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Kansas City Chiefs Face Tough Decision With Dwayne Bowe In 2012

The Chiefs off-season moves have taken what some would have considered to be a weakness of the team in 2010, and made it into a strength in 2011.

The Kansas City Chiefs have made a commitment to the wide receiver position over the last four months with the drafting of Jon Baldwin in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, and the signing of former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston in free agency. Considering the Chiefs have both of these players locked up through the 2015 season (that includes the 2015 team option for Baldwin), the Chiefs have a bright future at the wide receiver position. But that does put the Chiefs 2011 Pro Bowl wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, in quite a strange situation.

Steve Breaston's contract with the Kansas City Chiefs is for five years and $25 million, including $9 million guaranteed. Breaston's contract was described back on August 4th here at SB Nation Kansas City.

We’re told Breaston received $5 million to sign and a $700,000 base salary in 2011. His $1.8 million base salary in 2012 is guaranteed for injury only and he has a $1.3 million roster bonus in 2012. It appears the Chiefs could get out of this after one year and less than $6 million but I can’t envision a scenario with that happening.

In 2013, his base salary is $3.8 million, in 2014 it’s $3 million and in 2015 it’s $4.1 million. He has $200,000 workout bonuses from 2012-2015 and $1 million reporting bonuses in 2014 and 2015. He has another $500,000 in escalators available each year from 2012-2015.

When you combine this team-friendly contract with Jon Baldwin's contract as the 26th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft being $7.55 million over four years, you have put yourself in a pretty good spot if you are the Chiefs.

Dwayne Bowe led the NFL in 2010 with 15 touchdown receptions, and amassed over 1,100 yards receiving. And he is in line to become a free agent after this season. Despite his extremely successful 2010 season, there were still moments during last season in which fans were not sure whether or not Bowe could still be considered an elite wide receiver.

There were crucial drops against Oakland and Indianapolis that once again brought to question his ability to consistently catch the ball. Something that was talked about quite often the season before when Bowe spent a good portion of his time in Todd Haley's doghouse after some questionable remarks during an interview, and questionable displays of self-promotion during practice. But Bowe seemed to turn a corner after some tough-love from Haley and his production during the season seemed to prove that theory correct.

Bowe joined Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Reggie Wayne as the Pro Bowl wide receivers for the AFC last season. Each of those players are set to become free agents after this season. Obviously those players can sign extensions at any point, but as of now they are going to be free to sign wherever they want. The biggest question as to whether or not Bowe finds his way back to the Chiefs after next season will be determined upon the kind of contract that he will be looking for if he hits the open market.

Sidney Rice signed with the Seattle Seahawks during free agency on a 5-year $41 million contract with $18.5 million guaranteed. When comparing Rice's career numbers to Bowe's at this point, it could be surprising the kind of figures that Bowe could ask for in relation to his market value. Rice's best year was in 2009 when he caught 83 passes for over 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns. In no other season has Rice surpassed 400 yards in a season. In 2007 he had 393 yards receiving, 141 yards in 2008, and 280 yards in 2010. Bowe had over 1,100 yards last season with 15 touchdowns, but he also had seasons of 995 yards in 2007, 1,022 in 2008, and then 589 in 2009. Bowe's worst year is still better than Rice's second-best year so far in his career.

Bowe's career numbers heading into his fifth year are 3,768 yards receiving for a 13.7 yards per catch average, including 31 touchdowns. Reggie Wayne's career numbers heading into his fifth year were 3,109 yards and 23 touchdowns. Obviously the situations have been a little different for these two players. But when looking at the market it just seems that the price is going to be too steep for a Chiefs team that has two good options at wide receiver locked up through 2015. Wayne signed a six-year $39.5 million contract in 2006.

There aren't going to be a lot of upset Chiefs fans if Dwayne Bowe does re-sign with the team. Having Bowe, Breaston and Baldwin as your core group of receivers over the next five years, along with a newly-signed Jamaal Charles, who will also be with the team for the next five years, gives the Chiefs some offensive firepower for the next half-decade. But it won't be surprising if the Chiefs don't match some of the offers that Bowe might receive if he were to want to continue his career somewhere else.

It wouldn't mean that the Chiefs were being cheap, it would just mean that they put themselves in a situation in which they didn't have to worry about completely depleting a position if they didn't re-sign the particular player. They have set themselves up nicely to be comfortable with the WR position for a while even without Bowe.

You might think that if the Chiefs aren't willing to spend the money on Bowe, who else will be out there after next year? Some of the other free agent wide receivers as it stands today would be Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Steve Johnson, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace, Anthony Gonzalez and Mario Manningham.

A few of these guys might be looking at some major pay days along with Bowe, like Fitzgerald, Colston, Jackson and Jackson. A few of these other guys might not be at the same level as Bowe, but combined with Breaston and Baldwin, any of these guys would still give the Chiefs have a pretty good receiving core without breaking the bank. Maybe take some of that money and give it to a Jared Gaither if he can prove to be ready to start.

In any case, the Chiefs should have a solid receiving core for years to come. They do have a tough decision to make on Bowe but who knows, maybe Bowe will like it so much here that he'll be willing to take a discount to stay. We know how much that actually happens in todays world, and I wouldn't blame the guy for getting his.