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KC Chiefs mailbag: Justin Houston or Alex Smith first?

MNChiefsfan answers questions in a semi-weekly Kansas City Chiefs mailbag.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Man, I hate the NFL offseason. Sure, there's the NBA Finals, baseball (shout out to the Royals!), and some kind of Earth Glass, or Planet Mug, or something to that effect (I look forward to those who love soccer yelling at me for that one. Let me make up for it: USA!  USA!). But for me, it's all about football season.

Speaking of basketball, the Spurs / Heat games were a fantastic example of something I noticed while re-watching the Chiefs playoff loss to the Colts. The Spurs whip the ball around like it's on fire and they're made of straw. Inevitably, this causes a player on the opposing team (in this case, the Heat) to get out of position. We'll call that Player X. So Player X is out of position, which forces Player Y to cover Player X's man. Which, naturally, means ANOTHER Spurs player has come open, so Player Z (still on the Heat) sprints over to cover the open Spurs player. That Spurs player then whips the ball to Player Z's man, who sinks a wide open jumper.

To a fan watching the game live, it might appear that the open jumper was Player Z's fault. After all, it was his guy who made the shot. However, it was more an issue of a failure several players down the line. NFL passing defense (at least zones) seems to work a lot like that. The more I watched, the more I noticed that one guy being out of position would create a ripple effect that ended with a defensive failure. That failure at times was far enough away from the initial problem we missed the actual cause.

Long story short, I'm going to be going back and reviewing the film from some of our worst offensive / defensive performances and see if I can't figure out the cause of the failures. Maybe while I'm at it I'll look at some great plays too. Because otherwise I'll end up flinging myself from a very tall building. Anyway, to the mailbag!

As always, send emails to or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan. Give me a follow too if you feel like it. Or don't. But if you don't, the terrorists win. Also, this week we're adding a new (maybe permanent) feature called "Question from a Broncos fan." My good friend Chad Jensen is a diehard Broncos fan (and almost insufferable homer), but otherwise a great guy. He's volunteered to throw a few questions in to get some new blood around here. Should be fun.

It absolutely makes more sense to lock up Justin Houston first. In fact, I'd argue that the way to go here is to lock up Houston in the next few days (or weeks, whatever), then let Alex Smith play out the final year of his contract.

Here's what we know about the quarterback market regarding "good, but not great" quarterbacks: it doesn't exist. Guys either get paid like elite quarterbacks or subpar quarterbacks. There's not any real bridge between Matt Cassel getting $5 million a year and Jay Cutler getting $100 billion a year (or something). It's basically all or nothing. Of course, you can structure it creatively to alleviate risk (like the 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick), but you're still paying a guy elite money to keep him.

For that reason, it doesn't make sense to worry about extending Smith right now. He's on the hook for this year for a very, very good price ($8 million dollar cap hit). He's not a guy who is going to hold out or be a locker room issue if he's not extended. And most importantly, even if Smith goes bananas in 2014 (which obviously we're all hoping for) and has an incredible year, it won't result in him being any more expensive than he already would be.

That last point is the key. "Good" quarterbacks are getting paid like "great" quarterbacks already. So let's say the best case scenario happens and Smith balls out all year the way he did to close last season. Is he going to be any more expensive than the price Tom Condon is likely already asking? NO. Because there's no "good" quarterback tier right now. Maybe the Chiefs will have to pay him an extra million or two dollars a year, but that's it.

This is where signing Houston now is key. Because if the Chiefs get Houston locked up (which they should, as he's one of the best all-around defensive players in the league), they'll have the franchise tag free to work with in case Smith (and Condon) don't want to play ball next offseason. Is the franchise tag expensive? Sure. The point is the Chiefs would stay in a position of some power at the bargaining table.

Get Houston locked up now and save yourself tough choices down the road, Dorsey.

I'm not even a little concerned about Knile Davis's health right now. From all reports he's fully participated in camp and the leg hasn't been even a little bit of a problem. For whatever reason, fans were convinced that Davis was going to be out for longer than he has been. I have no idea why that is. It's kind of like last year, when everyone was convinced that Rodney Hudson had a leg amputated or something.

I'm not sold on Davis as a player, but his health seems fine at this point. As far as "deep" depth, I think that De'Anthony Thomas can serve as a temporary substitute to Jamaal Charles should Da Man and Davis go down for a short while (emphasis on a very short while, I don't think Thomas is a permanent solution). It's one position I'm not sweating all. Which means a meteor should fall on a car with all our RBs in it any day now.

As discussed above, it better be locking down Justin Houston. Of course, there's enough room to play around with other stuff too, so I imagine we'll be taking a look at any surprise cuts that come down the pipe. Speaking of which...

Absolutely, without even a question. He's a playmaker who has been trapped in a crap situation. I don't think there's even a chance he comes available though. It's not as though his contract makes keeping him around a problem. Now, moving on to someone who at least as a TINY (very tiny) chance of being a surprise cut...

Look, there's no way the 49ers part ways with Vernon Davis barring a trade. I just don't see it. And I wouldn't really be on board with trading for him considering he's holding out with two years left on his deal and over $7 million dollars coming to him this year. Seems like it'll take a huge contract to keep him if the Chiefs got him. Great player, but I don't see any realistic way.

Andre Johnson is another story. Do I think there's much chance at all he gets cut? No, not really. BUT ... one has to consider the situation there. Johnson is clearly frustrated with things in Houston. Apparently he doesn't see Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage as the answer to the quarterback question (I can see why). He's unhappy with the situation.

And, of course, there's the contract issue. Johnson is set to have a whopping $14.6 million dollar cap hit this season, $16.1 million the next, and $14.6 million the year after that. There's NO WAY this holdout is about money from his end. There is, however, a chance that the Texans are trying to find a way to reduce that cap hit and Johnson just isn't willing to play ball.

That contract also is the reason I don't think the Texans will be able to trade AJ. There's no way a team takes on that much, as good as he still is. And he IS still very good. Don't buy into the "AJ is past it" myth. The man can still really, really play. Is he as dominant as he was three years ago? No. Is he still one of the better receivers in the game? Yes. Despite a crap sandwich at QB last year, AJ still reached 1,400 yards.

My only hypothetical where we could add him would be if he were cut, though. A 32-year-old WR hitting the market just isn't going to get that big a deal. He could very likely be had at a reasonable price, and he would instantly make the Chiefs WR corps respectable.

In a vacuum, I take Davis (barely). In reality, I take AJ because he's the only one with even a TINY chance of being in reach.

I enjoyed your write up. I do believe that Murray will be a player. One thing that you did not get into is his head / brains. This is an area that I think Andy really sees potential. Almost like a Lenny Dawson. In fact, if you were to go back and look at some of Dawson's college tape, I wonder how he would look to you?


I wonder if there's old college tape on Lenny lying around. That'd be a fun watch. The problem is era comparison. The game is so, so, so, SO radically different today that I wouldn't even know where to begin evaluating a quarterback from that day and age. I'd probably be overly critical. Either that or I wouldn't be able to get over how defensive backs used to be able to mug WRs all the way down the field.

As far as Aaron Murray's brain goes, I agree that that's the reason he was drafted. He's not a great physical talent by any means. The stuff he's got going for him are things like "gamer, and "leader," and "knows how to run an offense." Basically, it seems like Reid and Dorsey have gone to both ends of the spectrum the last two years. The incredible talent with suspect brains (Tyler Bray) and the cerebral game manager with suspect physical talent (Murray). It'll be an interesting test to see what wins the day.

And now, let's move onto the the (hopefully) new weekly feature, "a question from a Broncos fan."

How involved in the offense do you expect De'Anthony Thomas to be as a rookie?

Chad Jensen

I think there's a definite chance Thomas gets involved in the offense this season.  However, his main contribution is more than likely to be on special teams.  There's not really room for him at RB with JC and Davis there, and making the switch to slot WR is going to take time.

I think they mostly took him so Dave Toub would have a new toy to play with.  He's basically a Dexter McCluster clone, but with superior "long" speed.  He's a guy who makes fast, decisive cuts and can make the first player miss.  We all saw what Dex did in Toub's system last year.  It believe Thomas can do even better.

Also, I DO think that there's room for Thomas with certain types of plays.  Remember those downfield crossing routes that basically amounted to screens (you know, the ones Donnie Avery used with so much success against the Eagles)?  Well, we ran that play to Dex at the end of the playoff game against the Colts.  The play was set up beautifully.  Here's a picture as Dex catches the pass


Notice where Dex is (right next to the Colts helmet).  See how far back his defender is?  See how he's got a wall of blockers perfectly in position?  This play looks ready to go for good yardage, maybe even as far as the first down marker.

However, it barely made it anywhere.  Because Dex got run down from behind by the corner currently 3 yards behind him.  Ugh.  I like Dex as a player, but that lack of top level speed really hurts at times.

I think this is where Thomas could come in handy.  He's got the quickness, but he also has high top end speed.  I'm very convinced that play goes for big yardage with Thomas in there over Dex.  I believe he'll be (in a limited role) used on plays like this next year.

I need to get back to studying, but I haven't done even ONE non-football question.  So quickly...

It had to be asked. What is the difference between Larceny by Trick and Larceny by False



Why, what a wonderful question!

You see Ken, larceny by trick is larceny (the taking and carrying away of property without consent with intent to permanently deprive) performed by deceiving the victim into giving you possession through a representation one knows to be false (regarding a past or present condition). Of course, so is larceny by false pretenses.  So what's the difference?

Larceny by trick is where you're tricking the poor guy into giving you possession of the item. False pretenses is where you're tricking him into giving you title, not just possession.

And yes, those are the kinds of asinine distinctions I've been spending my days memorizing lately. So please, for the love of God, keep sending me mailbag questions so I have an excuse to take breaks.

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