By John Tuvey, Executive Editor Chiefs Offseason Needs We continue our team-by-team look at offseason needs with the Chiefs, who made it into the playoffs despite playing much of the season with their backup quarterback at the helm. However, KC's quick and quiet postseason exit illuminates just how many holes this team has to fill. Are Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards up to the task?
Areas of Need: With the five-year extension tight end Tony Gonzalez signed in January, the Chiefs are assured of returning their two biggest offensive weapons in 2007. Outside of that, however, the picture is a whole lot more out of focus. Edwards has indicated that quarterback Trent Green will be back, which is a disservice to both the passing game and Larry Johnson, who will once again face eight- and nine-man fronts as opponents know they have no reason to fear the Chiefs' aerial attack. Damon Huard played well while Green was nursing one of two concussions this season, but he's probably not the answer either and he may look for a starting job elsewhere as a free agent this offseason. Brodie Croyle isn't ready to take over yet, so maybe Green is the best option.
And perhaps things would be better for Green if he had more talent to throw to. Eddie Kennison has been the team's top wideout, which isn't saying much, and no one stepped up to offer him much help this season. The team believes Jeff Webb, a sixth-round pick last April, will offer assistance as the third receiver or maybe even a starterâ€¦ which still leaves the Chiefs looking for some sort of downfield playmaker to spread the field for Gonzalez and Johnson.
Speaking of Johnson, the retirement of tackle Willie Roafâ€”and the very real possibility that guard Will Shields will follow his former teammate into the sunset this offseasonâ€”has turned KC's once-dominant line into a real mess. Brian Waters and Jordan Black are solid on the left side, but sans Roaf and potentially Shields the rest of the group needs at minimum to find a way to stay healthy and better yet an influx of talent. An aging quarterback and a dare-you-to-stop-us running game require a dominant offensive line, and the Chiefs no longer have one.
With the addition of linebacker Derrick Johnson and a whole bunch of free agent signings, the Chiefs defense is no longer just killing time until the offense gets back onto the field. However, there are certainly needs here, starting with some help for ends Jared Allenâ€”a restricted free agent the Chiefs have no intentions of losingâ€”and Tamba Hali, the team's top pick last season. It's possible none of the Chiefs' defensive tackles will be back with the team, as three of their top four are potential free agents and the other is dramatic underachiever Ryan Sims. Expect them to pursue help here via free agency or the draft, or quite possibly both. The secondary sports some big names, most of them on the downslope of their career. KC needs to make room for special teams star Bernard Pollard to play more frequently, and they could also add some depth and young talent to groom for when the likes of Ty Law, Patrick Surtain, and Sammy Knight reach the end of their careers.
Oh, and don't think Lawrence Tynes has job security, either. His inconsistent tenure in Kansas City was highlighted by his short shank in the playoff loss to Indy, so expect the Chiefs to bring in challengers for his gig in training camp, if not before.
Help is on the Way? The Chiefs have enough needs that they may be looking to trade out of the first round in exchange for an additional first-day pick or two. That may change if a defensive tackle like North Carolina State's DeMarcus Tyler remains on the board, though they could also consider settling for Ohio State's Quinn Pitcock, Oklahoma State's Ryan McBean, or Cal's Brandon Mebane later on Day One. The same can be said for the wide receiver position, as LSU's Dwayne Bowe, Tennessee's Robert Meachem, or even South Carolina's Sidney Rice would give KC's passing game a boostâ€”or the team could wait and pursue Fresno State's Paul Williams, Clemson's Chansi Stuckey, or East Carolina's Aundrae Allison a round or two later.
The Chiefs will likely lean heavily on draft day to upgrade their talent level, as at present they're just a projected $7 million under the league's $109 million salary capâ€”barely enough for the rookie class and a couple lower-level signings. That's why stockpiling picks in the middle rounds makes senseâ€”and why Green's health and LJ's fantasy value could hinge on how quickly a lineman like Iowa's Marshal Yanda, Northern Illinois' Doug Free, or Notre Dame's Ryan Harris can transition to the pro game.
It sure seems like a lot of holes to fill for a playoff team, but the Chiefs have long lacked receivers and the aging of their offensive line and secondary have put them in a pinch. With somewhat limited resources, Peterson and Edwards will need to do more than just maintain the status quo this offseason if KC wants to punch a return ticket to the playoffs in 2007.
Wants and Needs: For the past few years the Chiefs have been forced to address their defensive personnel out of sheer necessity; this time around, most of their primary needs fall on the offensive side of the ball. One constant remains the need for a playmaking wide receiver, something the Chiefs haven't had since Andre Rison was burning up the league—unless you consider Derrick Alexander or Eddie Kennison playmakers. With the 2007 draft loaded at wideout, you have to believe the Chiefs will use at least one of their first-day picks to tap into that talent. The other big need in Kansas City is along the offensive line, where they've lost Hall of Famers Willie Roaf and Will Shields in back-to-back offseasons. With no fourth-round pick at their disposal it's tough to see the Chiefs focused exclusively on the offense, so one of the first-day selections is likely ticketed for a defensive tackle or cornerback. Day two selections will focus on depth, again with an eye towards both lines and the secondary.
Potential Selections: There probably won't be an offensive lineman on the board worthy of the 23rd overall pick—Penn State's Levi Brown being long gone and it being a bit early for the likes of Central Michigan's Joe Staley or Tennessee's Arron Sears—so the logical move would be to take one of the premium receivers who should still be available. That group could include USC's Dwayne Jarrett, LSU's Dwayne Bowe, and Tennessee's Robert Meachem. That would leave offensive line upgrades for the second round, where Sears or Texas's Justin Blalock could be waiting. Expect the Chiefs to address the interior of their defensive line on Day One as well, perhaps targeting North Carolina State's Tank Tyler, Florida's talented but troubled Marcus Thomas, or Cal's Brandon Mebane. Day Two should yield secondary depth, and Alabama State's Michael Coe, Georgia Tech's Kenny Scott, and Clemson's C.J. Gaddis all make sense in this range. A later pick could also be directed at more offensive line depth, with the Chiefs looking for a developmental prospect from amongst Missouri Southern's Allen Barbre, TCU's Herb Taylor, and Hawaii's Tala Essera.