The Kansas City Chiefs entered the NFL’s free agency period with a lot of work to do, but with very few true holes to fill at the same time.
Although there are still a few free agents out there, the free agency period has pretty much concluded and now teams are looking ahead to the draft in just over two weeks. Despite being unable to land quarterback Peyton Manning, the Chiefs fared as well as nearly any team in the league in free agency.
Here are five reasons that Chiefs fans should be encouraged as we head into the 2012 NFL Draft:
1. Depth – The Chiefs were among the weakest teams in the league when it came to overall depth on their roster and players who could step in and contribute if called upon. Tyler Palko was a disaster as the team’s backup quarterback, Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle were less than impressive (particularly Jones) as they filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles at running back, Leonard Pope had his moments but was not the answer for injured tight end Tony Moeaki, and Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw proved to be a zoo in the defensive backfield at best. The only spot where the Chiefs had adequate depth was the defensive line, but they also have the least amount of starting talent at those spots then they do quite possibly anywhere else on the team. The Chiefs were able to address their issue of depth by adding quality players at nearly all of these positions. Players such as Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss, and Brady Quinn should be motivated to make an impact and both Hillis and Boss will undoubtedly receiver the chance to do so. Kansas City has failed to upgrade their depth at safety which is a questionable move at best, but they still have the draft to get that done.
2. They Can Draft Whoever, Whenever – The Chiefs are in the envious position of being able to draft the best player available with all of their draft picks. Yes, Kansas City needs a nose tackle and that should be a priority in this draft, but they have very few needs left to fill on their young and talented roster. The Chiefs could go many directions with their first round pick, as they could look at nose tackle, linebacker, offensive line, or even possibly quarterback. It’s nice to have options and the Chiefs certainly have them thanks to their aggressive moves in free agency.
3. No More Excuses For Matt Cassel – The time is now for Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, it’s time for him to produce on a consistent basis or risk losing his job in 2013. Kansas City has given Cassel the weapons to succeed, but now the 29-year-old must lead the Chiefs into the playoffs once again, if not deep into the playoffs. The Chiefs are unquestionably a top 10 team when it comes to talent at the skill positions, with the only question mark coming at their most important position, quarterback. Kansas City’s playcalling has often been conservative and downright predictable in the past, so it will be up to new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to open up the offense and really let Cassel show what he can (or can’t) do.
4. The Running Game Should Return To Being Elite Once Again – Running back Jamaal Charles’ knee injury last season was a crushing blow to the Chiefs 2011 season, but he will be back and hopefully just as good as we before the injury (which was arguably as good or better than anyone in the league). Charles will not have to do it by himself however, as Peyton Hillis has brought his tough running style to Kansas City this offseason and without the Madden cover curse hanging over his head, may be ready for a return to the NFL’s very good, but not great category. Barry Richardson was a joke at right tackle the past few seasons, but the Chiefs solved that problem by adding one of the best right tackles in the game, Eric Winston. If you thought Charles was good while running behind a mediocre offensive line in 2010, wait until you see what he can do in 2012 with a much improved o-line. The Chiefs running game should once again return to the top of the NFL in 2012 and that will be a welcome sight for KC fans.
5. Defense, Defense, Defense – The Chiefs decided to basically neglect their defense during free agency, opting to sign only corner Stanford Routt (while letting Brandon Carr leave town) and re-sign middle linebacker Jovan Belcher amongst a few other minor moves. So why does the fact that the Chiefs loaded up on offense in free agency bode well for the defense? I’m glad you asked. With an improved offense and particularly running game, Romeo Crennel’s defense should spend much less time on the field this season. Kansas City was already a top 10 pass defense last season, without Eric Berry and with Piscitelli and McGraw. If Routt can step in and fill the shoes of the departed Carr, the Chiefs could really have a special defense. Kansas City should be looking to go heavy on defense in the draft to continue adding depth to their secondary and linebacker corps in particular. The Chiefs already have a plethora of young talent on their defense, and they should only stockpile more in a couple of weeks, giving Kansas City a chance to possess a potentially dominating defense for years to come if they play their cards right.