Update: Flowers has now been released. This is what he did for the Chiefs defense.
Cutting Brandon Flowers would be a disaster for the Kansas City Chiefs. There, I said it.
The Chiefs, who ranked 25th against the pass last season, are under the microscope after Flowers did not show up to voluntary OTAs this past week. Some have speculated the team told Flowers to stay away from the facility so it can work out a trade (Andy Reid says he wasn't told to stay home), relieving the Chiefs of $7.5 million against the cap both this season and next season.
That savings would be nice with the team trying to extend the contracts of Alex Smith and Justin Houston, but know this: The jettisoning of Flowers would spell disaster for the 2014 Chiefs.
Anybody who thinks Flowers is overrated should go to NFL.com and buy NFL Rewind yesterday. Flowers is one of the very few corners who can play both outside the numbers and in the slot with great effectiveness, despite his relatively diminutive stature.
While we are on his size, the narrative that general manager John Dorsey would get rid of Flowers because he likes bigger corners is crazy talk. If Dorsey liked slower, power backs, would he cut Jamaal Charles? The idea is to get the best players.
Last year, the Chiefs lost a playoff game 45-44 to the Indianapolis Colts. You might recall the game. You know, the one that ended with T.Y. Hilton streaking past Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps. What you might have forgotten was the score of the game while Flowers was covering Hilton.
Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote about the Chiefs defense in that game
Beginning with the following drive and lasting until Flowers was hurt, Cooper, Flowers and Smith were the only cornerbacks to see the field in a man-coverage role. In that span, the Chiefs allowed three points. In the other 35 minutes, Kansas City surrendered 42 points.
With Cooper replacing the beleaguered Robinson, Sutton put Flowers in the slot. The move forced the Colts to make a tough decision. Either play Hilton in the slot and face Flowers, or move him out of his preferred spot and send him outside the numbers. Indianapolis chose to mix the looks, mostly challenging Flowers.
Flowers gives the Chiefs a huge advantage. If your best receiver is a slot guy, he will be blanketed. If he's an outside receiver not named Dez Bryant, he will be covered (I see you, DeSean Jackson). The opposing offensive coordinator can't put receivers in certain spots knowing he will create a big mismatch.
With Flowers out, Hilton went solely to the slot. Why? The Colts knew only Robinson could guard him there, or they would see zone coverage. Smith and Cooper can't play inside, making the Chiefs insanely predictable. Sutton should have mixed up the coverages more by going to zone, even doubling with Berry. He never did.
Without Flowers, the Chiefs secondary becomes insanely easy for a team like the Broncos or Chargers to play against. Removing the Chiefs best corner gives you a static look: Cooper and Smith on the outside, with Chris Owens (probably) playing in the slot.
Denver will destroy Kansas City with a bunch of Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker in the slot. San Diego will employ looks getting Keenan Allen into the slot. It will be a field day for smart offensive coordinators and experienced quarterbacks such as the ones residing in the AFC West.
Before anybody starts with the logic of "It's fine, we have Chris Owens and a developing youngster in Cooper!", let me interject. We are talking about Chris Owens. The same Chris Owens who has played for three teams in five years, including two last year. The same Chris Owens who was cut by the Cleveland Browns. Let that last sentence sink in for a second.
I'm not saying Owens can't help and won't be better than Dunta Robinson -- because if he is upright and breathing he is better -- but let's not get carried away. He is not half of Flowers, which is why the Chiefs were able to sign him for one year and $800,000, otherwise known as $70,000 above the minimum for his service time.
On the outside, I'm happy with Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith. You know what I'm not happy about? The depth behind them. With Flowers, you can move him outside should one of them go down and put Owens into the slot role. Without Flowers, you have Phillip Gaines coming in.
Nothing personal against Gaines, but we have no idea if he can play. I don't care about his game tape at Rice, he's a rookie who is known longer in Conference USA. He could turn out to be Darrell Green. He could also turn out to be Jalil Brown or Donald Washington.
Gaines should not be the primary depth. If Flowers is gone and Smith / Cooper suffers an injury, good night.
Look, I understand the Chiefs need to make cap space for guys like Houston, Smith and eventually Berry. However, there are easier ways (and less painful ones). First, sign Houston to an extension with his new deal kicking in next year, along with a signing bonus he receives immediately.
With Smith, either sign him to an extension also beginning next year, or wait until after this season ends. Kansas City won't lose Smith if it wants him around, thanks to the franchise tag. The Chiefs can always franchise Smith and then work out a long-term deal.
After this season, the cap is expected to rise another $9 million. Factor that in, along with potentially cutting Tamba Hali ($9M savings), Mike DeVito ($4M savings), Chase Daniel ($3.8M savings) and Donnie Avery ($3.5m savings).
Still think cutting Flowers is a necessary move?