The locker room run-in between rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and running back Thomas Jones has placed a negative spotlight for a moment on the Kansas City Chiefs training camp. But the injury itself might continue to shine a light on the future of Dwayne Bowe, depending on how soon the rookie comes back and can make a positive on-field contribution.
The 2011 regular season is Bowe’s contract year and the wideout is undoubtedly Matt Cassel’s No. 1 option in the passing game for the Chiefs. There’s no denying his talent and the chemistry he developed last season with Cassel, but questions have also been raised about Bowe’s long-term status with the team. Will the Chiefs lock up Bowe for the duration of his playing career? That commitment remains to be seen.
It’s been noted, even here, that Baldwin and Steve Breaston are both locked up for the Chiefs with five-year deals. Tony Moeaki is another good receiving option locked up in his rookie deal. Would the Chiefs really give three wide receivers long-term commitments when the team’s identity is centered around Jamaal Charles? Talented or not, if Baldwin develops at a good pace, would the Chiefs then cut ties with Bowe to spend money elsewhere?
Chances are the Chiefs would sign Bowe anyway this offseason with another solid year under his belt. But if there were any questions regarding Bowe’s status, those should be quelled given Baldwin’s injury. He’s already back on the sidelines in practice, but his thumb was completely wrapped tight and it’s clear it’s going to be a couple weeks before he’s totally ready once again. Even then, the thumb might not be fully healed.
Baldwin is already losing important time on the field in terms of practice and reps in a rookie preseason already shortened enough as it is. Bowe’s value will be maximized this year as the Chiefs might not fully see what it is Baldwin is capable of. With that level of insecurity, it might ensure Bowe’s long-term signing all the more. Either way, it’s likely the Chiefs will enjoy the current trio of receivers for the next few years.