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The Ravens mark the third pro team Williams has played for during an interesting career since being drafted fifth overall in 1999 by the New Orleans Saints.
Williams has shown he still has flashes of ability left in the gas tank after rushing for for 673 yards last year for the Dolphins, and averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry. During the 2009 season Williams rushed for 1121 yards, the fifth time in his career that he passed the 1000 yard mark in a season.
If Williams can stay healthy he will be a valuable asset to the Ravens offense and should improve upon the 380 rushing yards that McGahee provided Baltimore with last season.
The off-season hasn't exactly gone as many expected for the Buffalo Bills. However, that hasn't stopped Peter King from noticing that the tides may be turning for a franchise nonetheless -- a strange feeling to hear about positive momentum coming from a team that has been in the AFC East basement for the last several years.
Last season did feel like a turning point, as Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense kept the team close late in several games that could have went either way (the Chiefs being one of those nail-biters). Stevie Johnson gave Fitzpatrick a great receiving target, and Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish are also present. Fred Jackson nearly ran for 1,000 yards and the presence of C.J. Spiller should be felt at some point -- there's simply too much talent there to not make a difference.
But it was the defense that hurt the bills so often, which is why Buddy Nix went all out on defense in the draft. He grabbed Marcell Dareus with the third overall selection and also hit up Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard to give the team players on all three levels on defense who can come in and start. It was the beginning of a shake-up that also saw the imports of Nick Barnett and Drayton Florence and the loss of last year's top two tacklers, Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner.
Yet King still believes that despite some early injuries in camp (mild) and the lack of major free agent additions, the Bills will be better than last season. He also notes via Twitter than Shawne Merriman says he's back, which if he can ever get back to his prime form with the Chargers, that would become the major defensive addition the Bills could use in the pass rush. Certainly the Bills would become an underdog everyone would root for in a division that's so loaded by polarizing teams like the Patriots and Jets. Whether or not the Bills can join those ranks and challenge for a playoff spot is still to be tested. King, at least, seems to think they'll be better than last year.
In a move that’s difficult to tell (at least from the slant of the Chicago Tribune writer) whether it’s all about a contract or not, Matt Forte is apparently willing to sit out the NFL preseason schedule in hopes of securing a new contract, much the same as Chris Johnson and DeSean Jackson from the Titans and Eagles respectively. Who knows if such moves will work, but that’s good news for the rest of the offensive backfield trying to make the team.
Forte realizes as he’s in the final year of his rookie deal, his $550K payday isn’t going to set him up for life. He’s on the edge of that first monster contract and yet he also has to be careful with a year to play until he gets it. With an attitude that’s looking out for his own interests, the Bears might not be too thrilled with Forte’s “I’m out to get mine” mindset and play chicken.
For Forte, it’s understandable to an extent. The mess of Soldier Field seems the primary focus of Tribune writer Brad Biggs, even though the article is supposed to be about Forte’s holdout. The two are connected given Forte (or any Bear for that matter) doesn’t want to run on the horrible playing surface in Chicago’s home stadium. At the same time, that doesn’t negate Forte’s frustrating attitude.
For a team that ranked 30th in total offense, losing Forte in practice isn’t going to help matters. But it’s as not as if the Bears don’t have some options. Steady veterans like Chester Taylor and Marion Barber are both in house, so Forte is picking a ridiculous time to make a fuss. If the Bears were weak at the position, he’d have some leverage, but despite last year’s rebound from a weak 2009, Forte still isn’t in a position to break the bank.
And the last major domino falls in the NFL free agent market. Sure, other wide receivers are available, but Derrick Mason is the last prominent target who could really provide a major difference in a team’s passing game. By joining the New York Jets, Mason finds a contender for the Super Bowl as well as some familiar faces with head coach Rex Ryan and defensive players like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. However, it’s Mark Sanchez who will benefit most from the signing.
The Jets already brought in a dynamic target for Sanchez, but as a developing quarterback, he can’t have enough safe targets. Mason adds yet another dependable target who has been perhaps the most unheralded receiver in the league in the last 10 years. Last season, he hauled in 800+ yards and 7 touchdowns, even at 36 years old.
Mason chose the Jets over the Ravens at this stage, and it’s clear the Ravens are ready to move on from Mason, cutting him earlier this off-season to lower his salary. There’s no doubt, however, that when Mason retires, Baltimore would do well to retire his number and celebrate him for the incredible wideout he’s been for the last six years with the team — or else the Titans might come in and lay claim.
As the NFL free agency signing period quiets down to the typical preseason ebb and flow of years past instead of the absolute circus of the first week, some players are still available for teams looking for amazingly cheap products left on shelves after some paid top dollar. Zeroing in on some of the defensive leftovers, Pro Football Focus has Matt Roth as one of the top linebackers left and targets the Kansas City Chiefs as the primary landing spot.
The reason is that the Chiefs still have yet to solidify the opposite side from Tamba Hali. Andy Studebaker is a capable fill-in and spot starter and could possibly be the answer — but that’s not a certainty by any means. Justin Houston just signed and will be a project in his first year at the NFL level given his lack of conditioning early on. He also needs to learn the Crennel defense.
PFF’s Khaled Elsayed describes the lack of action on Roth as surprising, but that could play right into Scott Pioli’s hands. “It really has been a surprise to see such a small market for Roth. He’s excelled when given a chance over the past three years, and has a proven ability to get to the pass rusher. He’s pretty handy playing the run as well.”
As Elsayed describes the Chiefs as the ideal spot, he says, “They can’t rely on Justin Houston or Andy Studebaker, and they haven’t made enough moves to keep ahead of the rest of the AFC West. They need to get better.”
If Roth is unhappy with his choices, he could sign a one-year deal to re-enter the market next year, something that might be good for both the Chiefs and Roth. He could sign and establish his value in a year where there won’t be nearly as much market oversaturation and the Chiefs have a year to develop Houston and take a closer look at Studebaker. As a bonus, Roth is also versatile enough to spell at defensive end if necessary.
The Oakland Raiders grieved quickly and then moved on. Last year, Zach Miller led the Raiders with 60 catches, and it was very clear that he was the most reliable target for Jason Campbell or whoever else was under center for the Raiders. Now that he’s taken his act to Seattle, the Raiders moved quickly to replace him with another reliable target in Kevin Boss.
The former New York Giant came out of nowhere to establish himself in 2008 during the Giants magnificent 12-4 run. As a fifth round choice, Boss was another gem found late in the draft and he continued to display strong hands for Eli Manning in the two seasons since. Now with the Raiders, he will provide the same thing for either Campbell or the newly signed Trent Edwards.
Boss receives a four-year, $16 million according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Last year, Boss only had 35 catches, but he made the most of it with 531 receiving yards.
Last year, defensive end/outside linebacker Matt Roth put up 86 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year for the Cleveland Browns. He was also called the best defensive player on the team by head coach Eric Mangini. However, he's just now getting some major interest his way given the overly crowded free agent market. Welcome to the zany 2011 NFL off-season.
After the furor of the last week, Roth remains standing as the best available free agent on the market -- good news for teams still looking to upgrade their pass rush with a solid two-way player who has experience at both OLB and DE. Roth will turn 29 this season in October, so he still has a few productive years left, but he's shown the ability to stop the run or rush the passer throughout his career with 20 career sacks and 6 forced fumbles.
ProFootballWeekly.com is reporting that the Cardinals and Saints and Broncos are among the teams showing interest in Roth right now, and with the ability for players who sign free agent contracts to now practice, you can expect Roth to move quickly now that teams are in on him. Whoever signs him will be getting a player who can help immediately and turn a weakness into a position that's covered enough. In Denver, he would be particularly valuable on a defense seeking to reinvent itself.
David Garrard has weeks to heal before the regular season even begins, so it seems ridiculous to even project that Blaine Gabbert could be the starting quarterback from the outset of the season. But with the reports that Garrard was limping off of the field today before being taken away on a cart, Jags fans have to be glad, at the very least, that they have another respected option in house.
Garrard is coming off of the best seasons of his career, so even with the first round trade that brought in Gabbert in April’s NFL Draft, he should still feel comfortable as the starter for the Jags. In 2010, Garrard looked as sharp as ever with a 90.3 passer rating backed up by 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and another 5 rushing TDs. Better yet was a career-high completion percentage of 64.5.
But you need to be two-deep at the quarterback position in the NFL today, unless you’re lucky like the Colts seem to be every year with Peyton Manning’s health. Last year, the Bears weakness was revealed after Jay Cutler went down. Other teams are struggling to even find one quarterback (Washington, Miami), yet the Jags have a first-round pick waiting in the wings, thanks to the trade maneuvering of Gene Smith.
The obvious best case scenario is for Garrard to get healthy and mentor Gabbert, but it’s nice to have a decent option in house. And Gabbert is now reminded of the need to be as ready as possible despite just starting his rookie season.
Two of the more high-profile free agent targets left are visiting new teams today in the hopes of finding the right home for next season. After a frenzy of an NFL free agency signing period, it’s amazing that both Derrick Mason and Braylon Edwards are left standing, but that’s exactly what the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers are in a position to change if both parties like what they see.
It’s hard to imagine the Baltimore Ravens career leader in catches and yards leaving for another team, but the Ravens have opened the door for Mason to leave. While they’ve said they’ll welcome back the 37-year-old at a lower salary, Mason also has this one chance for another decent payday at the twilight portion of his career, so it’s not surprising to see him shopping around.
With the Jets, he would be paired with several former Ravens, including head coach Rex Ryan, safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker Bart Scott. It’s also clear that Mason has plenty left in the tank — last season he had over 800 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. It’d be a nice addition for the Jets as well given that Mark Sanchez is still a work in progress at quarterback. Pairing a steady veteran to go with Santonio Holmes is a nice off-season haul.
As for Edwards, he could certainly use a change of scenery, but he needs to make nice with some team where the spotlight won’t be as bright. San Francisco always receives the lion’s share of media attention on the West Coast along with the Raiders, so it’s not exactly the best media scenario, especially given the recent bar fight incident.
Still Edwards is a dynamic receiver with several good years ahead of him, and the 49ers are without Michael Crabtree for several weeks and hope to break in a rookie quarterback soon enough with Colin Kaepernick. Alex Smith is currently at the helm, but the offensive mind of Jim Harbaugh is going to want to open things up, and Edwards on the outside would do wonders for his ability to make good on that promise.
Wherever he goes, Edwards needs to just put his head down, put in the reps and allow his talent to do the speaking for him. And when he’s off the field, he needs to either make new friends or develop a chess habit. It’s frustrating to watch such a talent get lost in the media shuffle over his off-the-field issues.
The Raiders are moving rather quickly to fill a hole that they most certainly will feel even if they end up signing a replacement soon enough. With Zach Miller’s departure to the Seattle Seahawks, the Raiders are without their best pass catching option for the quarterback tandem of Jason Campbell and Trent Edwards. His 60 catches and five touchdowns last year were impressive for a tight end, and they will be hard numbers to replace for anyone.
Enter Kevin Boss, who arrived in Oakland for a visit and physical today and who has a prime opportunity to carve out his own niche on a team searching for some help among its receiving corps. Boss is a nice replacement with 35 catches for 531 yards last season and the same amount of touchdowns. That 15+ yards/catch is a fantastic number for a tight end and shows that Boss has the ability to gain significant yards after the catch with his 6-6 frame.
Even with Boss, Oakland will still miss Miller to some degree, but Boss isn’t a bad name to bring in. Bigger holes, however, still need to be addressed in the wide receiver corps and, more importantly, along the offensive front.
This cannot be the way Aubrayo Franklin saw his off-season unfolding. After all, he plays the pivotal position in a defense ran by almost half of the NFL as the defensive tackle in a 3-4 scheme. It’s a golden position with not enough bodies and plenty of need, and that should have equaled a lot of attention and a nice payday for the 49er. Instead, he might be going home with a new coach and scheme.
Many believed the Kansas City Chiefs were the destination du jour for Franklin’s talents given the hole in the defensive line and the money they had to spend. Instead, Franklin is forced to look elsewhere since the Chiefs signed Kelly Gregg and apparently haven’t listened to the masses. Scott Pioli could care less what everyone else wants him to do — if he has a plan, he’s going to execute it regardless of public opinion in the moment.
Thus, Franklin is without the suitors everyone predicted. It’s surprising and might reveal that internal scouting reports on Franklin aren’t nearly as good as those circulating in the media. It’s hard to believe the disparity between perception and reality is that wide, but there’s a reason he’s unsigned at this point and forced to turn home. We will know more in the next 24 hours whether even his old team wants him anymore.
The Chiefs lost Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith so far in free agency and have already filled one of those holes by signing former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle, Kelly Gregg. If the Chiefs were to add a player like Warren, it would definitely help upgrade a defensive line that was looking a little weak after losing both Edwards and Smith.
Warren has already visited the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos and left both of those teams without signing a contract. That's good news for Chiefs fans that have been waiting for more action from the Chiefs front office. Bringing in veteran defensive lineman like Gregg and Warren would upgrade the team for the immediate future, and provide veteran leadership for the young defensive lineman that the Chiefs need to count on next season and beyond. Jerrel Powe, Allen Bailey, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey would benefit from this addition.
It's just a scheduled visit for right now and nothing is official. But Warren has to like what the Chiefs offer and his familiarity with Scott Pioli is an added benefit for the Chiefs pursuit of his services.
A defensive line rotation of Jackson, Dorsey, Gilberry, Gregg, Powe, Bailey and Warren would look good on paper for the Chiefs.
The big news surrounding Jammal Brown this weekend was the five-year deal he signed to man right tackle along the Washington Redskins offensive front. But when he began to discuss the other teams that revealed an interest, he also might have tipped Scott Pioli's hand on where he's looking next.
Arrowhead Pride recently posted a column that detailed Brown's free agency adventure which included the Chiefs among several teams (Cardinals and Bears were listed as well) interested. Last year, Barry Richardson manned the right tackle position that Pioli avoided in the NFL Draft, which led some to believe that Pioli might be fine with B-Rich at that spot. But his pursuit of Brown makes it seem otherwise.
Richardson will certainly be in the mix to start and provide depth at tackle, but it's possible that Pioli follows this up with a tap on the New England shoulder for old starters like Nick Kaczur or Matt Light. Sean Locklear is also a possibility. Then again, it's likely a few more cuts will come from around the NFL to open up new possibilities. After all, names like LB Lofa Tatupu and C Olin Kreutz both came out just today.
The Chiefs finally made another move in free agency, and Scott Pioli made sure to upgrade the middle of the defense with a low cost, under the radar maneuver that fans have come to expect. Brandon Siler, former ILB for the San Diego Chargers, is the signee and the impact will be felt immediately on special teams, where he had seven tackles last season. He’ll also have a chance to supplant Jovan Belcher as the inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson.
At the very least, the Chiefs have upgraded the quality of depth at the position — one that felt thin on the inside especially. The Chiefs made some moves to get deeper on the outside with the draft choices of Gabe Miller and Justin Houston while also bringing back Cameron Sheffield from last season’s draft class. Along with Tamba Hali and Andy Studebaker, there are some talented players vying for that OLB slot opposite Hali — guys with promise who should be intriguing for Romeo Crennel to work with. But on the inside, some holes could be found.
Siler has played a limited role since joining the Chargers four seasons ago out of Florida. He’s still only 25, so some potential is there for him to tap into if the Chiefs can utilize him better than the Chargers did. Siler only earned 12 games started in his four seasons in SD, with five coming last year. He had 44 tackles and 1 sack last season to go with 1 interception.
Kelly Gregg is the new Mike Vrabel. Or at least it seems that way from the outset. When Mike Vrabel first arrived in Kansas City, he was not only coming over to fill the role of outside linebacker, but also that of playoff-tested defensive veteran here to mentor the younger players. As Vrabel has moved on, now Gregg has moved in to help shepherd the young guys along the defensive line, including sixth round choice Jerrell Powe.
“Oh yeah, I heard from the Jets, but this is the perfect opportunity,” Gregg told Scout.com in an interview. “It’s an hour-flight from my house in Oklahoma and this is an up-and-coming team. I’ll be working with a good rookie in Jerrell Powe and he looks like he’s going to be a player.”
The Chiefs are definitely glad to hear Gregg’s excitement, given the belief that Powe could really be a late-round find in the middle. Early reports from training camp are that Powe has a long way to go in his preparation and conditioning, but there’s no denying his instincts and raw ability.
If anyone is going to be able to get the most out of Powe, it will be the team-first, highly conditioned atmosphere of Todd Haley combined with the veteran presence of Gregg utilizing Romeo Crennel’s schemes. It’s a perfect fit for the Chiefs rookie and it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Powe learning rather quickly as long as he can get in game shape.
One guy gets paid. Everyone else wants theirs. That’s the drama among NFL running backs plainly stated since DeAngelo Williams re-upped with the Carolina Panthers and received a five-year contract worth a possible $43 million with guaranteed money of $21 million. That’s a big time contract. Frank Gore, Chris Johnson and Matt Forte are pointing at that figure and wondering if they can find similar numbers from their front offices — and they’re possibly holding out because of it.
How does this compare to a deal just finished between Scott Pioli and Jamaal Charles? It’s a timely question considering the Kansas City Chiefs just locked up their own franchise back only several months ago, giving Charles a five-year $32.5 million deal with a reported $13 million guaranteed. Shortly after announcing the deal, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio put out a report saying the real numbers are more like $8 million guaranteed.
Will Charles be frustrated with his deal either now or later? The immediate response to Charles’ deal was that he could have done better, and given the new CBA, perhaps that’s the case. But it should be noted that Williams is a more experienced back with over 4,200 yards in five seasons. Last year a foot injury limited Williams to six starts and, consequently, his productivity went with him. But before then, he had put together back to back 1,000 yard seasons and displayed a nose for the end zone with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2008.
Then again, is Williams really worth that much more than Charles at this point? I can’t imagine a single team or fan base who would want Williams over Jamaal Charles at this point. Charles looks less like a franchise back that most teams have around the league and more like a top two elite talent in the NFL — someone who could be historically great if he’s able to avoid injury. For now, the waters will remain calm around Charles simply because the contract is so new, but another season or two like Charles had in 2010 might force Pioli to renegotiate Charles’ contract for the sake of keeping his best player happy.
If you read the tea leaves, or rather Twitter feeds, on Le’Ron McClain’s account, you might just be convinced that the Kansas City Chiefs have an announcement to make today. That’s because McClain, the celebrated Ravens fullback, is a free agent and available to sign with anyone. But last night, McClain’s Twitter account suddenly started to follow Chiefs PR as well as players like Jamaal Charles and Steve Breaston.
If McClain were to join the Chiefs vaunted running attack, it only bolsters what we’ve already been writing about for some time — namely, that it’s hard to picture the best getting better but a great fullback will do just that. The release of Brian Waters, the possible transition to Rodney Hudson at center, the loss of Charlie Weis and the PUP listing of Tony Moeaki all make for some shaky ground to some degree. The addition of McClain would serve to ease that tension considerably.
The fullback was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro Selection in both 2008 and 2009, and the Chiefs have to believe that several more could be added to that number starting this year. After all, running in front of the league’s best running game will do that for you.
The announcement has yet to come, but it seems a likely possibility McClain’s sudden interest in hearing the Chiefs official announcements and being able to communicate with some of these Chiefs best offensive players.
There's no doubt that today the Kansas City Chiefs said goodbye to a football hero when they announced the release of Brian Waters. The longtime guard should garner Hall of Fame consideration after a storied career that included five-time Pro Bowl appearances, and there's a reason why Adam Schefter noted that he was among the best to ever play the position when he was in his prime. That being said, Waters' time was over in Kansas City as a productive member along the offensive line, so no one should be swayed by his reputation alone.
That's what Waters was coasting on through the end of the 2010 season, when somehow he won his last Pro Bowl nomination. It was surprising considering that Jon Asamoah was beginning to fill in and that younger, faster defensive linemen were getting through places that Waters used to plug. Simply put, signs of slowing down were readily apparent and Waters was not the player that he used to be.
That doesn't take away from what is a stellar playing career -- a man who is truly one of the single greatest Chiefs of all time. That said, some fans are wondering what KC is thinking in dumping Waters and are believing he will be the great addition to their own line. And it's only when you see him up close and pay attention past the name recognition that you realize that even Waters has the turning point when greatness ends and reality begins.
The Chiefs are correct in their choice to move on from here. They've drafted to be ready for this moment and have very impressive talent already in house with Asamoah and Rodney Hudson. Chiefs fans will be pleased by their new left guard, and it's important to remember that he learned behind the absolute best. If the Chiefs struggle in 2010 for some reason, it will not be because of a personnel move like this.
Whether it’s Aubrayo Franklin or not, Peter King was responding to followers on Twitter asking various questions tonight when the idea of the Chiefs next move came up. King responded with “KC w/a big signing soon … I don’t know, but they’re still in the market for a stalwart. If I knew who, I’d tell you.”
On the surface, that seems like nothing of consequence — it’s easy, after all, for any reporter to say that a specific team is going to make a big signing. But King apparently has heard something from the Chiefs camp, although it’s also not surprising that the same source is tight-lipped about any more details given the total silent treatment the media is usually given about rumors.
Aubrayo Franklin is often rumored to be heading to KC and a deal might be in place there. Certainly defensive tackle is the biggest need since the Chiefs lost Ron Edwards to the Carolina Panthers. However, don’t assume the Chiefs are done shopping in the linebacker, secondary or offensive tackle categories as well.
A safety like Donte Whitner is still available. Jared Gaither is a dynamic young tackle left on the board. Cullen Jenkins is still there as well. Lots of names for the taking although the list grows smaller with each passing hour. The Chiefs will make some announcement soon, and here’s guessing it’s a new deal with Tamba Hali or a new signing in the form of Aubrayo Franklin. Yet given Pioli’s history, don’t be surprised if he’s kept a big move under the radar.
The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Jerrel Powe from Ole Miss with their 6th round pick in 2011. It was widely believed that Powe couldplay a role on the team during his rookie season as a potential rotational player as he gets used to the NFL game. Every hour that passes by during free agency that the nose tackle position isn't addressed, it's more likely that Powe will see a larger role as a rookie that many originally believed.
It still seems as if the best situation for Powe would be to learn from a veteran for a year or two before he becomes 'the guy' and has to man the most important position on the Chiefs defense. That veteran player was thought to possibly be Ron Edwards. But since Edwards just recently agreed to a contract with the Carolina Panthers that is not the case anymore.
According to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs had been in negotiations with Smith on a contract for the 2011 season and possibly beyond. Smith has the ability to play nose tackle and when he came to Kansas City last year it was as a nose tackle that many believed the majority of his snaps would come from. But with Tyson Jackson's injury early in the 2010 season, Smith had to fill in at defensive end, and did so very well.
The free agent market has been very quiet for nose tackles and besides the Washington Redskins picking up Barry Cofield from the Giants, who has played DT in a 4/3 in New York, there haven't been any free agent signings on nose tackles. Brandon Mebane, Pat Williams, Kelly Gregg and Aubrayo Franklin are the players on the market who are looking for their new homes.
Jason La Canfora of the NFL network said earlier on his blog that "Franklin is expected by many to land in Kansas City". This had Chiefs fans excited as Franklin is by far the 'prize' of the free agent nose tackle market and is widely viewed as a last-piece-of-the-puzzle for an up-and-coming Chiefs defense.
I can't blame him. Who can, really, if we're honest? The amount of money going out every other minute to someone new on the NFL transaction wire has to have every player thinking about one specific thing: when they're going to receive their own big payday? For a restricted free agent like Brandon Carr, he's realizing that he's going to have to sit and wait.
One thing he's not doing, however, is being silent about having to do so. A simple Tweet last night acknowledged his situation when he posted, "Guess I gotta play the waiting game..." It's a simple statement that easily fits into the "no harm, no foul" category. But it's also interesting since the current Chiefs regime has solidified the idea that they like their drama of any kind to be kept at a minimum.
Obviously, that post on Twitter is hardly a source of major friction or distraction for the rest of the team. But it does signify a frustrated athlete -- one who would rather have an extension in hand than wait it out. And Carr has certainly played himself into a nice extension -- if and when it comes. For Carr to have to share the draft spotlight with Brandon Flowers and play next to him for these last few years is a tall order, yet Carr has established himself not only with KC fans but across the NFL for his good-to-great play in the secondary.
Stats, Inc. recently praised Carr alongside the game's great corners like Darrelle Revis recently with a post saying, "Carr is the forgotten man of the Chiefs' impressive young secondary; most people focus on Brandon Flowers and safety Eric Berry, and justifiably so. But Carr isn't just assembling stats against pikers while Flowers (who ranked 11th among cornerbacks with a 49.5% burn rate) takes all the tough duty. He's been just as important, especially in diagnosing and covering cluster formations on the other side of the one-on-one battles Flowers frequently has."
That's high praise and might demonstrate the reason that Carr wishes Scott Pioli would show him a gesture that appreciates the exemplary play on the field. But think back to 2009 when Brian Waters came to KC in the offseason wanting a show of respect and appreciation with a meeting and how that worked out. The Don calls the shots. So if Pioli wants Carr to have his extension, he'll get it. Until then, it just won't happen -- Twitter or not.
It will be interesting to see what else Carr will say about the situation or whether or not the Chiefs will even look to address it at this point in the offseason. Certainly there are bigger fish to fry to fill roster slots for now, but perhaps a good faith gesture might be a reasonable move toward Carr from the Chiefs.
While we’ve already discussed how much the Chiefs would love to add a defensive tackle like Aubrayo Franklin (or at least we’ve said how much we would love it), it seems we’re not the only ones to believe so. Rivers McCown from Football Outsiders is calling the move of Franklin to the Chiefs as one of the “best fits” in the NFL free agent season.
Last year, Franklin had 39 tackles for the 49ers and has still maintained a high level of playing stuffing the middle through eight seasons in the NFL. The 6-1, 320 lineman is good for one last large contract in the NFL, and the Chiefs will have to pay him well in order to win his services given the competition for solid starting defensive tackles. McCown loves the fit when he writes:
After being franchised last season, San Francisco’s giant nose tackle put in another productive season anchoring the middle of the 49ers’ defense. In each of the past two seasons, Franklin has been in the top five for defensive linemen in stop rate, our measure of how successful a player was at keeping the offense from having a productive play. True nose tackles are in high demand these days, but the best fit for him comes in Kansas City, where the Chiefs could stand to do better than 32-year-old Ron Edwards.
Edwards certainly been a serviceable-to-good player for the Chiefs over the last couple of seasons, but most every fan would desire an upgrade if it made sense. Franklin is one such player and it seems that others are noticing that fit as well.
Kansas City, like every other NFL franchise, is in the market for an edge rusher, someone to come in from OLB/DE position, a la Wallace Gilberry, and provide a competent rush option on passing downs. Some experts think the Chiefs might find their man in a recent cut from general manager Scott Pioli’s old stomping grounds.
The New England Patriots recently informed Tully Banta-Cain that he’s going to be released on Thursday when moves can be official. This means the former Cal product is going to be an unrestricted free agent, adding another solid pass rush option on the market. Given the connections with Pioli at the helm, it’s easy to make a connection that Banta-Cain would join the Chiefs.
Banta-Cain had 5 sacks last year and 10 in 2009, so his pass rushing abilities are still apparent. He does have an injury to his abdomen that reports say will keep him out for up to five weeks, which means he might not be ready for the first week of the regular season. Given his previous production, however, the risk is still worth the signing.
If Banta-Cain is added on the line, that brings up questions about other free agents like Shaun Smith. The Chiefs are reloading their line with Jerrelle Powe and Allen Bailey already, and adding Banta-Cain would only strengthen the depth along the front seven.
Eight-year NFL veteran Terrance Copper will be returning for his third season with the Kansas City Chiefs after word just came out that he will be returning to the team with a new three-year contract.
The 6'0" 207 lb East Carolina product has been a vital member of the special teams unit for the Chiefs over the past two seasons.
In 31 games with Kansas City (including five starts), Copper has had 22 receptions for 225 yards. At 29-years old he will provide veteran leadership for a team that will be welcoming a new wide receiver in highly-touted first round selection Jonathan Baldwin.
Copper's best season as a pro came in 2006 for the Saints when he had 23 receptions for 385 yards and three touchdowns.
He clearly fits General Manager Scott Pioli's vision of "The Right 53" and will be welcomed back as a key member of the special teams unit.
The deal is obviously not official until Friday afternoon when players can begin to sign contracts, but Copper will be joining Casey Weigmann in returning to Kansas City.
The word coming out of several sources from Nick Wright to Aaron Wilson via Twitter is that Casey Wiegmann is officially back in Kansas City on a one year contract that should help maintain the dominant offensive interior from 2010 while also paving a way to the younger future Scott Pioli envisions with Jon Asamoah and new draft choice Rodney Hudson in house.
In recent months, Wiegmann was waffling back and forth over whether or not to sign with the Chiefs or retire. Yet as the NFL season got closer, it became clear that Wiegmann still had some interest in returning. The Chiefs have kept the option open for Wiegmann saying in interviews that they had an interest in bringing him back and that the final call was Wiegmann’s to make.
The 6-2 center entered the league in 1997 and will carry on an impressive run that few NFL centers can boast of. That’s the sort of experience that will provide a perfect first year of tutelage for Hudson where he can learn from such experienced veterans who have been around for some time. Since Hudson can play both guard and center, having Wiegmann and Brian Waters both, along with Ryan Lilja, is the ideal environment for the transition to the next level.
Every team has their holes. Scouts, Inc.'s Matt Williamson believes each team has at least three. In an easy-to-read column with nothing in the way of insight, Williamson has made his checklist available at ESPN to see what teams need heading into the frenzy of the NFL offseason. For the Chiefs, the positions are going to sound quite familiar.
Williamson has the Chiefs needing a nose tackle, help along the offensive line and outside linebacker as the three primary areas of weakness. The first two would find definite agreement among most fans, with another recent column pointing out that the Chiefs first move in free agency should be to sign Jermon Bushrod, the Saints left tackle. Certainly there are room for growth there whether it's Branden Albert and Barry Richardson receiving some depth behind them to push them for the starting spot or a replacement altogether. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the offensive line shakes out.
As for nose tackle, the Chiefs are rather thin along the interior defensive front compared to other teams. Incumbent starter Ron Edwards is a free agent and there's no official word that he will be reunited with the Chiefs. Sixth round choice Jerelle Powe is going to be a long-term project and will only be good for a few downs a game for a while. The Chiefs really have no dominant choices in the middle, and this is why Williamson identifies the defensive middle as the primary point of weakness for the Chiefs.
As for outside linebacker, the Chiefs already addressed this position with the selection of Justin Houston in the NFL Draft in April, but many scouts believe he's also a raw product which makes it possible the Chiefs would add a solid veteran alongside Houston with the loss of Mike Vrabel and the still developing Andy Studebaker in place.
I'm a bit perplexed why wide receiver wasn't listed as a need above OL, given the lack of a slot receiver and the need to develop Baldwin to even have a No. 2. There's also no real developmental talent on the team at the position and the Chiefs could even lose Dwayne as early as next season. In other words, it's a thin position where the Chiefs need several things to fall the right way. That's why bringing in a big name receiver and/or a Steve Breaston for the slot makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the Chiefs will address all these needs and more, but this gives at least a decent idea of where Scott Pioli might be addressing his interest.
The lists are coming fast and furious with news the the NFL Lockout is going to be lifted soon and transactions can begin again. As each NFL franchise takes their first step and focuses on addressing their perceived weaknesses, ESPN’s Brian McIntyre has made a comprehensive list of what each team should do with their initial move in the new league offseason. For the Chiefs, he has Scott Pioli thinking offensive line.
Specifically, McIntyre writes, “The Chiefs ranked 18th in adjusted sack rate in 2010, and don’t have much depth at the offensive tackle position. With quarterback Matt Cassel due a $7.5 million option bonus this year, the least the Chiefs can do is protect him better. The best tackle on the free-agent market is Bushrod, who has been protecting Brees’ blindside the past two seasons in New Orleans.”
Many people wondered if the Chiefs would address the offensive tackle position in the draft and many mocks had Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi heading to the Chiefs at No. 21 overall. Even though the Chiefs went a different direction (with Carimi headed to the Chicago Bears), free agency still gives them that chance.
Last year, the Chiefs went with Branden Albert and Barry Richardson at the tackles and neither one has earned the long-term trust of most fans. Haley has been rather mum on the subject (of course, he’s also not seemed frustrated by either player), so it’s difficult to tell what the Chiefs are thinking. But getting the top offensive tackle in an offseason can’t hurt any team — and certainly the Chiefs would open up a starting spot if it was a player they believed would better the chance of success.
Bushrod didn’t become a starter until the last two seasons, but the Saints and Drew Brees have certainly experienced some incredible success in that time. He’s also only 26, which is a bonus. The Chiefs would certainly be a better team if this was their first move of the 2011 offseason.
The time is officially upon us. Documents are being signed. Players will begin to move. The NFL offseason as we knew it in years past will look much different than this year, but many if not all fans will simply be glad to talk about it at all. And that’s what makes a list like John Clayton’s recent Top 10 Available Unrestricted Free Agents so appealing. It’s an oasis after some time in the desert of NFL news.
As for his list, it’s a solid compilation of names that most sportswriters will be posting about and that most fans will be obsessed with. Nnamdi Asomugha heads the list and Peter King has continued to insists via columns and Twitter that Asomugha will most certainly not be back in Oakland next year. This means one of the NFL’s top defensive players is going to significantly impact the pass defense of some lucky team. That in itself is big news.
Alongside such an imposing quarterback are the high-profile receivers that a player like Asomugha will be asked to shut down. Santonio Holmes is now a free agent, as is Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice and all three are on Clayton’s top 10 list. Clayton has the players’ current team as the favorite to sign, making any level of drama rather boring if all three simply re-up with their current franchise. But other teams like the Redskins are looking for receivers, as are the Rams and Chiefs so they should not be forgotten.
DeAngelo Williams will be doggedly pursued by his current team, the Panthers, but you’d better believe that the lack of a running game in Denver and the longtime presence of John Fox, the new Broncos head coach, will make a difference in Williams’ decision. In fact, I’d be surprised if Williams wasn’t the next strong running back in the AFC West.
ESPN’s John Clayton has made his list of top available unrestricted free agents now that the dust is clearing on player movement and the schedule for teams to be able to address their rosters. And while the list is littered with both a list of several franchises losing players as well as acquiring them, the Kansas City Chiefs are neither losing nor gaining — at least when it comes to Clayton’s predictions.
It’s understandable that the Chiefs aren’t on the list to lose anyone major. Tamba Hali will need to be signed, but no one expects Hali to be anywhere but Kansas City for this year and well into the future. Other than him, the Chiefs are all locked up in the primary positions — although that won’t be the case next year with both Brandon Flowers and Dwayne Bowe up for free agency in 2012 among others. Still, it’s a nice position for the Chiefs.
On the flip side, Clayton also believes KC will stand pat when it comes to the top 10. That’s a direct conflict to the understanding that the Chiefs will have to spend around $35 million to get up to the new salary cap floor. Nnamdi Asomugha heads the Top 10 free agents list, and while the Chiefs will not be interested in Asomugha compared to other teams, they could be in the mix for a defensive end like Cullen Jenkins of the Packers or a big name receiver like Santonio Holmes.
But the conjecture is just now beginning, so we’re bound to see the Chiefs name float in and out of several other free agent possibilities.
I know, I know, it’s all on paper at this point. But it seems the Kansas City Chiefs can do no wrong. From yet another draft that seems to address several core needs on the roster to the drama-less offseason the team has enjoyed (i.e. not the Pittsburgh Steelers), the Chiefs organization has run as well as possible in the weird offseason that we’ll hopefully forget soon enough. Now with another announcement from last year’s starting center Casey Wiegmann, the Chiefs have another feather in their cap.
The official word came today from Weigmann via ESPN’s Bill Williamson that he’s ready to come back in 2011 if a contract agreement can be worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs. With one brief comment, the interior of the Chiefs offensive line stays intact from last season when the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing. Of course, any such contract has yet to be written up, but the assumption has been all along that it was Wiegmann’s call to make. Now the Chiefs know where he stands, and it should be clear where the team stands as well.
Now, Brian Waters, Ryan Lilja and Wiegmann return to anchor a unit that rushed for over 2,600 yards last season. And for those who worry that the unit could show signs of age, impressive young players can immediately step in, whether that’s recent second round choice Rodney Hudson from Miami or last year’s third rounder Jon Asamoah.
In addition, any worries about Hudson’s transition to the NFL level or about his ability to move from guard to center on a regular basis are quelled with the team’s ability to mentor Hudson along the way. Wiegmann has played 211 games over 14 seasons in the NFL, earning a Pro Bowl spot along the way. While other centers are more celebrated, few players have enjoyed such long, solid careers at the highest possible level — a testament to Wiegmann’s consistency and work ethic.
The free agent season has yet to open up and teams with more flash will garner the headlines. But the Chiefs quietly keep reaping the benefits of the hard work they’ve put in, and Scott Pioli will worry about the headlines that come in January instead.
The offensive line is the centerpiece of not only an offense, but a team. A strong one will allow an offense to dominate, can help mask a shoddy defense and will anchor a team in the fourth quarter when time must be taken off the clock or those last few inches acquired for a first down. For the Kansas City Chiefs, that offensive line is an odd blend of young and old, sure things and question marks that provide some of the most intriguing roster questions heading into what will soon (hopefully) be the NFL free agency period.
It's the center spot that received some attention in this year's NFL Draft through the Chiefs second round choice of Miami OL Rodney Hudson. Hudson was praised for his work ethic, leadership and versatility along the line, and the Chiefs sought fit to grab him early on. The commonly held belief was that Hudson would take over for Casey Wiegmann in the middle, as Wiegmann was considering retirement very early in the offseason and has not been quiet about his own indecision. Thus, the Chiefs must be prepared for the eventual shift from a solid veteran to some new blood.
But the NFL lockout has come into play here, enough to keep Hudson from learning the playbook or practice with his teammates -- particularly Matt Cassel, the guy he must deliver the ball to time and again. One look at Jeff Saturday's relationship with Peyton Manning is a reminder of how essential communication is along the line, with the center serving not only as the first line of defense but also as another set of eyes and ears up front. Some other questions arose about Hudson's experience at guard rather than center, and the questions have made many, including Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman, call for Wiegmann as an essential keeper in the upcoming FA signing frenzy. He writes:
The final guy I consider a must keep, Wiegmann, wouldn't have been a must keep without the lockout. But because rookie Rodney Hudson hasn't been in a single organized Chiefs practice to date, we don't know who he is. We don't know if he can start and we don't know if he's the best man for the job so Wiegmann needs to stay to bridge the gap.
Those are wise words from Thorman, and it's definitely how every Chiefs fan feels, I would think. Obviously, if Pioli can have a holdover in place from a 10-win season, someone who clearly knows the system, the division and the game, then he should resign Wiegmann -- if he still wants to play, that is. But is that an essential move? Or is it, rather, merely a luxury?
The center position is an interesting one in that every year, rookies are constantly thrown into starting positions and succeed quite well. In Kansas City, with good-to-great veterans on each side like Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja in place, Hudson would be surrounded by a strong overall unit -- guys who can instruct and support along the way. Also, the Chiefs are bound to either keep or bring in at least a veteran to serve as a back-up. Plus there are others like Jon Asamoah who could potentially slide in (or slide Waters over).
Perhaps more importantly, the divisional competition is also weaker in the defensive middle, where only the Raiders have any formidable veterans. Other teams are trying to reconstruct their lines, like the Chargers who drafted Corey Liuget and the Broncos who return ends like Elvis Dumervil but lack any up-front threat. The Chiefs are not in a deep division with top-flight up front talent along the defensive line (a la NFC North or AFC North), so Hudson is actually in a good place to learn along the way. The Chiefs schedule is tougher this year, but he's not being thrown to the lions -- except for one literal game.
Wiegmann would be a nice keeper, no questions there. But as an essential re-signing, perhaps there's a case to be made that Hudson could be just fine on his own.
Two seasons ago, the outside linebacker position for the Kansas City Chiefs was as limited of a group as you’ll often find in NFL circles. Today, fierce competition has a talented veteran on the outside looking in.
A quick trip back to Herm Edwards final season as the Chiefs head coach in 2008 unveils a total mess — that’s quite obvious with a team that managed a measly two wins. The starters at LB for that season reveals (some of) the reasons why: Pat Thomas, Rocky Boiman, old Derrick Johnson, Demorrio Williams. All four made their way into the starting line-up for multiple games and achieved disastrous results — failing to provide much help via the running or passing game, and providing only two total quarterback sacks. Two.
How times have changed under new head coach Todd Haley, just two seasons later. Scott Pioli has brought in the right talent at several positions, which certainly makes it easier on the linebacking corps, but he’s also brought in the right coaches. Tamba Hali made the switch from defensive end and the results have been nothing short of revelatory, with the former Penn State draftee becoming one of the greatest pass rushers in the NFL. Derrick Johnson has finally lived up to his first round grade with a strong all-around game and an athleticism few linebackers possess.
On the other side, Mike Vrabel came over from the New England Patriots in a trade with Matt Cassel for a second round and immediately established himself as a solid veteran on the field, but also a strong vocal leader off of the field. It’s one thing to have a solid coach come in like Romeo Crennel to establish the proper schemes and defensive gameplan. It’s yet another to have experienced veterans who have been through Super Bowl winning seasons to help establish a new culture among players. Vrabel was a strong addition both on and off the field.
So where do things stand now for a veteran like Vrabel, who is a free agent who also experienced some unexpected legal issues after an arrest at an Indiana casino this offseason? Typically a young, promising team brings in a player like Vrabel to establish the new culture and provide leadership. But are the Chiefs past their need for a player like that? At what point does a team develop enough new leadership to allow other veterans past their playing prime to move on? That seems to be the point of tension where the Chiefs stand with Vrabel.
My hunch is that Haley and Pioli would both still love to have Vrabel in the locker room at all times and on the field at varied intervals. Haley’s love for veteran guys like Thomas Jones is made clear each and every week in the media (and on the field), but the roster is looking pretty crowded on that opposite side from Tamba Hali, who is clearly an asset on every defensive down. Simply put, is there room for Mike Vrabel anymore?
Andy Studebaker just signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Kansas City through the 2013 season. The Chiefs also added Georgia pass rusher Justin Houston in this year’s draft with the hopes that he will become a force like Hali on the opposite side. Both Studebaker and Houston have strong pass rushing skills which will keep them on the field in certain situations and if either can show they’re a force against the running game at Vrabel’s level, then it’s possible he doesn’t see the field much at all — perhaps a sign that Chiefs are ready to move on.
We’ll soon find out whether or not Vrabel will be back in the fold for a third season with the Chiefs, and it’d be a smart move to keep Vrabel around in some limited capacity. It’s also clear, however, that the talent on the field has reached a tipping point with younger guys ready to seize their opportunity with more playing time.
If the lockout is going to end soon in the NFL, which we believe that it will, then it's clear that the next step on the horizon is going to be a chaotic frenzy that's most commonly known as free agency. Every NFL franchise will be scrambling to make their offers, hit their cap floor, address team needs and schedule the press conferences that come with such announcements along the way. If the typical free agent signing period is filled with rumors, contract discussions and analysis, wait until the floodgates are finally lifted.
That said, where do the Kansas City Chiefs stand? There were definite holes on the roster, even after last year's 10-win season atop the AFC West. From some youth along the defensive interior to further help along the offensive line to a pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali, the Chiefs went into the NFL Draft with a plan to address their needs and they mostly stuck to that plan. Where does that leave Scott Pioli and company to turn next? The answer could be wide receiver if you believe the rumors.
The connection is natural to expect the Chiefs to address not only a need at wide receiver, but for that to possibly be filled by current Cardinal wideout Steve Breaston. To first address the need, it's clear the Chiefs were one of the worst teams in going deep on a defense in all of football last year. Most teams toward the end of the year doubled Dwayne Bowe and stacked the box, and the Chiefs simply didn't have the playmakers at wide receiver to recover. Chris Chambers could not add to his fantastic run at the end of 2009, and there was no answer on the roster.
Enter Jonathan Baldwin, the first round pick of the Chiefs in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Pitt product has the ideal size, strength and athleticism for the task at hand -- going over the top and creating that deep vertical threat -- and his perceived personality and character issues are supposed to be behind him. It could end up a steal for KC at No. 27 overall. But that also means a team is depending on a rookie to come in immediately and help in an offseason with no OTAs or conditioning drills with the team. It also doesn't address the Chiefs need at the slot.
Enter Steve Breaston. Breaston is one of those free agents that seem automatically connected to their next home. He's already familiar with Chiefs head coach Todd Haley from his days as an assistant coach in Arizona. He fills the role the Chiefs need him to. The team has the money to spend, the need on the roster, the rising star that a free agent would like and the familiarity to make an instant impact. In fact, the signing makes more sense than perhaps most others that will take place sometime in the next month (most likely).
Pro Football Weekly notes this in their latest rumors column: "Depending on their salary-cap situation, the Chiefs could make a run at free-agent WR Steve Breaston when the league year begins. Kansas City needs a slot receiver to play with starters Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin, a role in which Breaston has thrived. He also is very familiar with Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, who was Breaston's offensive coordinator at Arizona in 2007 and '08."
Breaston has continued to produce even without Kurt Warner in Arizona's offense, with over 700 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons after hitting the 1,000 yard mark with Warner's last year in 2008. Breaston also reached a career-high 15+ yards per catch this last season, hitting his best vertical stride yet. It's the sign that the receiver is coming into his own and learning the scheme well. IN other words, he'd make an immediate impact for Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Chiefs can turn their wide receiver position from a weakness (outside of Bowe) into a real strength, their offense will be unstoppable. For now, they need to find the right pieces to add to the team, and it seems Breaston is not only a rumor but a fantastic option once the lockout is lifted. Of course, several other teams might be thinking the same thing.
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