Plenty of free agency daylight remains, but the Chiefs largely closed the book on their major moves within the first 12-24 hours of the open market. We've discussed the names and options for weeks, but within a matter of hours, John Dorsey had somehow worked the cap and the roster to allow nearly every player to return, with one significant loss and one significant addition.
It's easy to focus on what the losses mean or the additions bring, but for our purposes, let's take a look at the bigger picture. Here's what we learned about the Chiefs actions from free agency's first full day.
The window is open
The team's first playoff victory since Columbus discovered America wasn't just a celebratory moment for a starved franchise and fan base. It was a beachhead from which the Chiefs plan to advance their attack over the next few seasons. Last season, the defense became a truly great unit, and we all watched the Denver Broncos win a defense with such a force. Unfortunately, the Chiefs defense wasn't supposed to last with too many free agents hitting the market at once. That turned out to be wrong.
This means two things:
1. When the front office and coaching staff met after the season for complete roster evaluations headed into the offseason, everyone realized how close they were. They were already capable of winning the big game. It was just a matter of reloading.
2. The execs weren't the only ones. The players clearly also believe that their best chances of winning come with this team, right now. That sort of continuity is going to continue to breed success, the sort of blossoming we've already seen from the likes of Jaye Howard.
Wrong about Howard?
Speaking of Howard, how good is he? There were legitimate debates here about whether or not the Chiefs should choose Howard or Poe long-term as if Howard was an All-Pro level anchor around which to build a defensive front. Then he re-signs with the Chiefs with $8M in guaranteed money over two years. I can't remember a player eschewing a big payday who hadn't already enjoyed one. That's gotta mean something.
I don't mean to be negative, of course. I'm thrilled with the financial terms, and even more thrilled that Howard is back across a young and beastly defensive line. I never expected Howard back, so it was the proverbial cherry on top of an already great day for the Chiefs. I just mean that the level of praise from our own writers, Pro Football Focus and so on didn't match what the market set. Either that or Jaye Howard is the most loyal NFL player I've ever come across.
Dorsey (almost always) gets his man
Three years ago I remember reading analysts discuss how silent the market was for Sean Smith. Despite the Dolphins letting him walk, he was the cream of the cornerback market. Yet no one had heard anything. Then the Chiefs made their announcement.
Last year, the Chiefs cut Dwayne Bowe loose and desperately needed a wide receiver to shut the mouths of every NFL talking head who repeated that annoying stat of which I will not speak. Jeremy Maclin was clearly the top target, and once again the Chiefs had an announcement to make. (This time, of course, the Chiefs tampered, marking the first time in NFL history an NFL team has tampered).
This year, the offensive line purge created a gap on the right side and in the midst of roping in his own calves, Dorsey took a few minutes to announce the addition of their newest import: Mitch Schwartz. We'll write plenty more about Schwartz in the weeks to come, but adding such a reliable bookend was a move I'd never thought possible in this free agent class. But I should know Dorsey well enough by now to know he has a way of getting what he wants.
A very deep roster
It's going to be very tough to make the Chiefs' 53-man roster. Are there weak spots? Certainly. But most positions have developmental talent waiting in the wings, players returning from injury, and likely a couple more free agents to come. When you add yet another draft class, you're going to have some very stiff competition in camp. It also means that, come August, we're going to see several ex-Chiefs listed on the rosters of other teams.
The secondary can afford a couple additions (especially if Husain Abdullah isn't retained). The offensive line will add another live body or two. The defensive line will likely see a new face in the draft, and wide receiver should expect the same. But this is the deepest I can remember the Chiefs being at this point in the offseason in a very long time.
Plenty in the tank
The casual fan wants to appreciate Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali for their past performance while simultaneously scream about the amount of money Dorsey threw at them for their future. Hali pulled in 3-years, $22M ($12M guaranteed) and Johnson matched the deal minus a single cool million on the overall (same guaranteed).
Pan the camera back and you'll see the bigger picture: guys whose jobs are at stake wanted to give Tamba and DJ a combined $24 million over the next three seasons. This isn't a nice parting gift. It's not a retirement fund. It's not a giant check filled with Chiefs appreciation. It's several million apiece to do what they've always done: play tremendous defense. If they didn't have it in them, they wouldn't have such healthy contracts to announce.