The Kansas City Chiefs have already publicly stated that they have a first priority this off-season above all others: to re-sign their team main restricted free agents. Whether they use the franchise tag or figure out a long-term deal with each, the goal stated by head coach Romeo Crennel was that Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe would hopefully both return to the Chiefs for 2012 and possibly beyond. But if the Chiefs fail to work something out with Carr, things might not be as lost as some believe.
Certainly Carr is the best case scenario himself. He’s been a starter since he first came into the league four years ago out of Grand Valley State. He’s started opposite Brandon Flowers that entire time, developing a great chemistry as a young, dynamic tandem and displaying a rare durability throughout. Though his performances are often overshadowed by Flowers, the higher draft pick, Carr has earned a rep as a strong defender by those who look closely and now he’s set to get paid in a major way.
And he should. Everything a team would want in a cornerback is found in Brandon Carr. Last year he had a career-high four interceptions to go with 45 tackles and 15 passes defended. He’s the cream of not only the cornerback crop in free agency, but if it wasn’t for Mario Williams of the Texans, he might be the best defender available in the class. After all, few corners are available at age 26 who have four full 16 game seasons under their belt.
Carr has also stated he wants to come back under the right circumstances. Romeo Crennel was made head coach, which most players, especially Chiefs defenders, seemed to want. The Chiefs also have plenty of salary cap room to make him well-paid alongside the money already given to Flowers (5 years for $50 million with $22 million guaranteed last September).
If there’s a downside, however, it might be found there. Eric Berry is going to make his money. Kendrick Lewis is cheap, but he’ll be up for an extension soon as well. Can the Chiefs afford to keep every young member of their secondary as they become more expensive?
If Scott Pioli decides not to, there are other options out there — albeit ones of lesser quality. It’s about what provides the best value while making the Chiefs a better team all-around, and that’s the balancing that Pioli and his henchmen must think about. Does paying Carr big money keep the team from making investments elsewhere? Can they do both? That’s the question.
Which is why kicking the tires on Stanford Routt, the former Raiders cornerback who was just released, makes sense. Stat-wise, Routt matches Carr’s four interceptions last season with 49 tackles. The Houston product has seven seasons of experience in the NFL and he’s only 28, so he has some of the same facets of his game and persona that Carr does — making him a strong contender for someone aiming for Carr who doesn’t get him.
The Chiefs should also at least look closely at other options, including Tracy Porter, Carlos Rogers and other free agents who might not cost as much if the Chiefs simply cannot pony up the money for Carr over the long haul.
Bill Williamson writes, “The Chiefs could be comparing the price tags for Carr and Routt; they could also be showing interest in Routt to demonstrate to Carr that they would be willing to go elsewhere. I think it is a smart move for the Chiefs to at least see what Routt is looking for and to give themselves options in case they think Carr will leave. Because there is so much interest in Routt, this process could take some time.”
Some decision should be made by the end of February or early March as to what they will do for Bowe and Carr. Both decisions will majorly shape the Chiefs off-season to come, so here’s hoping the team can keep both. If not, they need to carefully consider what else is available.