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Answer Bob/Pre-Free Agency – Part #2

Here’s the second installment of your questions and my answers. Many thanks.

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Tucson Chiefs fan says: Hi Bob, how much do you think a player’s personality (free agent or draftee) comes into play when Dorsey/Reid look at players? It may seem like an odd question but I believe we had a losing mentality for quite some time and I think that may be the biggest hurdle for us to overcome (although we definitely have started). People are talking about copying Seattle’s blueprint for success with tall press coverage. That’s great but what I see with the Seahawks is a team that consistently expects they will win each week. Same with New England – new players all the time but the “cocky, we are winners” attitude prevails. Is attitude a big or small part of what they look for?

Bob says: Tucson, great question and not odd at all. Personality is a huge part of what they are looking for in players. Both Dorsey and Reid said at the NFL Combine last month that they want to find payers with a passion for the game. That passion shows itself not just on the field during a game, but in practice, the off-season, the locker room, the meetings – every aspect of the job. They want to see and hear that passion when they meet and interview college players. They seek as much information on the history of veteran players as they can dig up. Players with the Chiefs are asked to give a lot, in everything from time, to sweat and blood. If they don’t have a passion for the game, it’s not going to work. The bodies trying to crack NFL rosters all possess outstanding athletic ability. The ones that stick bring something else to the team. That’s what they attempt to find. Last year, Dunta Robinson proved to be over the hill as a cornerback and his signing did not help the Chiefs defense on the field. But Robinson’s presence was not a compete bust – he’s one of those guys that approaches his business with passion. He had a huge influence on the rest of the secondary with his advice and the work ethic he displayed. Robinson did this even when his playing time shrunk and then disappeared.

Is the man a professional? Does he approach his job with energy and passion? Is he a “me” guy or a “we” guy? They are always looking for those types of players, because those types of personality find ways to win games.

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mjtrosh says: Hi Bob, glad you’re hanging in there and thanks for the opportunity to seek info. Seems to me the biggest part of free agency is making deals with your own free agents, as I believe you have a better chance of succeeding with signing those players you know as opposed to those who are strangers to you. Does the fact the Chiefs don’t seem to have done that with any of their bigger name free agents prior to the window shopping weekend tell us they are not going to wrap up many, if any, of their own? I know I had hoped they’d have made some deal with one of their free agent guards prior to this point. Short of keeping some of their own, I have always thought those signings AFTER the big splash signings that first week are more important in the long term, as there are still quality players out there, but at a price that doesn’t screw up the salary cap situation. What do you think? Keep punching buddy.

Bob says: mj, thanks for your support. The first step in any team’s approach to free agency is signing their own players, because as you correctly state the player a team knows generally is better than a player that Dorsey/Reid do not know, and must trust the words of others when they go through the evaluation process. The Chiefs personnel department has a lot of faces that were with other teams about a year ago, so they have some fresh info they can bring to a discussion. Of course, sometimes a team’s own players are not worth re-signing so they must search elsewhere. From my perspective, the only unrestricted free agent the Chiefs needed to re-sign was left tackle Branden Albert. I think it hurts the roster to let him get away, and I understand the economics of the situation visa-a-vie the salary cap. Understand this: every free agent tends to be overpaid, maybe less so when a team retains its own, but overpaid nonetheless. That’s what makes the personnel puzzle such a difficult one in the NFL. Solid personnel operations find players after the mad rush to start free agency and near the end of the NFL Draft and afterwards with rookie free agents.

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Craig says: Hi Bob, my thoughts and prayers are with you and yours as you work through your personal losses this past year. My questions are: 1.) who are the players that are free agents on the roster that you see as must sign? 2.) Who are the “other” free agents on the market that the Chiefs should consider? 3.) Will the Chiefs make a “splash” in free agency signing someone else’s prize player?

Bob says: Thanks Craig for your kind words and support. 1.) I think the Chiefs should have re-signed Albert. I think they should re-sign Geoff Schwartz and Husain Abdullah. Everyone else falls under the category of staying on the roster only at the Chiefs number. 2.) I wrote about a few players that are available in a previous batch of questions, but to recap I think veteran receivers like James Jones (Green Bay) and Jason Avant (Philadelphia) would make good No. 2 or 3 receivers. Tight end Jermichael Finley (Green Bay) should get a serious look if he’s healthy after a back/spinal injury last season. I would take a long look at defensive lineman Lamarr Houston (Oakland) because he’s young and talented. Others will pop up in the final hours as teams move players off their rosters to get under the salary cap. 3.) I don’t expect a big splash from the Chiefs in free agency because (a.) that’s not their style, (b.) they are dealing with salary cap issues and (c.) it’s just not their style.

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cychief24 says: Bob, I’d love to read what your thoughts are on the O-line w/o Branden Albert. It seems to me we really need to sign Schwartz and Asamoah. In my opinion Allen is the weak link and should be there as depth. What do you think?

Bob says: Good points cy. I think losing Albert is a step backwards for that group. If Eric Fisher is moved over there it’s a position in transition. If Donald Stephenson is placed at right tackle full-time, that’s a position in transition. That’s why it’s important for them to sign either Schwartz or Asamoah, or both if they can. They don’t need another position along the offensive front in transition. If they can’t Schwartz and/or Asamoah then they lose not only their best two linemen from last year (Albert and Schwartz), but the line depth is gone and that will make reaching out and signing veteran free agents at guard and tackle more of a priority. There’s no doubt Allen is the weak link in the group and the Chiefs need to have someone challenging him for the starting spot at left guard.

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ObscureDave says: Bob, I am feeling uneasy that we may be on the brink of losing three good o-linemen. Is this a fault assessable to Dorsey for allowing us to be so unprepared cap-wise? On the other hand, isn’t the CBA rule that all teams must pay around a minimum of 90% of the cap each year? That would suggest that you have to have some heavy contracts expire or be cut each year to gain significant room in the cap. All teams are in this boat but I am stunned that we could not have foreseen this impending crisis a year ago and prepared better. Your thoughts? Thanks much.

Bob says: Dave, I don’t think the situation has surprised Dorsey and the Chiefs front-office at all. It’s part of trying to juggle talent, contracts and the cap limit and floor. It’s easy when a team does not have a lot of talent. It’s hard to do in a situation the Chiefs currently face when enough talent ties up so much money under the cap. The Chiefs top five cap numbers account for nearly $53.58 million and the top 10 cap numbers tie up $79.06 million. That leaves around $57 million for other 43 players on the roster.

There are a lot of clubs in similar situations. Teams free up room under the cap by reworking player contracts. However, that just pushes cap money into the next season and the problem must be dealt with again, and again, and again. Take Pittsburgh for instance. The Steelers problems in the last few seasons have been a cap that had too much money tied up with too few players. They work to clear space to maneuver by pushing dollars into the future with redone contracts and that guarantees more cap problems down the road. As near as we know publicly so far, the Chiefs have not done a great deal of jiggering with the salaries of their highest paid players. At some point in time, they may have to do that. As for the offensive line, losing Albert really hurts. Schwartz and Asamoah are not out of the picture just yet.

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Tenand6 says: I don’t understand the Chiefs cap situation. Can you shed some light on how much flexibility they have and what more can be done? For instance, if a new Alex Smith deal is completed, this can actually help the Chiefs this year with cap space, yes? And I assume some space must be left for draft picks. Two things I don’t understand: Math and Green Right Strong Slot Spider 2 Y Banana.

Bob says: Here’s what you need to know about the cap situation – the Chiefs should have close to $10 million available to them once this year’s cap begins at 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. Some of that space must be saved for draft picks, but those numbers are not as big as they once were and remember, the Chiefs do not have a second-round pick at this time. As far as a new contract for Alex Smith – there’s no way a new deal is going to help the Chiefs cap situation. Chicago signed Jay Cutler to a new deal that in the first three seasons will pay him $54 million. Let’s say the Chiefs and Smith agreed to a new three-year extension at $42 million, added with the $8 million cap number the quarterback carries for the coming season. That’s $50 million total in this imaginary but possible contract. No amount of cap gymnastics is going to open cap space in 2014 with a new deal.

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Ernie Barney says: Offensive line concerns (I have a recurring nightmare that features Alex Smith on the turf with a season ending injury) but to keep the Donkeys at bay for one more Peyton Manning season we obviously need secondary help. Thoughts?

Bob says: Ernie, there’s no question the Chiefs need help at free safety and like every team in the league they need more talent at cornerback. But to help the secondary, they also need an improved pass rush, one that can consistently pressure the league’s best quarterbacks. Last year they lost their six games to Manning, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck and in those games against Denver, San Diego and Indianapolis, the Chiefs totaled six sacks. Half of that total came in the final game of the regular season against the Chargers, so five other games had just three sacks. In those six games they had six interceptions, half in the post-season loss to the Colts. It was a complete defensive problem, not just the secondary.

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chief214 says: What would have to happen for a Darren Sproles homecoming to be realistic? Are there other players in his expected price range that could have as much of an impact in Reid’s offense?

Bob says: Sproles is an interesting consideration for the Chiefs at this time, and not for any homecoming reasons. There isn’t always a good outcome in return situations; sometimes it’s more pressure than a player can handle. A veteran of 8 NFL seasons Sproles should be able to handle the attention. The question is what does Sproles have left in the tank? Consider these facts: a.) in the last two seasons he missed four games to injury, b.) he’s not scored a return touchdown since the 2011 season and his longest return either punt or kickoff in the 2012-13 seasons was 48 yards, c.) he will be 31 years old in June. Last year, he had 1,273 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Dexter McCluster had all-purpose yardage of 1,205 yards and four touchdowns. There’s little question that Sproles would fit in the Reid offense – last year he caught 71 passes for 604 yards from Drew Brees in New Orleans.

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johnfromfairfax says: Hi Bob, glad to have the chance to talk to you. How do you think the Chiefs should approach free agency with the draft in mind as well? What move or moves would you make and what weaknesses would you attempt to address through one versus the other?

Bob says: In free agency I first have to consider what I’ve lost and how I replace those spots on the roster. With those three offensive linemen as free agents, I would make sure in March that I grabbed a couple of second-level offensive linemen. Should I not keep defensive end Tyson Jackson, I’d look for veteran help at that position. If I lost safety Husain Abdullah, there’s no question I’d try to find a veteran safety. The other Chiefs free agents are replaceable. Any other free agent signees would be in hopes of increasing the competition level and establishing veteran depth. In the draft I would focus on wide receiver, safety, offensive tackle and defensive end.

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R W says: Man alive, excellent answers all over the spectrum. Well done Bob, and with a heavy heart but maybe this is a healing of sorts? 1.) I think a key for Dorsey/Reid to keep in mind for free agency is two-fold: a.) 30 is not the new 25 and skills rapidly diminish in this league past the trusted age. 2) Making big splashes early in free agency doesn’t equate to on-field success. Look at last year and the Dolphins who finished 6-10 after paying big $$ for Mike Wallace in the first hours of free agency. Come on Dorsey!

Bob says: Good points R W. The more rings around the bark of a player and the more his ability to make future contributions must be carefully evaluated. The NFL never gets older; it’s always getting younger. I can’t imagine the Chiefs making a “big splash” in the first day of free agency, or even the first week. Like all team leadership does around the league, Dorsey/Reid keep their cards close to their chest. Yet, we understand by how they’ve approached their time in the league and what ownership wants that they aren’t going to be a factor in the big-money derby.


One Response to “Answer Bob/Pre-Free Agency – Part #2”

  • March 11, 2014  - R W says:

    It seems to me that the Chiefs have gone from an all-in 2013 plan to do a quick turnaround on a team with a soft schedule on to having to go immediately into re-building mode. Let’s face it, the 2013 draft for the Chiefs sucked, producing little except for the 2d rounder given up for Alex Smith which was huge, obviously.

    Now we’re looking at a decimated Oline possibility with only cut & paste untested replacements. Today is far better than the Pioli team finishing up 2012 but being a realist, I don’t see the makings of another playoff team in 2014. Too many roster holes, too little cap space and too little contribution from the last draft class.




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