The Kansas City Chiefs have a few players entering an important contract year. While this situation can create headaches for front office personnel, it often reaps dividends for the coaching staff, as those players will often miraculously become healthier than ever and give more effort than previous seasons.
Jaye Howard was one such player at an important season last year, and John Dorsey rewarded him for those efforts. Jeremy Maclin eclipsed his previous career high by an astonishing 350 receiving yards (1,318) to cross the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his final year before free agency. There's no way that the possibility of a significant (and perhaps only) payday in an NFL player's career does not make a real difference on the field. That means the Chiefs should enjoy some standout efforts from a handful of players in 2016.
He's already going to get paid. Even if Poe were lost for the season, the defensive lineman would undoubtedly find several teams still willing to bid up the price for an almost 26-year-old with unparalleled size and athleticism. If the Chiefs are lucky, they'll see Poe take the final leap to NFL elite status this season and show himself productive deep into the season with an ability to get to the passer by collapsing the pocket like few players can. Poe is already a Pro Bowler, but he's ready to become a household name.
The Chiefs are one of the contending teams with such a need at wide receiver. It's a good place for a guy like Rod Streater to be in an attempt to turn around his career in such a positive place like Kansas City. If Streater can stay healthy, he's got the speed and veteran experience to upset developing players like Albert Wilson and Chris Conley for targets. With an incentive-laden, one-year deal, Streater is betting on himself to rebound in Kansas City. That's a good thing for this offense.
The Chiefs already picked up Eric Fisher's fifth-year option in May, which means the insurance is there if the Chiefs want to keep Fisher as their starting left tackle through 2017. However the option is only guaranteed for injury, which means the Chiefs can still release him for cap room next March and start over at the position. If Fisher wants to earn a long-term deal and cement his spot along this line, he needs to turn in his strongest season yet. The ceiling is there. Now the experience is as well. It's time to put it all together for Fisher.
Jamell Fleming / Marcus Cooper / Stevie Brown
All three defensive backs are competing against the influx of draft picks brought in by Dorsey during the 2016 NFL Draft, and there are only a limited number of spots to be had. That said, Fleming and Cooper are both intimately familiar with Bob Sutton's schemes to this point, and Stevie Brown is the veteran safety that always seems to suceed with the Chiefs each year (see previous exhibits: Tyvon Branch, Kurt Coleman, Kelcie McCray, etc.).
Even if the Chiefs decide against keeping any of the trio of Cooper, Fleming or Brown into the 2017 season, this is still a showcase for their pro potential somewhere else. Branch earned a two-year contract this offseason after staying healthy and active for the Chiefs in 2015. Brown is definitely hoping to do just that after missing all of last season with an ongoing foot injury. Fleming and Cooper are hoping to show off both playmaking skills and versatility as the Chiefs adjust their roles. Expect all three to be on their best behavior to be the last vet standing on both subpackages and special teams.