The word yesterday out of Arrowhead Stadium that the Kansas City Chiefs were already back to holding free agent visits so shortly after the 2012 NFL Draft was rather surprising. Dallas Clark, tight end for the Indianapolis Colts, and O.J. Atogwe, safety for the Washington Redskins, visited KC in the last two days to work out and visit with the team.
That’s quick work to start bringing in veterans again for a team that’s already made several moves and has rookies in place to develop as depth. Are the Chiefs truly interested in bringing in both Clark and Atogwe? With the work to bring in a player, the answer has to be “yes.”
So what does that mean? It means that the Chiefs are not content at the positions those players represent: safety and tight end. They’ve already addressed both positions with a tangible back-up. For tight end, it’s Kevin Boss, who signed via free agency coming in from the Oakland Raiders. For safety, it’s De’quan Menzie, who was drafted in the fifth round from Nick Saban’s Alabama squad.
Both players should definitely help outside of a traditional back-up role. Boss will see time on the field in multiple tight end sets, and he’s a solid receiver who should expect 30 to 40 receptions in 2012. Menzie is a versatile defensive back who could play in up to half of Kansas City’s defensive downs given his freedom to play nickel safety or slot corner.
But it’s also about the starters here: Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis at safety and Tony Moeaki at tight end. All players are coming off of injury-laden seasons. Fans and the front office want to believe the best, of course. Everyone wants Berry and Moeaki to return as soon as the 2012 regular season begins at full strength. But injuries often redefine players, creating limitations where there previously weren’t any.
It’s hard to tell if a player is going to be completely ready until the game is played on the field. Rehab can go well. Reps can look good. A player can rejoin team workouts and full participate in drills and even through training camp. But once contact is allowed on the field against other players trying to chase their NFL dream as well… well, that’s an entirely different category.
The reality is that the Denver Broncos can enjoy all of the offseason accolades from post-Super Bowl through August. John Elway will enjoy the pats on the back for the next four months and soak it up with visions of greatness for the years ahead for the Broncos. But until Peyton Manning delivers a deep strike to Demaryius Thomas after getting laid out by Tamba Hali (and then gets back up), nothing is certain.
The Chiefs are doing due diligence in checking out other veteran options who could step in. The reality is that the Chiefs starting tight ends for the 2012 season could be Kevin Boss and Dallas Clark if, for example, Moeaki turns out to be not quite ready and needs more time to heal.
A situation can quickly turn into major playing time for a Donald Washington or Sabby Piscitelli in the defensive backfield. One wrong move and Tyler Palko is starting four games. In the NFL, one play can change the depth and strength of a position — thereby affecting the team’s ability to perform as expected. Division champions are won and lost in the process.
Scott Pioli learned a valuable lesson last season: depth makes all the difference. It is something he already knew, of course, but the Chiefs are now, in year four of his regime, finally reaching the point where the roster has been replenished. The talent is there at every position. This late FA period is about rounding things out, checking for depth in every position and feeling solid about contingency plans in the process.