It's the NFL preseason which means competition is underway for most positions on teams around the league. The Kansas City Chiefs have several players entrenched in starting roles, but there are real position battles underway on offense, defense, and special teams.
For the Chiefs, one competition is of particular interest is at kicker between incumbent Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos. So far, outside of Ryan Succop's brief stint on the injury report this week, the pair have been evenly matched in offseason activities and training camp. The buzz is that the competition for a roster spot is very real for both. Succop is a realistic option to be released (or traded), and Santos has good reason to believe he could start for the Chiefs.
There are two primary reasons for the Chiefs to upset the apple cart, so to speak, after 80 consecutive games with Succop:
1. The price tag
2. The (lack of) distance
To summarize (since much has already been written about both points), the Chiefs have already made several difficult decisions this offseason based on finances (Brandon Flowers, et al). Succop has the eighth highest salary cap hit among NFL kickers (and the ninth highest base salary). He's also 21st among active kickers in career field goal percentage. If you have equal options at kicker, then why not take the cheaper option?
In addition, Santos comes with a reputation for distance, and recently said his range into the wind is 50 yards. Succop is nine of 17 from 50+ yards in his career (53 percent), and hit only one of four from long range last year. Santos is the sexy pick, the cheap unknown option with real potential to enhance the Chiefs special teams unit.
But considerations really aren't that simple for general manager John Dorsey. The selection of Santos has its merits, but it also lacks substance. Until the Chiefs kick things off (literally) against the Tennessee Titans on September 7, the Chiefs really don't know what they have in Santos. That's not true of Succop.
Succop has been entrenched as the starter since being taken in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. There's something to be said for having a known commodity, since the Chiefs have been burned in the past when going with potential over proof (e.g. Justin Medlock). And Santos isn't without his own issues, with consistency issues in 2013 for a Tulane team that played several games in a dome.
In 2012, Santos was a sure thing going 21 of 21 for an excellent 100 percent field goal percentage. Fast forward to 2013, Santos completed only 16 of 23 (70 percent), a number that's similar to his mark of 61 percent (11 of 18) in 2011. Given that Santos' home turf was the Superdome, that brings his dependability into question.
Will the Chiefs kick themselves (pun intended) if they let a steady veteran go for the sake of potential once again? Potential is popular, but this is a veteran team ready to win now with other question marks to worry about. Then again, if Dave Toub can work his magic with Santos' natural ability, the Chiefs could gain some important advantages on special teams.