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Kansas City Chiefs top need will be cornerback but free agency will affect everything

The Kansas City Chiefs have some level of need at just about every position group. Some positions they just need to add some depth to prepare for someone leaving in the future. Other positions they need a new starter right now. It's really not all that different than any other year - just different positions.

It's still really early to do this before free agency and the draft but I looked at the Chiefs top needs right now as I see them. These are ranked in order of importance but it's all fluid. One free agent leaving could change the priority. Here are the Chiefs 2016 free agents for reference.

Here we go...

Cornerback: The Chiefs need a starting cornerback if Sean Smith leaves via free agency. The defense was lost in the first three weeks of the year without him. To me, this is the clear No. 1 need if Smith leaves. Phililp Gaines is there but he may have some health questions with a torn ACL and a concussion in his first two seasons. The Chiefs likely need another Sean Smith-type of free agent signing, someone who can step in and play right away.

Defensive lineman: Allen Bailey and Dontari Poe will be back but Jaye Howard and Mike DeVito are free agents. It sounds like Howard knows someone will pay him a lot of money so I wouldn't count on him coming back. He was huge this year. The Chiefs have a couple of young players in Nick Williams and Rakeem Nunez-Roches but they probably need another starter on the line if one of those two isn't ready.

Safety: Eric Berry, Husain Abdullah and Tyvon Branch are free agents. The Chiefs play with five or six or even seven defensive backs often so they need all they can get. I don't know if Berry will be back but it's tough to imagine him playing elsewhere. He needs to come back. Every year it seems like the Chiefs sign a Abdullah or Branch-type of player to a one or two year deal. I suspect they do that again, whether it's one of these two players or not.

Wide receiver: This feels like a big need right now because of the way the season ended with Jeremy Maclin hardly playing and Jason Avant playing meaningful snaps. The Chiefs like Maclin, Chris Conley and Albert Wilson. My sense is that they will stick with these three and add a lower end free agent or someone in the draft. It's tough to be a receiver not familiar with Reid's offense and step right in and contribute.

Offensive guard / tackle: The Chiefs have quite a few options at guard with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Jah Reid, Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika. They could still probably use another one if Jeff Allen leaves. But what about tackle? The Chiefs are scheduled to lose Donald Stephenson and Allen. Eric Fisher is entering the final year of his deal but the Chiefs have a 2017 option on him. They need a good player who can play guard and tackle. They need someone who knows their system. They need ... Jeff Allen. I would strongly consider bringing him back but the Chiefs history with letting linemen walk suggests likely not.

Outside linebacker: Tamba Hali could be gone, which means Dee Ford steps up next to Justin Houston. Backups Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses are free agents. Do you bring them both back? Zombo played a key special teams role, too. Houston has missed multiple weeks of action due to injury in two of the last three years. If Dee Ford doesn't work out, then this should be higher on the list. But the Chiefs have to give him a shot.

Inside linebacker: The Chiefs have young players they like including Ramik Wilson and Justin March but Derrick Johnson is the key here. Do the Chiefs bring him back? He played too well this season for me to think about moving on from him. I bring DJ back but work on making sure you're set when age finally (ever?) catches up with him. If the Chiefs don't bring DJ back, this shoots up the list of needs.

Backup quarterback: Chase Daniel is set to be a free agent. I'm assuming he wants to start someplace. If he leaves, that leaves the Chiefs with Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray. Alex Smith has missed one game due to injury in three years. That's going to change at some point. Are the Chiefs ready with Aaron Murray?

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