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Chiefs mailbag: Cap casualties, favorite players, the importance of s’mores

This is the time of year that tests the mettle of everyone. A time of darkness and despair. A time ... when there’s no football news.

The really horrible thing about this time of year is that, with nothing new to talk about, we tend to start devouring one another in repetitive arguments about a controversial issue. In previous offseasons, it was the Alex Smith Wars. This offseason, it appears to be the OTA Wars (whether players can miss OTA’s without being awful people, as far as I can tell).

These arguments are useless, wearying, and overall awful to participate in. And so, like the last few offseasons, I shall attempt to distract us with mailbags as often as possible. Feel free to send them to me on Twitter (@RealMNchiefsfan), and if I don’t use it, well, step your game up and try again!

This is, indeed, a basic question. Of course, there are MANY ways to determine “top 5.” Do we mean best players? Do we mean most successful players? Do we mean my personal favorite?

The problem with picking the “best” players is that I’ve never reviewed film for many, many all-time Chiefs greats. And so I’d be making the call based on stats and secondhand opinions, which I hate doing. As far as most successful goes, that kind of depends on what you mean by successful (and really, we’d end up choosing mostly guys from back in the day when they won the Super Bowl).

So I’m forced to go with my all time favorites. Aw nuts. Those of you who are older than me, sorry guys, this list isn’t gonna include players I never watched. We’ve covered some of this before, but it’s always fun to walk through lists like this.

Number 5: Tony Gonzalez

It’s not like I need to make a case for Tony’s greatness here. You all get it. I just remember that year after year after year, no matter how bad the team got (and at times, it was really stinking bad), you could always count on Tony G being phenomenal. Anything that came remotely close to him was going to be caught, and it was never even a question.

Remember 2004? The team as a whole took a step back that season, but the offense, with Tony G as one of the centerpieces, was incredible. Tony caught 102 passes that year for 1,258 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s just absurd.

When people call a player a guy who “changed a position,” they’re usually exaggerating. But Tony was a guy who really DID change the way people viewed tight ends (no, Shannon Sharpe didn’t and I will fight you to the death on this), and now we’re in a league where TE has become arguably more important than WR.

Number 4: Derrick Thomas

I know for many Chiefs fans it’ll be heresy having Thomas this low. But the thing is this: I was awfully young for a lot of DT’s dominant years (I was born in ‘85), so it’s simply a matter of what I knew.

However, despite my youth, it was always a blast watching DT fly around the edge. Of course, I was too ignorant about football to understand how rare DT’s bend was, or his remarkable first step, or that his motor was just ridiculous. All I knew is that it seemed like every time the other team’s quarterback dropped back, he was hitting him or almost hitting him.

I was too young to know much about DT’s personality (apparently it was planet-sized), but much like Tony G, his greatness made me love him.

Number 3: Derrick Johnson

It was a FIGHT for me to decide whether DJ or Tamba should make this list (I couldn’t bump the other guys I have on here). Tamba is everything I want in a player. He’s an overachiever who made it based on his unbelievable technique and sheer will. Make no mistake, I love that guy. Eric Berry deserves to be here too (and likely will be one day soon, just not QUITE yet).

But DJ is in a class by himself for me. I was so psyched when he fell to the Chiefs. Then, as he flashed big-play ability but was a bit consistent, I grew concerned. Then... well, you all know the story. He gets “benched,” and responds by turning into a fire-breathing, world-destroying ILB who is good at EVERYTHING. Absolutely everything.

You need a guy to drop into zone coverage as something of a robber and knock down/pick off passes? DJ can do that. Need a guy to competently drop into man on a RB or TE? DJ can do that. Need someone to plug a gap and force a RB to redirect? DJ can do that. Need someone to blitz and get to the QB quickly? DJ can do that. Need someone to drop out of the freaking sky and tackle a stunned RB way behind the line of scrimmage? DJ can do that better than literally anyone in the league.

Possibly the most DJ moment of all time? When he almost single-handedly stopped a Raiders attempt to score a TD when it was 1st and goal on the 5-yard-line.

DJ is just the greatest. Except for these last two guys.

Number 2: Willie Roaf

I’ve talked about this before, but Big Willie will always have a special place in my heart. I will never, ever forget watching him move slowly to the huddle, move slowly to the line, almost painfully get into his stance... and then just destroy the guy in front of him. Snap after snap after snap.

It didn’t matter who was lined up against him. It didn’t matter what the play call was. It didn’t matter what type of block he was being asked to execute. Roaf just dominated the guy in front of him. He’d get his hands on the opponent and it was just... over. Absolutely over.

Roaf has grown so large in my memory that I’m quite certain I must be exaggerating his greatness just a bit. I’m sure he didn’t win literally EVERY snap. But man, it sure felt like it. I can’t find tape of his playing days, but I’d be willing to bet anything that his loss percentage was under four percent. That dude was a beast, and in my mind he’ll always be 10 feet tall squashing jokers... then almost limping back to the huddle.

Number 1: Jamaal Charles

Look, I know. I know, OK? I get it. I don’t want to talk about everything that’s happened in the last few months. I just don’t. Maybe I’ll process it more and Jamaal will fall off this list at some point. But not today.

Here’s what I’ll say about Jamaal:

  1. He was one of the greatest players at any position I’ve ever seen. I’m not exaggerating.
  2. He seemed to work very hard and was a very team first player.
  3. He was a genuinely nice guy in the community.

But beyond all those things, there was something legitimately DIFFERENT about watching Charles play football. Especially if you were lucky enough to watch him live. I will never forget his performance against the Seahawks in 2014 at Arrowhead. He rushed for 159 yards on just 20 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns, yet somehow even those gaudy stats understate how incredible he was that day.

Watching Charles glide (you could never call what he did “running”) and cut and twist away from grasping arms, watching him find holes that didn’t seem to exist and seemingly warp through them, watching him go from zero to fastest guy on the field in a single breath... man, there was nothing like it in football. Absolutely nothing.

S’more, and it’s not close. Any fool can learn to steer a canoe to a pretty passable level. But making the perfect s’more? Now that takes skill and (more importantly) patience.

The key to a perfect s’more is to get it melty without REALLY burning it. We all know this. Yet all too often we’re content to just let it start on fire, and we’ll put up with some charred ‘mallow for the sake of expediency.

The perfect s’more? Now that’s browned on the outside, with a paper-thin layer of crispiness on the outside, all goo on the inside. It’s a tough balancing act between done enough (so everything is gooey on the inside) and too done (where you’ve got a bunch of black, burnt marshmallow on your cracker).

This is a key camping skill, and one that very few people get right.

My understanding is that continuity and teamwork is just too important along the offensive line for this to work. In other words, you need to know the job of each guy along the line, not just your job.

On the other hand, as a defensive lineman you are often a bit on an island with your assignment. Of course, that’s not always the case (stunts/twists involve cooperating with other players), but generally speaking you’re doing your own thing against the opposing lineman.

Another reason (and this is just a guess, mind you) is that offensive linemen shouldn’t get quite as gassed as defensive linemen in pass protection. The action of sliding your feet and responding to a pass rusher is quite a bit different than firing off at the snap and attempting to shove/run/spin/duck around a guy in your way. Basic law of combat: it’s easier to defend than attack.

I think when you combine those two things, the benefit of taking out an OL for a breather is outweighed by the detriment.

I want you to write a “BBQ for dummies without the right equipment” edition. How can I, a dude who knows nothing about doing BBQ and possesses nothing but common kitchen utensils/potware, make some good BBQ?

I trust you can make this happen.

I don’t think the Chiefs have a thousand yard rusher this year. I think Kareem Hunt does well enough to force at least a third of the carries for him, if not something near half.

Now, the logical next step would be to ask, “if he does so well, why wouldn’t he get to a thousand yards?” Well, the thing is this: Spencer Ware is a really, really good running back guys. Down the stretch he didn’t get used much (which I found wildly frustrating) and seemed to be nicked up, but if you go back and watch the first half of the season he was one of the best players on the field consistently.

I think Hunt (and a now-slimmed-down West, who hopefully will go to just being a speed guy and is a very good receiver out of the backfield) will allow the Chiefs to rest Ware enough to keep him from getting nicked up as much, but he’s still absolutely a guy you want getting plenty of touches.

So overall, I think you see a legitimate running back by committee program in Kansas City. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the rushing game was markedly better than it was last season, but I think it’ll get split up enough that no one guy will break a thousand yards. I reserve the right to change my mind if Hunt looks worse or better than I expect during preseason.

Get out.

All right, all right, kidding aside... it wouldn’t shock me. Especially after how things went down with Jeremy Maclin. I like Colquitt. He’s a very good punter, and he’s also a really fun dude who seems to add a lot to the locker room.

That said... is there enough of a difference between an average punter and a very good punter to justify a cap hit difference of $3 million bucks or so? I don’t know. And clearly, being popular and a good locker room presence isn’t going to save you.

The thing I think that saves Colquitt is that his cap hit is ONLY for this season. With the Maclin cut, the Chiefs now have a decent amount of space in 2017. The year everyone is worried about is next year, where the Chiefs (per Over The Cap) are actually above the cap but a small amount already with the contracts they’ve got in place (that’s going to be easily remedied, but we’ll get to that next).

So cutting Colquitt doesn’t really do much for them this year, barring the desire to bring in some kind of bigger name that forces them to scrap for every penny. I think he’s safe due to the single year left.

I’d name one, but there are way more than that if we’re being perfectly honest with ourselves. I’m going to put aside my fanhood for a moment and look at this totally objectively. First, here’s everyone who could save the Chiefs at least a decent amount of money in 2018 that are sort of realistic options to cut in one guy’s opinion in one hypothetical situation or another (so no Ron Parker, Eric Fisher, Travis Kelce, or Mitch Schwartz).

Alex Smith: Potential cap savings of $17 million.

Tamba Hali: Potential cap savings of $7 million.

Dee Ford: Potential cap savings of $8.7 million (they just picked up this option, but hear me out in a minute).

Derrick Johnson: Potential cap savings of $8 million.

Allen Bailey: Potential cap savings of $6 million.

Justin Houston: Potential cap savings of $7.9 million (this is with a giant “IF he gets hurt badly again” asterisk after it)

Jah Reid: Potential cap savings of $3.2 million.

I just can’t picture a scenario in which the Chiefs hang on to Tamba, Ford, and Houston for another year at their respective prices. Houston, unless he gets hurt again (and depending on the nature of the injury that’s still a coin flip), is untouchable as one of the best five defensive players in the NFL. That leaves Tamba and Ford.

Tamba was still productive on a snap count last year, while Ford really came around as a pass rusher from the LOLB spot. The problem is that when Houston returned and reclaimed his spot, Ford wasn’t able to replicate his success rushing the passer from the right side. Now, could that have been due to a nagging hamstring? Absolutely. And given the improvements we saw in Ford this year from the left side, there’s some reason to be optimistic he can do the same from the right side.

Regardless of how everything goes, I just can’t see the Chiefs picking Tamba in 2018 over $7 million bucks in cap room barring Ford disappointing this year and the Chiefs choosing to part ways with him (which, given that none of his 2018 year is guaranteed, could easily happen). And even then, if a young guy steps up it’s just hard to see them paying big bucks to a guy who isn’t on the field more than half the time.

With regards to DJ, I think it depends on how he plays. He looked fine last year on film until his injury. If he plays out the year without any slippage I can easily see him retaining him regardless of his relatively expensive price tag. He’s just so crucial to that front seven, both as a playmaker and as a guy who helps everyone else get lined up and who identifies what offenses are doing.

With Alex, it’s pretty simple: unless you think Mahomes will be terrible, you save $17 million dollars. You just do. That’s a crap ton of cap savings. If Mahomes can play at any level of competency, you save that kind of money. I like Alex more than many, but he’s not THAT far above average that you’re torpedoing your season by letting him walk unless your next guy up is below average.

Jah Reid is simple in my opinion. I like his tape at guard (limited as it is) and don’t like it at all at swing tackle. You can find a guy who can play swing tackle at the same level for markedly less money.

Allen Bailey... that’s a tough one. The defensive line isn’t exactly deep at this point in proven players. BUT there are plenty of young guys with potential. $6 million bucks is a lot of money. So let’s say Chris Jones keeps beasting, RNR takes a step forward and Kpassagnon develops quickly (not out of the question, just watch his Senior Bowl tape)... is it worth keeping a guy like Bailey around unless he has a great year in 2017? I like Bailey a lot, but there are savings to be had there.

The good news? With Alex Smith, Jah Reid and either Ford or Hali getting gone (all of which are, in my opinion, near certainties), the Chiefs have saved themselves roughly $27-28 million bucks already and are now well below the cap in 2018. So it really doesn’t need to get THAT bloody for them to be fine (that’s the reason it’s such a big deal to have a QB on a cheap contract, by the way. The savings are enormous).

Whoa, I think we’ve covered enough ground for one day. We’ll get back to this soon. In the meantime, I have some Chris Conley film to watch.

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