Taking A First Off-season Step … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

A lot of personnel dominos fell on Monday when the Chiefs reached agreement with free agent CB Stanford Routt.

His addition affects four-year CB starter Brandon Carr’s future with the team. The move changes the landscape for WR Dwayne Bowe. The news flows down the NFL personnel/free agent pipeline to other teams and other positions. Before the 2012 NFL season has officially started, GM Scott Pioli has made a big move by signing the soon-to-be eight-year veteran who had been released earlier this month by the Oakland Raiders. That’s the team that selected Routt in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of the University of Houston.

The three-year, $19.6 million contract won’t break anybody’s bank in the NFL, especially the Chiefs given the huge salary cap surplus they carry into the coming season.

It’s a very forward move by team chairman Clark Hunt and Pioli to backup their public statements that they will be more active in free agency this season, and won’t be afraid to open the wallet for good talent.

The signing also leaves a lot of questions, the type that Pioli does not make himself available for with the entire media horde. But we’ll try to provide answers in the absence of explanation from the Chiefs.

Just how good is Stanford Routt?

He’s a decent enough cover guy, more specifically in man-to-man coverage than zone. He’s prone to penalty; his 18 penalties were the most by a defensive player in the 2011 season. Routt likes to get his hands on receivers and frequently ends up getting flagged for defensive holding (8 flags), pass interference (7) and illegal use of hands (1). He was also hit with a personal foul call. Five of the 18 penalties came in two games against the Chiefs, including four in the next to last regular season game. Also, all 18 of those penalties produced a first down for the opposition. Routt gave up eight touchdown catches, the second highest total in the league. There were times in the 2011 season, especially at the end of the schedule, when Routt was more of a liability than contributor (nine penalties in the last three games.)

Does the Routt signing mean Brandon Carr is gone and won’t be re-signed?

It doesn’t have to be, but that’s likely the case. The Chiefs have plenty of cash and cap dollars to sign Routt, Carr, and WR Dwayne Bowe too boot. But do not expect that to happen.

If they have the money, why not sign Carr as well?

It’s all about the money – that a deal hasn’t been worked out tells us that Carr is looking for more money than the Chiefs are willing to pay. Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel may not believe Carr is talented enough to command a free-agent contract in the neighborhood of $10 to $11 million per season. That wouldn’t make much sense given what the tape shows of Carr’s play in the past four years; his production is still trending upward and there’s more room for growth. There’s also a concern with having too much money sunk into one position group. Pioli is a great believer in balancing his cap dollars. Right now the Chiefs budget is tilted towards defense with big money contracts this year for DE Tyson Jackson, DE Glenn Dorsey, OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Derrick Johnson, CB Brandon Flowers and SS Eric Berry. Now, add Routt to that mix and there’s a defensive imbalance and on defense, a secondary imbalance. Routt ($6 million), Flowers ($5.75 million) and Berry ($4.8 million) is money already committed in 2012 for just those three players.

Is Routt a better player than Carr?

No. In some facets of the position they have produced similar numbers and performances during their careers. Carr was selected by Herm Edwards in the 2008 NFL Draft because of how the former Chiefs coach saw him fitting into the Cover 2 defense. But Carr has made strides in improving his overall ability, not only in zone but man to man coverage. Last season he allowed only three touchdown catches and was penalized five times, with two of those being declined. Carr will be 26 in his fifth NFL season. Routt will be 29 in his eighth league season. Carr has been a starter since Game No. 1 of his rookie season. Routt has been a starter for the Raiders in three of his seven seasons. Although he’s played in three fewer seasons, Carr has started 11 more games (64 to 53) than Routt.

Wouldn’t having Routt, Carr and Flowers be too many No. 1 cornerback types?

Routt is not the No. 1 CB-type. His best season was in 2010, when he was the Raiders No. 2 corner with Nnamdi Asomugha the top dog. When the Raiders allowed Asomugha to leave in free agency last year (he signed in Philadelphia), Routt became the No. 1 in Oakland and based on his production from 2010 to 2011 he did not handle that role very well. There were times last season where Carr was the Chiefs best cornerback on the field. Also remember this – a defense can never have too many good quarterbacks. In today’s game, a team can never have too many pass rushers or coverage guys. A foursome of Flowers, Carr, Routt and Arenas would elevate the Chiefs to the best group of CBs in the league.

Where will Carr end up playing?

Right now, I’d say the frontrunners would be the Oakland Raiders or Detroit Lions. Carr is highly valued around the NFL and will have plenty of suitors. But expect the Lions to show great interest in him with Gunther Cunningham as their defensive coordinator. With new folks running the Raiders, don’t be surprised if they make a play to sign Carr. It would be one of those intra-division moves that the Raiders and Chiefs have been pulling for years (think Chester McGlockton and Rich Gannon.)

Will the Chiefs name Bowe their franchise player?

They have the opportunity to do so, and it was available starting on Monday; that was the opening day where teams can name a franchise player. Without progress in negotiations with Bowe, slapping him with the franchise tag would tie him up for the 2012 season, at a cost somewhere between $9.5 and $10 million. That would effectively take Bowe off the market and allow them another year to get something done with their No. 1 receiver.

So are the Chiefs going to be players in free agency or not?

There’s no way Hunt and Pioli are going to dive head first into the deep end of unrestricted free agency. That’s not how these guys are built and that type of behavior would go against almost everything they’ve laid out as the foundation for how they want to build the team. Signing Routt is the best player they’ve picked up off-the-street free agency in four off-seasons under Pioli’s personnel direction. That’s a good sign. However, it’s going to take more than signing Routt to prove they are working every angle in the personnel department to improve the team with talent and use some of the salary cap space they have built up.

23 Responses to “Taking A First Off-season Step … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • February 21, 2012  - James says:

    Fan wise we don’t like this. Team wise it’s a good move. Just hope Carr doesn’t end up with a division rival.

  • February 21, 2012  - Milkman says:

    If the Raiders do go after Carr, then I guess the “cost-cutting” reason for dumping Routt goes out the window. They will have to pay Carr at least what they were going to pay Routt this year. So, if that’s the case, why did they cut Routt? The Chiefs continually preach “free agency also means retaining your own good young players” and then do not retain one of their youngest ascending players at one of the hardest positions on defense. We hardly ever get any news out of Arrowhead anymore, and when they do talk- it is evidently B.S.

  • February 21, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    So we pick up a guy for less money that epitomizes the “Raiders way” committing the most penalties by a defensive player in the league and giving up the second most touchdowns in the league in exchange for a younger, better player. I realize he’ll be the number two corner on the Chiefs and having Berry back in the lineup can cover other deficiencies but unless we’re conserving bucks to entice Peyton I’m not sure how we’ve improved our team. I’ve watched Routt get beat a lot of times and make some real boneheaded plays at inopportune times. We have the money to resign both Carr and Bowe but I’m guessing you’re right Bob and the Chiefs don’t think Carr is worth the money he will command on the market. So we go with plan B and sign a lesser talent for less money. At least we are being proactive even if it’s addition by subtraction. Now if we re-sign Carr it might be a different story but I’m not banking on that happening.

  • February 21, 2012  - Chuck says:

    Bob; This is a great report and its unbiased. I could echo your thoughts. Getting rid of a fantastic 26 year old corner for a 29 year old corner that is “heavily penalized” and gives up alot of touchdowns doesn’t really make any “logical sense”. But I do “get it”. Its like old Jerry Maguire use to say: “show me the money”!!!!!!

  • February 21, 2012  - Michael says:

    I think the two players are essentially equivalent, both ranked at about the 20th best corner in the league. They’re both good players, and I like them both. Sometimes Carr was the best Chiefs cornerback on the filed, but other times teams just didn’t throw his way because they were going after Flowers when he was slowed by injuries. Carr was much more consistent last year than years past, but he still is prone to up and down play.

    Having said that, we all know the best move here for the team is to have all three: Bowe, Carr and Routt. That, would be improving your football team. Otherwise, this is purely a defensive move in response to not signing Carr. And, although Routt probably represents the most talented free agent signing by Pioli, it can in no way be taken as a sign that Pioli and Hunt are ready to improve the team and add depth through free agency. This is merely trying to stand pat.

  • February 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    Carr maybe slightly better than Routt but its only slightly. Pioli not going pay #1 corner dollars to a #2 corner. Bottom line Flowers is #1 corner on this team. He is one match up with opposing #1 receiver not Carr. Jus because you have alot money in the bank doesnt mean you go spend like a drunken sailor. We have way more wholes on this team than to invest huge dollar into corner position. We still need nose tackle, depth at running back, and tight end. So this good move give Chiefs more time to focus on other needs.

  • February 21, 2012  - Scott Larigan says:

    I love this move! Scott Pioli has made a strong first step into the FA market and increased his leverage in the negotiations with Carr and Bowe. With both players looking for (and deserving) large contracts, Pioli was at a disadvantage because he only has one option with the franchise tag. But now we have our starter at CB next year under contract which immediately swings the pressure over to D. Bowe. Bowe knows that Pioli is now free to use the franchise tag on him, so if he wants long term security, he must negotiate from a position of weakness.

    When Bowe signs, and in my opinion he will, this leaves Pioli in a position to put the tag on Carr. Now we have all our players plus the addition of a quality CB before FA starts. Should Pioli feel that he has too much money tied up into the secondary, he is now in a position to trade Carr and get some return value in the form of a draft pick.

    Scott Pioli, you are a genius. I can’t wait to see if you pull this off!

  • February 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    As far as route goes now he is back to his natural position of being #2 corner I expect him to produce higher level. He is certainly more talented than Carr in terms of speed and athleticism. I expect playing alongside better talent here in Kc and better coaching all the penalties and stuff will not be as high here like it was in Oakland

  • February 21, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    While I don’t think he is as good as Carr overall, the other point Bob made that has to be factored in is that Routt is a better man to man cover corner. If that means we’re going to be more aggressive on defense in getting after the QB then I’m all for it. How many third and forevers have we given up over the past few years? Also, if we keep Carr it will really strengthen our defensive coverage packages.

  • February 21, 2012  - aPauled says:

    I’m not sure that the posters talking #1 and #2 corner have watched the Chiefs play D. Flowers lines up almost exclusively on the Left side. Carr lined up almost exclusively on the Right side. It was rare that the Chiefs moved Flowers to match with the #1 Receiver.

    It will be interesting to see if a team offers Carr #1 money that he is apparently asking. I haven’t seen him play consistently at that level and like this move.

  • February 21, 2012  - Cheb Ornek says:

    I don’t know how anyone who pays attention to how either Carr or Routt has played over their career’s can say that Routt is better at anything than Carr. Brandon Carr has been more productive (by far) than Routt in just four years of starting/playing…than Routt has been with seven seasons under his belt. Both are are about he 20th best at the cornerback position? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to statistics, production, penalties/drive extenders?


    Pioli has to ink Brandon Carr now to a long term deal, for this pick up to give him and KC any real credibility.


  • February 21, 2012  - Cheb Ornek says:

    Furthermore, what happens when and if our #1 corner goes down with injury. Then whom do we have step over to cover the top receivers in the league on a weekly basis. Stanford Routt? Gimme a break. Berry goes out on the 2nd play of 2011 thanks to a cheap shot, and KC has to endure starting an over the hill has been who, although his coaches may think (he’s probably the smartest guy on the field) is always either out of position with the wrong pursuit angle and then chasing receivers or running backs down the field … or he’s getting flattened or whiffing on tackle opportunities when those ball carriers run right at him – (john mcgraw I was watching you). Moobs Pioli has to have a better backup plan this year on the team with 2nd level players to come in and spell the starters or to become the starter in case of injury.

    Sign Brandon Carr. Sign Dewayne Bowe. Retain your top talent and then go get more elsewhere. Spend that coin!!

  • February 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    What im saying organization value Flowers as #1 corner. Jus like dey value Hali as the team #1 pass rusher which is.why both players got big contracts. So what im saying is organization value Carr as #2 corner but he is trying get #1 corner money that isnt going happen here. Not with us having add more talent in free agency and look at resigning Branden Albert and Dorsey after next season to possibly big deals as well. Pioli is very strategic in his personel moves we have alot cap space now want be the case after 2013

  • February 21, 2012  - David says:

    It doesn’t make much sense to pay the salaries of two (or three!)”#1″ corners, plus the highest salary (Berry) of any safety in the league, when:
    (1) your RT incumbent probably doesn’t even belong on an NFL roster;
    (2) you need a new NT;
    (3) you need a legitimate #2 QB; and
    (4) you need additional help on the offensive line.

    The Routt in, Carr out move makes sense IF the team now uses its cap money to fill the obvious holes in the roster. Clark Hunt stuck his neck out and vowed he will do so. I am hopeful (and cautiously optimistic) that he will not betray that promise to the fan base.

  • February 21, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    The Oakland Tribune said “some fans won’t be sorry to see Routt leave”. A reader commented “what do you mean ‘some’? I don’t mind this signing if they resign Carr. If they don’t resign Carr then this appears to be simply a cost savings and the cheap look cheaper. Man, I, too, am trying to be cautiously optimstic about Hunt’ goals but that isn’t easy.

  • February 21, 2012  - el cid says:

    With Clark and Pioli it is all about “good enough” and the price is right. Routt is good enough to replace Carr and the price was right. Barring injury, it is a logical move, altho really supports the “cheap” concept to a “T”.

    About Bowe, logic says franchise him and make him earn really big bucks after 2012.

    Either senario, this organization “wants to keep their young players” if the price is cheap. Clark says he will add to the player salary, do not believe it. Unless it is over the hill and cheap. Nothing changes with these guys.

  • February 21, 2012  - cychief24 says:

    David- I agree.

  • February 21, 2012  - Mike says:

    If Carr signs with Oakland, we will have swapped Carr for Routt. IMHO, we’re the big losers in that scenario.

  • February 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    Oakland don’t have cap space sign Carr so don’t worry about that. Good point David that’s exactly what I’m saying we have too many other needs to invest bunch money in def back position. Now we will go into free agency with focus on adding depth to running back, tight end, and nose tackle.

  • February 21, 2012  - ED J says:

    Nicks saying he wants huge contract. Hey PIoli get check book out he’s best free agent olinemen signing this offseason.

  • February 21, 2012  - cychief24 says:

    I agree, raidas don’t have the cap space to make Carr happy.
    Can Nicks play RT? If not then we better draft a RT 1st round that is NFL ready. Then 2 more OT’s just in case and for depth.
    Again, I agree with David on over all needs.

  • February 22, 2012  - Jonathan Fortune says:

    Let Hunt and Pioli do their jobs and see how all of this plays itself out. We’re not trying to win the FA Super Bowl like the Redskins but the actual Super Bowl. If there is enough money to sign both Carr and Bowe then good. I am sure that there was an attempt to sign both during the year but for whatever reason that did not happen. We need to focus either in FA or the draft on both the OL and DL, backup RB, LB, and either a backup QB to challenge Cassell or attempt to get Manning or RG III.

  • February 22, 2012  - Milkman says:

    If the Chiefs sign Carr to a long term contract now, that will mean they will have a big percentage of their salary cap tied up in one position. They simply have too many other holes in their lineup for that to be a responsible move.So I will be surprised to see them sign Carr now, no matter what Pioli has said after the Routt signing.
    And it would be nice to think they would be in the Carl Nicks sweepstakes, but look for the Saints to franchise him if they can get Brees signed before March 13th.

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