Happy Super Bowl morning to you and yours.
While we wait for the big game, let’s take a sneak peak into some decisions looming for the Chiefs this offseason.
I’ve spent the month mourning, then wondering why I was so surprised that the Chiefs lost. With contracts to negotiate, players to move away, and coaching staff adjustments to be made, the season never truly ends for men like Clark Hunt, John Dorsey, and Andy Reid.
1. Re-sign Eric Berry, at all costs
After playing out 2016 on the franchise tag, the gig is up for the Chiefs front office. It’s time to pay up on their leader, best defensive player, and beating heart. Berry single-handedly turned the tide in wins at Atlanta and Carolina, and was a driving force in others. At 27, he’s well in his prime and is arguably the game’s best safety. It’s possible he gets tagged again, but I’d find that to be disrespectful to Berry, who has gone through a lot to suit up for this franchise and Berry already said he won’t play under the tag again in 2017…nor should he.
2. Quarterback: Find THE guy, NOW
42-20 in the regular season means nothing when you’re 1-3 in the playoffs in the same time period. How a quarterback, in today’s NFL, only throws for 15 scores is beyond me, and just more proof that the Alex Smith chapter needs to be closed. When the Chiefs needed him to show up the most, he failed in the biggest ways. Between bailing from clean and semi-dirty pockets to missing a streaking Tyreek Hill on multiple occasions, Smith flatlined just when it seemed KC was destined to make a run. QB’s Tyrod Taylor and Kirk Cousins could become free agents this offseason, and the Chiefs would be wise to look at both very seriously. Smith will be 33 in May, and despite being in the system for four years has not progressed, despite making two Pro Bowls. His inabilities are rendering Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley nearly useless, and the lack of down field prowess leave Spencer Ware with unattractive boxes. I think the draft would be the best way to address this need, but Cousins and Taylor would be significant upgrade.
3. Determine the true value of Dontari Poe
Since his utterly dominant rookie season, the veteran nose tackle hasn’t quite been the same. He’s played plenty of snaps, and he’s had some back problems, and the Chiefs drafted Chris Jones in the second round last year. He proved to be nearly unstoppable at times, and was one of the few players on the Chiefs that could get consistent interior pressure. While I’m sure KC would love to keep Poe, who is still a more proven commodity than Jones or Rakeem Nunez-Roches, his backups, the market will truly determine his value if the Chiefs let him get there. He’s not a pass rusher, and he’s a solid yet unspectacular run stopper. Where does Poe see himself, and where do the Chiefs see him? If it comes down to him or Berry, I believe Berry is far more essential, but we’ll learn a lot in the coming months.
4. Was Terrance Mitchell the real deal? If not, what to do opposite Marcus Peters?
While Peters backed up his incredible rookie season with a quality sophomore season (in many ways actually better than his rookie season), it was every corner opposite him that opposing quarterbacks picked on, until practice squad addition Terrance Mitchell stepped in. Teams tried to test him too, but eventually realized that he was no joke. I enjoyed his play, but I’m just as wary. The Chiefs went through this with Marcus Cooper in 2013, and found out quickly he wasn’t up to par. We won’t know until next September if he’s the next Cooper, so for now, KC may want to address the corner position again this year. Phillip Gaines was terrible when he wasn’t injured, and rookie D.J White wasn’t much better. Steven Nelson was solid, but he’s best in the slot.
5. What to do at guard?
Between the rookie Parker Ehinger, and veterans Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Zach Fulton, the Chiefs have one guy who excelled in the pass and run game last year: Ehinger. Guard play was a big reason why the run game struggled, and why KC was abysmal in short yardage situations and the run game took a huge hit when he went down to a season-injury at Indy. Dorsey hasn’t invested a lot in the position, and it shows, but this year may be the time to change that. Ehinger will be back, meaning they may have to address that just one guard spot, but depth is just as critical.
6. Cairo Santos and Albert Wilson are restricted free agents…should KC bring them back?
As an undrafted kicker out of Tulane in 2014, Santos has been solid for the Chiefs after they let veteran Ryan Succop go in his stead. Also an undrafted free agent from the same year (Georgia St.), receiver Albert Wilson has been less consistent, but has made his fair share of big plays. After Maclin, Chris Conley, and Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs don’t have any proven guys, meaning they’re likely to bring Wilson back, but keep in mind, Wilson has dropped some passes he’s needed to catch and struggled in tracking some deep balls at times. Since the Chiefs haven’t been big on drafting receivers (three since 2013, not including De’Anthony Thomas), it’s likely Wilson is back for the 2017 season.
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