The Kansas City Chiefs had the "toughest decision" of any NFL franchise this offseason when it came to the franchise tag scenario that most teams will face over the next week or more. As teams consider who to keep and who to let go, the Chiefs faced the quandary of having two impact players in their prime hitting the market at the same time. With only one franchise tag, the Chiefs had to hope that both Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr were going to want to re-sign with the team rather than hit the open market. Alas, that was not the case.
The Chiefs reportedly reached a three-year, $20 million agreement with free agent cornerback Stanford Routt today, a sign that Carr is headed out of Kansas City. Given such a deal opposite the extension signed by Brandon Flowers last September, it's highly unlikely that the Chiefs can afford to sink such high amounts into three cornerbacks (especially since they also have Javier Arenas and Jalil Brown among others).
Taken all together, it's easy to see that Carr likely told Scott Pioli and the rest of the Chiefs front office that he was going to at least weigh all of his options. That's understandable after putting in four full seasons as a starter after being the Chiefs' fifth-round choice back in 2008. He's earned his big paycheck and the open market will bring the most rewards. Like it or not, this is Carr's chance to set himself and his family for life.
But the Chiefs could not afford to wait it out. Prime cornerbacks rarely hit the market and when they do they earn their millions. Someone will likely overpay for Carr, as they will for the Ravens' Lardarius Webb. If the Chiefs waited to see what Carr would do, they would just be one of several suitors for the cornerbacks available.
It's possible, in other words, that they could have signed Carr once again. It's also possible that the Chiefs could have been the last team standing after others like Carlos Rogers and Cortland Finnegan were gone. Imagine if Pioli had missed out on every solid cornerback option and either had to overpay someone or went into the draft down one of his starting cornerbacks. That's the worst-case scenario.
Thus, the signing of Stanford Routt signals a very strong start to the Chiefs offseason. Ideally, of course, Carr would be re-signing with the team that drafted him and settle in for another few years opposite Flowers as one of the greatest KC secondary duos of all time. But that's a dream world in which other teams don't exist and personal goals don't get in the way. The reality is that Carr wants to get paid, knows he is a prime free agent this offseason and that another team will gladly pay more than the rest to shore up its defense.
In the meantime, the signing of Routt puts salve on a wound before it got any worse. Routt himself is a solid cornerback who knows the AFC West very well. He also is only 28 and should be very capable in KC's man coverage.
Even more, Routt's signing with Kansas City shows that the team has not been irreparably harmed by the consistently poor PR coming out of Arrowhead. The Bills, Bengals and others were interested in Routt, yet the Chiefs come out on top. Perhaps that's the best news of all.