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Eric Berry or Dontari Poe? Why potential losses are never as big as we think

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Would losing Dontari Poe or Eric Berry hurt? Absolutely, but such losses aren't likely as damaging as you might expect.

Eric Berry or Dontari Poe. The offseason choices facing the Kansas City Chiefs about the impending free agency of some of their homegrown talent are just two of the tough decisions faced by John Dorsey this offseason. The debates have continued all season long, and in the case of Berry, it's a story that's continued for some time.

A quick look back at recent losses, however, shows that Dorsey is actually much better at preparing for a player's absence than what we might realize. It's easy for fans to get excited about their favorite team stockpiling draft picks in the hopes of a high ceiling for each player, but it's also just as easy to forget that every back-up is one of those same picks waiting to hit their ceiling.

Just how serious of a hole would either Dontari Poe or Eric Berry leave? That remains to be seen, but let's take a look back at other recent losses to survey the damage in retrospect.

Sean Smith, cornerback

At the time: The Chiefs allegedly offered Smith a deal to remain in Kansas City for the right price, but ended up being outbid by their divisional foes, the Oakland Raiders. Smith, the team's most reliable cornerback at the time, served as an excellent veteran opposite the promising Marcus Peters. He was also a helluva steal for John Dorsey after being initially signed to a 3-year, $18M deal in 2013.

The perceived hole: Losing Smith felt like a major loss at the time, although Dorsey had surprised by fans by bringing back several other veterans who were likely slated to leave in most fans' minds — including Jaye Howard, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. By using the franchise tag on Eric Berry and re-signing so many other vets, the Chiefs talented defense was mostly intact.

That said, the secondary was woefully thin and unproven at cornerback. Phillip Gaines was an early pick who showed athleticism in limited play. Steven Nelson had only played on special teams. Losing Smith put greater pressure on Marcus Peters to mature (and stay out of trouble), on the young guys to develop quickly and brought up questions about whether Ron Parker or Jamell Fleming would be forced into more CB duty.

The real damage: Manageable. The Chiefs surely missed Smith from the outset as the younger corners acclimated to the NFL, but they still finished the season tied for most overall interceptions in the league (with the Ravens). Gaines never established himself as a certain No. 2 but the potential is still there, and Nelson definitely looked the part in the nickel slot. Late free agent additions like Kenneth Acker and Terrance Mitchell gave the team meaningful snaps, and sixth round choice D.J. White could impress down the road.

The Chiefs allowed far too many first downs through the air (23rd in the NFL) and passing yards in general (18th), but for a secondary that is so young, that's to be expected. When you consider Gaines and Nelson basically just finished their first full year and you see the leap Peters made in reliability in his second season, the future is bright, and the team did a nice job making up for the loss of Smith.

Rodney Hudson, center

At the time: Scott Pioli had a vision for what Rodney Hudson could bring when he drafted the former Florida State lineman in the second round in 2011, and Hudson eventually blossomed into a bright young center at the right time. He also hit free agency at the perfect point when the Oakland Raiders were throwing around money like a Petey Pablo video and needed to replace the turnstile known as Stefen Wisniewski. His intelligence and physical style made him the best available center and the Raiders pounced with an incredible 5-year, $44.5 million deal.

The perceived hole: Fairly large. In March, the only center on the Chiefs roster that offseason was Eric Kush. In May, they added Mitch Morse. Many fans were frustrated with the lack of continuity along the offensive front and it was hard to picture the surprise pick of Morse or the untested Kush as the answer in the middle. For the sake of perspective, Ben Grubbs seemed the surest thing along the offensive line that offseason.

The real damage: Very little. Hudson has turned into a Pro Bowl player for the Oakland Raiders, who have slowly turned their offensive line from one of the league's worst into one of its best (they allowed the least sacks in the NFL last season). That said, the price to keep Hudson was so steep that it simply didn't make sense for the Chiefs to even try to come close to that number. Meanwhile, Morse was hailed as the league's best rookie center during his freshman year and he was solid this year as well — coming on strong toward season's end. The Chiefs should be set in the middle with an above average center for quite some time.