After starting the Andy Reid era with nine consecutive wins, the memories of their two win 2012 season were far off in the distance. However, a tougher second half schedule exploited the Chiefs’ weaknesses leading to five losses and a wild card berth instead of a division championship. Their performance in the wild card round was an exact microcosm of the 2013 season, after getting off to a great start and building a huge lead, Kansas City collapsed, eventually losing 45-44 to the Colts.
Despite both second half collapses there is plenty of reason for optimism after Reid’s first season. The team bought into his scheme and Alex Smith resurrected his career, but now comes the part that Reid never figured out in Philadelphia, how do you go from playoff team to Super Bowl champion? In order to take that next step, the Chiefs will need to upgrade these three positions.
Potential Cap Casualties
Kansas City will enter the offseason with just under $10 million in cap space (per overthecap.com). That’s not a ton of money to play with, but it provides them enough wiggle room to make the necessary upgrades.
– The Chiefs started their offseason maneuvering when they released disappointing cornerback, Dunta Robinson. Signed to a three year deal during last year’s free agent period, releasing Robinson cleared over $3 million in cap space.
– Wide receiver, Donnie Avery is another candidate to be released. His release would only create about $1.3 million in space, but Avery was a non-factor in 2013 and is most likely going to be replaced anyway. His -8.8 overall grade ranked 105th out of 111 graded wide receivers, surely the Chiefs are seeking an upgrade.
– It seems doubtful that Kansas City would release another cornerback after cutting Robinson, but Brandon Flowers struggled to live up to his contract in 2013. His -9.8 coverage grade was worst on the team and 96th out of 110 graded cornerbacks. Releasing Flowers would create $3.5 million in cap space.
Last year the Chiefs opened up the vault to retain Dwayne Bowe and the receiver responded by tallying his lowest overall grade since 2009. If Bowe is going to produce anywhere near the level Kansas City hopes he can, they desperately need to pair him with a viable threat at the other receiver spot. We already mentioned how poorly Avery played and multi-purpose weapon, Dexter McCluster is a free agent. That would leave only Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins at receiver, neither of which projects to be a difference maker.
Free Agent Fix: Without the ability to break the bank, Kansas City will hope that a player like Golden Tate will be affordable. Tate is an ideal fit for Reid’s west coast offense, where his run after the catch ability can be displayed. He forced a league high 21 missed tackles among wide receivers and his 7.9 yards after reception was the highest among receivers with at least 15 receptions. Tate is tailor made for a quarterback like Smith, who prefers to throw short and allow his receivers to excel after the catch.
Ironically, the top two guards on the free agent market both played right guard for the Chiefs in 2013. Opening day starter, Jon Asamoah started the first eleven weeks of the year and performed well. His +4.6 pass blocking grade ranked him 16th among guards and he’s finished in the Top 10 in Pass Blocking Efficiency two of the last three seasons. Despite Asamoah’s successes, he lost his job to Geoff Schwartz in week 12 after a shoulder injury. Schwartz was able to match Asamoah in pass blocking and provided an improvement in the run game. The 28 year old Schwartz was playing on a one year contract and certainly earned himself some money this offseason.
Free Agent Fix: It is hard to imagine the Chiefs filling this hole in free agency and not pursuing one of the two players who started for them last year. Both Asamoah and Schwartz would more than solidify the position and would bring familiarity of the system with them. If neither player is retained, Kansas City will most likely wait until the draft to fill this position.
Kendrick Lewis started every game at safety for the Chiefs in 2013 and was an average performer, but like many of the Kansas City defenders he played his worst late in the year. The lasting image of the 2013 season for Lewis will be Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton getting behind him for the game winning touchdown in the wild card game. Lewis truly saved his worst for last; his three lowest grades of the year came in his final three games. His -2.8 overall grade ranked him 52nd among safeties, not horrible, but Kansas City will be seeking a replacement.
Free Agent Fix: Kansas City has one of the best “in the box” safeties in the NFL, Eric Berry, so they will be looking add a safety that will compliment his unique skills. Berry lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage 69.7% of the time, third most in the NFL, so a safety that excels lining up deep makes the most sense. While Jairus Byrd is the ideal fit, he will probably be too expensive. Mike Mitchell of the Panthers would make a lot of sense. He lined up deep 77.3% and had a +3.5 coverage grade. Mitchell is also an excellent blitzer, generating 11 total pressures, including four sacks, on just 23 pass rushes, which would give Bob Sutton another toy to play with. Another name to remember is Nate Allen, who was an Andy Reid draft pick in Philadelphia.
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