Projected Lineups: Kansas City Chiefs
With our Projected Lineups series continuing through the draft order and now into the 2013 playoff teams, we arrive in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ pre-bye 9-0 record ended up propelling them into the playoffs as a wild card, but their 2-5 second half and one-and-done postseason left some questions to answer.
With a receiving weapons shortage being a familiar issue and the expected shuffling on the offensive line adding to the concern, the offense has work to do. Defensively still strong, though, few parts will be needed on that side of the ball to keep up the standard set in 2013.
Here’s where the lineups stand with UFAs removed as we head toward the start of free agency:
– Player markers are colored per class on a five-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– KC’s entrenched studs on either side of the ball, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and halfback Jamaal Charles, have vastly different surroundings as far as the cast lining up alongside them. While Johnson sees a lot of green – and some potential blue – in the men making up his front line, Charles has a wall of yellow and orange as his aid and a ‘do enough’ QB to share the backfield with.
– Dontari Poe’s leap from a rookie struggling to find form in 2012 to a run-swallowing terror on the nose in 2013 was remarkable and seems to have finally settled the point position for the KC D. The Poe effect was a positive one on free agent-to-be Tyson Jackson who enjoyed his best season as a run defender and, with Mike Devito plugged into Glenn Dorsey’s vacated spot on the other side, the Chief D-line performed as one of the season’s best against the ground game.
– With potential free agent losses along the O-line threatening to steal away a pair of starters (well, three since Asamoah and Schwartz split the season), much of the strength in that group could be stripped away. If Albert is let go and 2013’s top pick Eric Fisher slides over to the left, not only will they be stepping down from a Top-10 pass protecting vet to a sophomore who ended among the 10 lowest graded tackles in that regard, but they’ll also create a fully upset right side. Donald Stephenson saw time at both tackle spots last year and came around a bit as playing time became regular, but had his lone green-graded day in pass blocking while on the left.
– As Eric Berry stepped his play up to the next level – finishing with the third-highest coverage grade (+12.5) among safeties, strong Tackling Efficiency numbers in both phases, and 17 total pressures as a blitzer – the high spot next to him on the defense’s last line is in flux. Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps are both set to become free agents, as is Husain Abdullah, and replacing the 2000+ snaps they contributed will be a focus for the offseason.
2014 Cap Situation
The Chiefs’ cap space number of right around $3M (per overthecap.com) has them in the league’s last third so they’ll need to be frugal while shopping for upgrades and replacements and should be exploring any restructure opportunities that may exist.
The top players representing potential cap savings happen to be some of the anchors of the roster – some of them even outperforming sizable deals — so while its money well spent, the options for freeing up spending space are limited. Saying goodbye to players like Chase Daniel, Donnie Avery and Anthony Fasano could get back another $3.7M, but any larger chunk would cost a starter the team is unlikely to part with. Perhaps the blossoming Reid-Smith relationship could lead to Smith’s $8M cap number being brought down with an extension in this, his final year of a three-year contract.
Opportunities from the Roster
Defensive end Allen Bailey could inherit Tyson Jackson’s spot and, based on the 453 snaps he put in as part of last season’s rotation, could be an ever-valuable younger, cheaper plan that offers similar production. Likewise, tight end Travis Kelce, if back healthy from knee surgery, might work into the second receiving option the team has lacked. A long way to get there, but there’s a need for that kind of fit and Kelce’s game is supposed to be of that mold. That said, the door is still open for a receiver, any receiver, to step up opposite Dwayne Bowe and, with Dexter McCluster a free agent, the slot job is up for grabs as well. Could A.J. Jenkins carve out a home? Based on his track record the smart money would say otherwise — loudly — but there was a brief moment of shine late in the year and maybe this second chance is one that pays off.
Projected lineups by team:
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