The offseason is the time for three things:
1) Film study. Lots and lots of film study. This is the first year I've sprung for all-22 film throughout the summer. I'm very excited to watch various players and dissect the 2014 season in-depth.
2) Article gimmicks. It's the offseason. You do whatever it takes to get through the dead season as a writer. That's why you see all the lists, mailbags, rankings, and other such tomfoolery from January through August.
3) Speculation and hypothetical situations. We love them. They are delicious. I'd argue that many fans like the speculating part of football more than football itself.
As I sat down and contemplated the season, I wondered to myself how I could possibly combine the latter two offseason traditions. Then, in a moment of inspiration I can only call "absolutely not divine in any way whatsoever," it came to me; create an article gimmick that INVOLVES speculation and hypothetical situations!
So that's what we'll be doing from time to time this offseason. I'll call it the "What If The Chiefs..." series. I can't promise you'll be informed. Or even entertained. But I can promise that you'll at least have more than nothing. And hey, that's something.
So let's get this some thing started today with a scenario I can't get out of my mind. You might call it unrealistic. Or silly. Or a tad racist. Or even Phil. And you're probably right. But all the same...
What if the Chiefs decide to go absolutely, completely, and totally all-in at the wide receiver position?
In my imaginary speculative scenario, John Dorsey and Andy Reid believe the Chiefs are close to competing for a Super Bowl, and one of the few issues holding them back last year was a gaping hole at wide receiver. You may or may not agree with that (W's being one of a "few issues" keeping the Chiefs from competing), but I don't care. Not that your opinion doesn't matter or anything. Just not for the purposes of a totally hypothetical scenario.
So if I'm John Dorsey and I decide to go completely nuts at wide receiver, what do I do?
Well, this offseason is a bit unusual when it comes to the receiver position. There just so happen to be a number of good players who (for one reason or another) are very likely to be available on the cheap side. If I'm John Dorsey, I want to hedge my bets at a position that was clearly a weakness for the offense last season.
A lot of people have said things like "The Chiefs should try to sign Jeremy Maclin or Randall Cobb," or "The Chiefs should take a receiver in the first round." While that's all well and good as a plan, it's only a single move. It's hardly going ALL IN (notice the caps). I want to go ALL IN.
Oh, quick side note before I divulge the ALL IN plan. I absolutely know for a fact someone is going to say something to the effect of "Lol Alex Smith doesn't ever throw to wide receivers so it doesn't matter" in the comments. Just note this; in the three games Albert Wilson (who appears to be at least a decent option) played significant snaps with Smith he saw 19 targets. An undrafted rookie free agent. I'm just saying, there are some targets there to be had. Glad we could work that out.
Now ... how to go ALL IN (I'm already annoyed with the all caps schtick, but I've committed now, so I can't stop mid-column) at WR.
Step One: Release Dwayne Bowe
This move makes no sense whatsoever on its face. We're going to start off by ... letting go of the most proven receiver on the roster?
Well, in this particular scenario, yes. Bowe's contract is what it is. And the simple fact is that he's less likely to take a giant pay cut here than let himself be cut to test the open market. I think it would be a huge risk for Bowe to do so. But I also think players believe in their own skills. I can absolutely see Bowe saying, "Nah, I'd rather you cut me so I can test the market."
Bowe is just not a good fit for Alex Smith. Smith likes to throw to guys who are already open. He doesn't fit the ball into tight spaces more often than a few times a game (if that). Bowe doesn't get separation consistently and is better at winning contested catches. That's not Smith's game. I can absolutely see Bowe signing on the cheap(ish) for a team like the Packers, where the QB will absolutely chuck the ball in there.
We've freed up quite a bit of cash. So what do we do with it?
Step Two: Sign a Big Fish
You know who can really play? Randall Cobb. You know who plays for a team with one WR already getting paid good money? Randall Cobb. You know who isn't going to get full market value from his current team because they have a cyborg for a quarterback? Randall Cobb.
Demaryius Thomas isn't going anywhere (I don't think). Neither is Dez Bryant. Randall Cobb is a very good receiver who would be an immense upgrade at a position of desperate need.
Cobb is a better WR than Bowe. And considering the contract situation with Bowe, the Chiefs could easily outbid the rest of the league for Cobb's services and still come out ahead of the game cap-wise.
So now we're looking at Cobb and Albert Wilson, along with De'Anthony Thomas. We've started.
Step Three: Re-Sign Jason Avant
Avant didn't light the world on fire (or even close) with the Chiefs when he came on midseason. But it was instantly apparent how barren the WR cupboard had been before his arrival just by seeing how much better Avant (an aggressively average, aging vet) was than the guys whose snaps he was replacing.
Avant won't cost much. He likes playing for Reid. He might not be a good option as a second or third WR, but he's a fantastic option as a fourth or fifth WR. A big key with Avant is competition; if a WR wants to beat out Avant for playing time he's going to have to be above average. It's good having a "safe" guy there to force other players to give their best to see the field. This will be important due to the next several steps.
Here's where we get to the ALL IN portion of things.
Step Four: Trade For Josh Gordon
This has been argued and argued around here, so I won't get too much into it. Gordon is a risk, to be sure. He'll also come at a relatively cheap price (due to the risk) and will be a $1.7 million cap hit next year.
You trade a conditional pick for the guy that can go as high as the second round or as low as the fourth round. You bring him into Reid's office and have Reid say, "You're a free agent next year. If you work your tail off and have a big year here with no problems, you're going to be rich. If we end up cutting you or sitting you, you might never get another shot."
Then see what happens. Worst case scenario is he doesn't work hard and doesn't see the field, leading to a wasted fourth round pick. That stinks, sure. But it's hardly critical.
The key here? Hedge your bets. You need to be able to jettison Gordon if he's an issue in the locker room or whatever other terrible things people think he'd be. Which is why we're not done yet.
But note, as of now we're looking at group of Cobb, Gordon, Wilson, Thomas, and Avant. Very good, with potential for "HOLY CRAP THAT'S UNREAL."
But just in case you haven't already said to yourself, "Whoa, MN, slow down. This ain't Madden..."
Step Five: Trade For Cordarrelle Patterson
Yeah, yeah, not Madden. I know. Again, this is a what-if hypothetical in which we strain reality but try to not TOTALLY break it. Hear me out (or don't and go get a snack or something. I recommend those new Butterfinger cups. You know the ones that look like Reese's peanut butter cups but aren't. Good eats, man).
Patterson's stock is just crazy-low right now. He was essentially benched as a wide receiver for the Vikings, and his head coach has publicly talked about his route-running issues. In our scenario, there's a chance he could be had without offering the farm.
Of course, he wouldn't be dirt cheap, either. And thus, the risk. But you can't go ALL IN without taking some risks, folks. We're trying to stockpile as much talent as possible at the position. And this team just happens to possess a savvy vet (in the newly re-signed Avant) who can help Patterson pick up route running. Additionally, this team just happens to have a variety of packaged plays available to simplify things for Patterson. Imagine the fake of a fake reverse options with him and DAT on the field (OK, that's a joke. Kind of).
So ... now what?
With those six steps, the Chiefs have a WR group that consists of Cobb, Gordon, Wilson, Patterson, Avant, and Thomas.
That is absolutely the most talented wideout group in the NFL. And all of it is THEORETICALLY possible. It's not just a Madden-esque pipe dream. Patterson and Gordon are both there to be had for a team willing to take a shot.
The major reason I'd want to take a shot on BOTH Gordon and Patterson in this scenario? It's pretty simple; I'd go in expecting one of them to fail. By grabbing both, the Chiefs reduce the odds of ending up with nothing to show for their aggressive moves.
Additionally, the aspect of competition I discussed earlier would be a major factor here. Neither Gordon or Patterson could just assume they'd see a lot of playing time and / or targets just by showing up. Not with each other to compete with, and not with the aforementioned Avant to weed out anything below average.
Sure, Gordon could crash and burn. He absolutely could. And sure, Patterson could continue to ignore the fundamentals of his position and try to get by on his talent. But the odds of one of them succeeding are better than the odds of both of them failing. And even if one of them fails, aren't you VERY confident with Cobb / Gordon / Wilson / Avant as your group? Or Cobb / Patterson / Wilson / Avant?
Basically, Cobb is your "sure thing big upgrade" as well as your safety net. In your very worst case scenario you've swung big and missed big. But you're still left with Cobb / Wilson / Avant / Thomas. And you know what? That's not terrible. It's not great (or even that good, if Wilson has peaked), but it's not terrible.
And of course, you have the chance that you end up with a year of Randall Cobb, a motivated Gordon, and a refined Patterson. With Jamaal Charles at running back and Travis Kelce at tight end.
So ... what if the Chiefs DID do all this and dove absolutely all in at the wide receiver position? I have no idea if they'd get a playoff win and shot at the Super Bowl out of it (there's a whole lot more to football than one position group, after all), but crap if that wouldn't be a lot of fun to watch.
No, this isn't Madden. But this is a weird year for wide receivers (and that's excluding guys likely to be cut who could be looking for one year "prove it" deals, like Larry Fitzgerald and Mike Wallace) and the Chiefs have a solid roster from top to bottom. If there ever was a year when the stars aligned just right to go a little Madden on a position group, this would be it.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to dream about a roster that will never be and a receiving group I'd sell one of my kids to watch.
Yeah, I'm gonna enjoy this series.