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Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride mailbag: Happy New League Year edition

Let’s celebrate with all of your Chiefs questions!

New Year’s Eve 2017 In Times Square Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Welcome to the New League Year edition of Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag! We tried to get Ryan Seacrest to host the festivities, but unfortunately, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns.

Even without Seacrest’s help, I’ll attempt to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs and anything else that interests you. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to E-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

Will we see a big jump from the defense this year?

— Chandler

Thanks for asking, Chandler.

The Chiefs have replaced (or reassigned) all the significant coaches on the defensive staff. I believe Spagnuolo and his staff will be a better fit for the Chiefs than Sutton and his staff. I believe Spagnuolo will be able to improve the effectiveness of some players who didn’t do well under the previous regime (read: Anthony Hitchens, Breeland Speaks and Dorian O’Daniel). I also believe that Spagnuolo will bring a new attitude to the defense — one that is desperately needed.

The Chiefs have moved on from two of their most dynamic and productive defensive players in 2018: Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Steven Nelson is now a Steeler. Tyrann Mathieu and Damien Wilson are now Chiefs. Things are moving at warp factor seven, so by the time you read this, who knows who might be on the defensive roster?

And there is still the NFL Draft in April. The Chiefs will have eight picks — by the time you read this, possibly more — including four of the top 100 picks.

So here’s the short answer to your question, Chandler: the Chiefs defense had better show a big jump in 2019.

I’d hate to think that this was all for nothing.

Are we going to do anything with Sammy Watkins’ contract? He’s currently the 6th highest paid wide receiver.

— Killa

Here’s my bold prediction, Killa: the Chiefs will pay Watkins the money his contract says he is owed this season, give him a playbook and a clean jersey and hope he is available to play in more games than he was in 2018.

As fans, we always hope that there is some magic the general manager can work to restructure a player’s contract. And sometimes there is.

But in Watkins’ case, it just isn’t possible. He was only a given a three-year contract in the first place. That means that the Chiefs didn’t forsee Watkins as having a role on the team over the long term. Instead, they saw him as a player who could produce over a few seasons while the Chiefs coached up young, drafted players who will cost less money.

If Watkins’ contract were longer, it might be possible to restructure to give the Chiefs some cap relief. But it isn’t. And given how much time Watkins spent on the sidelines in 2018, I don’t think there would be a lot of support either inside or outside the organization to give him a longer deal.

However, Watkins has a contract whose guaranteed money is all in the first two years of his contract. There is none in the third year, so if the Chiefs decide to move on from Watkins after 2019, they’ll owe him nothing; they’ll only have to account for the remaining $7 million in dead money from his $21 million signing bonus against the salary cap.

So while Watkins cap situation isn’t... you know... ideal... it just has to be endured.

We’ll have to hope that he can stay healthy — not just so that he can earn his money, but also so that the Chiefs will have a better offense. We saw in 2018 that the Chiefs offense is much more effective when Watkins is on the field.

Thanks for the question!

So Dorsey must have really screwed us. Is it me or are we the only team that has ever had a QB on a rookie deal and be struggling with cap space this much?

— Justin

Thanks for asking, Justin.

I’m not convinced that those two things have that much to do with each other.

Everyone understands that it is easier to sign free agents in March if you don’t have high-priced players (whether they’re quarterbacks or not) sucking up a huge percentage of your salary cap. There are always players who want big money, and when you’re up against the cap, the only way to keep (or get) them is to sign them to backloaded deals. But this ultimately leads to being up against the cap year after year.

So at some point, you have to find a way to break that cycle and start paying as you go. John Dorsey was never able to do that. Every team sometimes has to make a big, backloaded deal, but Dorsey did it far too often. Every team sometimes signs a player for emotional reasons, but Dorsey also did that too often.

Of course, you can also help lift yourself out of that hole by building effectively through the draft — whether it’s at the quarterback position or any other — so that eventually you don’t have to be that guy racing around in March, throwing money around to fill holes on your roster. Instead, you have young players ready to step in.

I think Dorsey is a top-flight evaluator of football talent but fell short as a salary cap manager. Veach, on the other hand, has demonstrated an ability to keep emotion out of his cap decisions and execute smart contracts — and may also have a keen eye for talent. We’ll need more time to say for certain — especially on the talent part of that evaluation — but so far, Veach is doing all right.

Should we be mad that the Chiefs — with Tony Gonzalez, Johnny Robinson and (arguably) Ty Law going in to the Hall Of Fame this year — aren’t going to play in the Hall Of Fame Game?

— William

Thanks for asking, William!

Although it’s a highly visible game — kind of like a primetime game in the regular season — I can’t allow myself to get worked up about whether or not the Chiefs play in an extra preseason game.

And therein lies the problem: it’s an extra preseason game. Sure... it’s one more game for your players to shake off some rust, but also a game where coaches feel some pressure to play their starters more than they would in any other preseason game (because it’s a nationally televised), and therefore expose their frontline players to additional risk of injury.

But isn’t it an honor? Yes, it is — but only in the sense that your team is picked to play in it because former players from your team are being named to the Hall Of Fame. That’s the true honor — having put those players on the field at some point in their careers.

The Hall Of Fame Game looks like an honor, but it’s actually more like a framed certificate to hang on the wall — one that’s in a cheap frame with a sketchy hook on the back of it. So it can easily fall and shatter, and then you end up cutting your foot on the broken glass.

I’m totally fine if the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos get to play in it.

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