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Chiefs free agency: Jaye Howard will tell us a lot about the future of Dontari Poe

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The Kansas City Chiefs will reveal the biggest cards in their hand soon enough.

As free agency looms and the franchise tag deadline passes, GM John Dorsey will have major decisions to make in two primary areas: the defensive line and the secondary. Most of the moves discussed lately center in the latter, where both Eric Berry and Sean Smith are going to earn major contracts from someone, but the free agency of Jaye Howard is going to have significant implications that haven't been covered in depth.

We're all aware that Howard is going to be another player given serious money in a matter of weeks. The defensive lineman was the highest graded for the Chiefs by Pro Football Focus in 2015, and the stats tell the same story with 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks along the line. Howard has rounded into a dynamic lineman under the coaching staff's tutelage. Given his youth (he won't turn 28 until next December) and on-field impact, Howard is going to get paid.

Reports say the Chiefs have a "solid dialogue" with Howard's camp earlier this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how these dominoes fall. Last year, the Chiefs enjoyed Howard, Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey as primary playmakers of the defensive line, but they likely can't afford all three.

If the Chiefs meet Howard's demands and keep him off the open market (or beat the market entirely), it's another serious investment along with Allen Bailey not named Dontari Poe. This is complete conjecture on my part, but it makes sense, then, that the Chiefs do not believe Dontari Poe will remain healthy and / or a high-impact player over the course of the next several years by signing Howard. Or they believe Poe will be too expensive when his contract runs out after 2016.

Let's not be dismissive here: Dontari Poe is a beast in the middle of the defense. He's proven his worth to be paid serious dollars after coming through for the Chiefs from day one. Poe causes all sorts of mismatches for offensive coordinators, must be accounted for on every play and, speaking of every play, Poe is in every one of them. His snap count over his first four seasons has been ridiculous, and his athleticism is outrageous. Poe is, without a doubt, perhaps my single favorite player on the Chiefs.

But these things are personal and John Dorsey, if anything, cannot get personal. Poe's next contract will be as mammoth as his 350 pound frame, and an extension is not about rewarding a player for what he has done but paying him what he will do in the future. And it's here that things could be problematic.

It's possible that the Chiefs look at the tread on the tires, as teams do for every running back these days, and decide there's too much of a risk. There are also the back problems that flared up in camp last year, and the fact that Poe's impact was felt less this year than ever before.

That said, Poe looked very, very good down the stretch with dominant showings down the final stretch of the regular season and also against the Houston Texans in the playoffs. And if Poe can still be Poe in the future, then he is the man worth paying.

Either way, we're likely to see only one of the two players — Howard or Poe — in a Chiefs uniform in 2017 unless Howard's market isn't nearly as high as we believe. If so, that's a serious win, but if Howard is inked in the next few weeks, then we will likely start to hear rumors of Dontari's last days in KC.