chargers have Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen. But I just ... meh.  I can't say if it's because the Tyrell's greatest warrior is the size of my left arm (seriously, don't tell me a knight  THAT small is a great warrior unless he's got Oberyn's swag. Which Loras Tyrell ain't got), or if it's because the Chargers are just ... the Chargers.

But even when the Chargers were the most talented team in the league, they never really entered my mind as a serious Super Bowl contender. Just like the Tyrells are never going to seriously compete for the Iron Throne (I'm sure I just made book readers laugh, as I'm probably way off).

Kansas City Chiefs

The Starks. Because it's a team that was considered a powerhouse in relatively recent history (the 90s), but never really challenged for the throne (all those playoff losses. Blech). Because it's a team that went from "they're up there" to almost nothing seemingly overnight. And because a lot of the problems they've had are DIRECTLY attributable to really, really stupid decisions (Robb Stark marrying for love and executing a bannerman for honor, Marty sitting Rich Gannon).

Last but not least ... the feeling I got watching the Chiefs blow the playoff lead to the Colts to end last season was remarkably similar to how I felt watching The Red Wedding. The horror. The shock. The "how did I not realize this was about to happen?" self-loathing. The comatose state for a half hour following the event. It's almost spooky.

But hey ... there's still hope. Don't sleep on Jon Snow. Please don't take that hope away from me, Game Of Thrones.

Name 7 people from AP that you'd like to go to a bar with and talk football. I'm familiar with your situation so it'll be soda or juice for you but it's mandatory for the others to drink. I settled on 7 because 10 is too long and 5 isn't enough.


Hoo boy, you would ask me a question that'll end with hurt feelings. Although now that I think about it, the odds of anyone being hurt by anything I have to say seem slim at best.  So let's proceed. I'll leave out guys I've met (JComp and Dank). In no particular order...

Joel Thorman

It's an obvious answer, but it'd be great to meet our Fearless Leader face to face. Also, anyone known as "The Blogfather" (it's on radio, so it has to be true) must be a blast ... right? There's on caveat, though; Chris has gotta be a part of the deal. Mostly because I'd wait until they were both a dozen drinks in and try to get them to fight each other. I got five bucks on Joel. Chris is too corporate, being a bigwig at SB Nation and all. Although to be fair, Joel let GQ dress him up. So nevermind, I'm on the fence again.


Because we'd either have an absolutely fantastic time or only one of us would leave alive, with absolutely no middle ground.


He's from Philly, loves to party, and doesn't seem afraid to have my back if for some reason the night goes downhill.  Also, I'd show up in flip flops just to see what he'd do.  Does he instantly try and saw my feet off with a steak knife?  I gotta know.


He's hardly around anymore, but he always makes me smile. Come back, TRS, we miss you!


He's got more inside stories on the Chiefs than most, and might be the most quick-witted person I've seen around the interweb. Also, he seems pretty successful, so maybe I'll get a free meal out of it.


Because every group needs that one guy who is absolutely going to get them into a fight by saying something ragingly inappropriate to the chick hanging out with 5 guys. Man, I'm down to one person already? I can think of at least 40 more.

craig in calgary

The guy's funny, Canadian, and would have my back in an Alex Smith argument. Can't ask for much more than that out of someone.

For those too lazy to scroll to the top, mailbag questions go to or @RealMNchiefsfan.

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