You've got questions, I've got answers.
The mailbag is one of my very favorite articles. I tweet something out similar to "hey, plz ask me things guys" and you fine folks send me back more than enough questions to fill up an entire article. Talk about making the whole process idiot-proof, even for me. It almost feels like a scam it's so easy. Which is probably why every writer in the history of time has done a mailbag.
Let's get right to it. There are lots of questions here and no time to waste (other than the half hour you'll waste reading this). If your question didn't make the cut, it's simply because I ran out of time or the topic got covered in another question. Either that or your question was bad and you should feel bad. It's definitely one or the other.
@RealMNchiefsfan Is Dee Ford Hali's heir in 2016?— Matt C (@MattfromKC) December 4, 2015
This was a popular question. I received it in multiple forms from people. The unfortunate answer (or fortunate, if you think about it from a certain angle) is I'm not super confident at this point. But we're gonna have to see what happens Sunday.
The problem Ford is having is that Tamba Hali refuses to stop being really good at football (that's the "fortunate" angle I was just talking about). Just as importantly, he's one of the hearts of the team (this team has multiple hearts like some kind of monster. Probably multiple spleens as well) and a MASSIVE fan favorite.
In order for Dorsey to be comfortable moving on from such an important player he's going to have to be dead sure that Ford is an upgrade. And Ford has done nothing to show that's the case. He continues to have a ridiculously fast first step and has flashed the ability to get a little pressure on the quarterback, but it's nothing consistent.
Of course, the response to this is that Ford hasn't gotten a chance to show what he can do. The problem with that argument is that (per Football Outsiders' snap counts) Ford has been on the field on 21 percent of the defensive snaps this season. That's not a huge number, but it's not insignificant the way it was last year. And despite that increased time, he still hasn't made enough of an impact to write home about, or even send a quick text home about.
Ford is getting the most important shot of his career Sunday. He's going to need to take advantage of it if he wants to try and take Hali's spot next year. Dorsey and company have shown they aren't going to just hand a position to anyone, and Hali has already shown he'll take less money to stay in Kansas City. Don't be surprised if Hali is back next year.
@RealMNchiefsfan if we make the playoffs which team do you want to face in the 1st round?— Michael Howard (@michael__howard) December 4, 2015
Whoever wins the AFC South. No matter what else happens, you can count on the fact that the winner of that division will be the easiest foe (at least on paper) come playoff time.
In fact, I say bring on the Colts. This season has been all about overcoming demons for the Chiefs. Finally beating Denver. Finally moving the ball in the air. Finally finding offense outside of Jamaal Charles. Putting Manning on the retirement list. Finally showing they can come from behind and win a game. Well, the Colts have haunted the Chiefs in the playoffs for over a decade now. I don't think there's a better team for them to face in the playoffs to have the guys who were around in 2013 locked in.
Plus, when it comes to matchups, I think the Chiefs have the best shot of snagging that elusive playoff win against a very flawed Colts roster, whether Andrew Luck is playing or not.
Man, I just talked myself into the Colts in the postseason? Let's move on before I change my mind.
@RealMNchiefsfan who is the team MVP at this point of the season?— Sam Nave (@intheknow27) December 4, 2015
You know, had you asked me that just a couple of weeks ago I would have had no idea. And there's still no cut-and-dry player I'd say is solely responsible for the turnaround the Chiefs have had. that's been the beauty of this team; it's not overly dependent on anyone one player.
But if you FORCED me to pick a single player, I'd have to go with ... Alex Smith.
No, wait, don't go! Hear me out!
Look, I'm very aware of the fact that Smith was a complementary piece during multiple wins this season (like the utter destruction of Denver and Detroit), and that the strength of the team lies with the defense. There's no argument from me there.
However, the defense has been a sum of the parts. Sean Smith has been a big part of the success on that side of the ball ... but so has Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, and Jaye Howard. I can't say Smith stands out THAT much as more important than those other guys.
On offense, well, it's time to say it. Smith has been a crucial part of multiple wins during the Chiefs comeback from 1-5. His play on third down was a huge factor in the first win of the streak (the Steelers game), as I wrote about here. He carried an offense that was struggling in multiple facets most of the day against the Chargers, which I discussed here. And last week against the Bills, he played (a week after one of his best 2-3 games as a Chief) his best complete game as a Chief, finally testing out the deep ball.
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have answered the call when Jamaal Charles went down. Jeremy Maclin has played really, really well. Travis Kelce is Travis Kelce. Eric Fisher has become a very good LT. But the guy who has been the most crucial throughout the win streak (which, really, is what's going to get you MVP for this team) has been Alex Smith.
Smith has done a good job increasing his number of "plus" plays without allowing an increase in mistakes. He still very rarely hurts you, but lately he's been making something happen much more often as well. He's back to using his legs effectively and has locked down accuracy issues he was having earlier in the year.
Now, I fully expect to take a beating for this, but like I've said the last few weeks especially, the Alex Smith who has been showing up as of late is a QB you can win a crap ton of games with. January included.
It's a really, really, really, really tight race, but I'd say Smith at this point.
@RealMNchiefsfan In Walking Dead, if you're not constantly building layers of walls, then why even bother?— DW (@ChiefFanUpNorth) December 4, 2015
Man, I seriously don't know. I love that show (as everyone here can attest to), but there are two really, really common sense things that don't get done on it that drive me up the wall.
First, like you mentioned, is the multiple layers of defense issue. If they've learned one thing throughout their time in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it's that all walls fail in some way, shape or form. It's just basic common sense to have a backup. In the Middle Ages, it was quite common to have a fortified area within the castle itself in case the walls were breached. If folks who couldn't even be bothered to get rid of their crap were smart enough to do it, we should be too.
The second is how often they'll see a lone walker or small group of walkers and just walk right on by. Look, I get that any encounter with a walker is dangerous. But they've reached the point to where any group smaller than a dozen doesn't pose a real threat. And every walker you leave, well, walking is a risk to join up with a group and be a part of a larger threat later on.
Especially with those high walls at Alexandria, I was losing my mind. How hard would it be to have someone harnessed to the top of the wall (with a couple people in place to make sure they stayed safe) with a spear-like pole to stab walkers in the head from above? I mean, seriously. Morgan's got a stick and everything. Don't make me do all the thinking for you, guys.
I still heart that show, but it makes me insane when I see either of those two things happening (or rather, not happening).
@RealMNchiefsfan Have homecoming games historically been good showings for up and coming rookies? (Peters home in OAK this weekend)— snifi (@funderpunt) December 4, 2015
I have absolutely no idea, but I expect Peters to be pumped. He's a guy who plays with a lot of emotion, and I'm guessing he comes up with a big play or two. Hopefully he doesn't get over-aggressive and burned by Cooper or Crabtree, both of whom are having very solid seasons.
@RealMNchiefsfan how many picks do you think we'll trade for Blaine Gabbert?— Stacy Strickland (@crash121ss) December 4, 2015
I'm guessing the Chiefs trade Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, and next year's first rounder for him. They could probably get him for less, but they wouldn't want to risk getting outbid by those jerks in Cleveland.
@RealMNchiefsfan tons of free agents after this season. Who stays and who goes?— Steven (@mshp797) December 4, 2015
Well, right now reports are that the cap is going to be above 150 million dollars next year (between 150 to 153.4 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter). Given how previous years have gone that could well be a conservative estimate.
The Chiefs are currently committed to about $115.5 million in cap space next season. Which means they're going to have roughly $35-38 million in cap space to play with. Actually, it'll be a little more because they'll have some cap from this season (currently $4.2 million) rolling over into 2016.
To make a long story short, it's a conservative estimate to say the Chiefs will have $36 million in cap space to play with next season, with considerably more in the years to follow.
I guess what I'm saying is the Chiefs can keep whoever they want.
If they Dorsey decides "hey, I really like the core we have, let's focus on keeping these guys and bring in relatively low priced fillers guys along with rookies to improve the team," he can absolutely keep every single key free agent the Chiefs have. They just do. Especially when you factor in the way NFL contracts are structured.
Now, do I think that means they keep everyone? No. But it wouldn't surprise me if Dorsey chose to pay good money to keep guys who have flourished within the system, and uses the draft and mid-to-low market free agency to improve in spots the Chiefs need help. Probably the best work Dorsey's done with the Chiefs has been with picking up waiver wire youngsters and low level vets who have flourished with the Chiefs. I'd bet anything he's confident in his ability to continue to do so, as well as find contributors in the draft past the first round.
What I'm saying is I really do see a potential future in which Smith, DJ, Hali, Howard, Berry, and Allen are all Chiefs next year. It's absolutely doable, with room to spare. Throw in Abdullah while you're at it.
Paying big money in free agency is always dicey, but the risk is mitigated to an extent when the money is going to players you know can perform within the defense and offense you've got set up and who you're familiar with. If I'm Dorsey, I go the route of keeping the core group intact and building around the edges.
@RealMNchiefsfan keep one, cut one, trade one. 25, 19, 87 and 50, 29, 22.— firstname.lastname@example.org (@KCChiefsFan1983) December 4, 2015
I choose to abstain. Seriously. I can't make a decision like that.
The problem with those decisions is that if you approach it from a cold-blooded financial standpoint, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry are guys you part with. And I'm not ready to deal with that just yet. Or ever, when it comes to Charles.
There's some quiet momentum building in the comments about moving on from Charles next year, especially after Spencer Ware showed for a couple games the ability to be more than just "decent" as a replacement. I can't get on board with this. I just can't. Jamaal Charles is truly unique, and one of the best football players I've ever seen play the game. He belongs with the Chiefs and gives them the best shot to win games.
Yeah, I've heard the "Charles being gone forces Reid to call games better" argument, and I can't say I entirely disagree. But that's a Reid issue, and he needs to figure it out. Charles is too special to part with. What I hope to see next year is a trio in Charles / Ware / West that makes the rest of the NFL feel afraid in their bones. I very much believe a combo of Charles and Ware especially could just destroy the psyche of opposing teams.
And the idea of cutting or trading Berry? Get out.
@RealMNchiefsfan your thoughts, feelings and concerns come free agency at the QB position. Jonny Manziel RGIII EJ Manuel?— Ryan Ingle (@ingleberry007) December 4, 2015
Alex Smith is the Chiefs quarterback moving forward. He always has been, regardless of our stance on him. His contact makes it prohibitive to move on from him (at least from the point of view all NFL teams seem to take). That's just a simple truth.
I wouldn't touch Manziel with a 10-foot pole. And that's not because I care about a kid partying. It's because I care about a kid who won't listen when told NOT to and who lied about it (allegedly). I hope he puts it together because he did flash the ability to make a few things happen. But I don't want players I can't trust to do the simplest things.
E.J. Manuel is just bad at playing quarterback. Pass.
RG3 ... I might be one of the last few RG3 believers in the country. The guy got screwed over by a coach who let him play on a busted leg and make it a hundred times worse, THEN got screwed over by a coaching staff that was never interested in giving him a legitimate shot. He's got the arm talent and (still) the athleticism to make things happen in the NFL. I think he'd benefit wonderfully from Andy Reid and a chance to sit and learn when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
The problem with him is the circus that would come with him. That said, he's the only QB there I'd think about bringing into the fold to develop.
@RealMNchiefsfan if the draft was tomorrow what position player do you see the Chiefs taking?— Ryan Ingle (@ingleberry007) December 4, 2015
@RealMNchiefsfan do you think the right side of our oline is what might keep us for winning?— kiA ebadat (@KEbadat) December 4, 2015
@RealMNchiefsfan If Fulton does really well at C should Chiefs consider moving Morse to RG when he comes back?— CatsLoveGravy (@3GravyCats) December 4, 2015
To start with the first question, I'd go with offensive line. The Chiefs have had injuries derail things on the OL so things aren't quite as bad there as they seem, but it's time to get this crap locked down. Eric Fisher can play. So can Jeff Allen and Mitch Morse. The rest of the group is totally up in the air.
I'd love to see Dorsey lock down Allen and then spend multiple picks trying to find the guys for the right side of the line, or at least to provide competition over there. I'm just not a believer in LDT at this point, and Jah Reid is not the answer at RT unless he drastically improves in pass protection.
To elaborate on the right side of the OL issue, a lot of people are overlooking how often that side is getting torched during the winning streak. The thing is, the problem still exists ... it's just been covered up by improved QB play from Smith and the team winning. LDT and Reid are still getting beat way too often and way too quickly, it's just not as glaring an issue when Smith is playing well and it's not leading to a loss. I guarantee you the spotlight would be on them had the Chiefs not pulled out the Bills win or had dropped the game to the Chargers (heavy pressure all day that game).
My biggest fear down the stretch is that right side of the OL. I hope they prove me wrong, but they're the weak link in the offense right now. And we've all seen how a weak link on the offensive line can lead to problems all over the place.
Which leads me to the final section of that question, the Mitch Morse to RG issue.
I guess my problem with the idea of just shuffling guys along the OL is that it almost never works as well in practice as it does in theory. We really undersell just how difficult it is to move all over the line (Jeff Allen is one of the few who makes it look easy). I don't buy the idea that just because Morse has been very solid at center he'd be very solid at RG. I mean, Fulton was awful at RG and looked decent filling in at center. They really are different positions and often come with different results.
Now, if the coaches think he can play as well at RG as he can at center, and IF Fulton plays well at center? Then sure, why not? If you can upgrade a spot on the line without losing anything else, you do it. But I'm just not sure I buy the idea that Fulton will be as good at center as Morse was AND Morse will be a solid RG right out of the gate. It's a lot of "ifs," and shuffling the OL at this point in the season is dangerous.
I'm guessing that even if Fulton does well replacing Morse we see the rook back at center when he's healthy. It's worth keeping an eye on, though, because perhaps Reid and Heck know something about Morse playing RG that we don't.
We addressed the cap stuff earlier, but it's worth noting Houston's contract particularly. Within the next two years it's going to be smaller than multiple other defensive players' contracts. That's just how it works with the NFL at this point and for the foreseeable future.
It's about the player, not the money. The money will never stay "stupid" huge (as long as you don't get absolutely insane like the Lions did with Megatron years back). The question you have to ask yourself is "will this player be an elite player throughout the duration of the contract?" In Houston's case the answer, barring injury, is yes. So you pay the man and look like a genius as the cap continues to rise and inferior players start getting more money than your guy.
Paying Justin Houston was always, always the right call. The cap going up more than expected just confirms it.
@RealMNchiefsfan Hefeweizen or IPA?— Tod Myers (@TodMyers) December 5, 2015
Man, you just made a guy who is eight years sober Google those things without realizing what he was doing. My wife is gonna kill me when she sees my search history! You're a bad person, and you should feel bad.
(not really, but still, that's gonna be a funny conversation with Mrs. MNchiefsfan. "No, baby, I had to look it up for work! You gotta believe me!!!!")
@RealMNchiefsfan outside of football, we often cover TV and movies, but what are some of your all time favorite bands?— Doug Jackson (@cadillacjaxon) December 5, 2015
I'm ending on a really dangerous note. I have a confession to make ... I'm a musical illiterate. I generally have no idea who I'm listening to when I hear a song. I'm guessing my CD collection from high school would make those of you who actually know music vomit (I really thought Limp Bizkit was dope, yo).
Currently, things are a little different. Since you asked ... I'm an evangelical, so I'm mostly jamming to rock versions of Agnus Dei, Little Drummer Boy and Amazing Grace. That's just how I roll, man.
So I'll two routes here ... one with my current taste in music, the other with all time favorites from before my musical taste was somewhat limited by my lifestyle. Right now I'm really into Third Day, Phillips, Craig and Dean (that's one group), and Casting Crowns. However, I'm a "anything I hear that I like" kind of guy, without a lot of attention being paid to specific artists. My deal with music is it's gotta be meaningful to me. And, as you'd probably guess given the vocations I've chosen (attorney and football writer-guy), lyrics are 95 percent of the equation. Not sure if that's common or weird.
If I were to go with an all time band, though ... man, I can't think of anything I've ever liked more than Boston's original album. There are very few albums I've ever been able to listen to from beginning to end while loving every second of it. They're right near the top for me.
Probably right up there with Nickelback and...
Kidding guys. Just seemed like a good place to end the mailbag now that we're FOUR THOUSAND WORDS in. Go Chiefs, beat the Raiders!