Filling Roster Spots … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

When the NFL returns to business, among the first items on the league’s agenda will be the three forms of free agency – street free agents (SFA), unrestricted/restricted free agents (UFA/RFA) and college free agents (CFA).

Here’s a free agency primer:

  • SFA – They are known as street free agents because they are “on the street” out of work, with no affiliation after being released by one of the other NFL teams. Within the SFA’s are two categories – players without jobs because they were at the end of their careers and players without jobs because they are at the start of their careers. On last year’s roster Tim Castille, Leonard Pope, Ryan Lilja, Thomas Jones, Brian Waters, Shaun Smith, Wallace Gilberry and Andy Studebaker were just a few of the SFAs.
  • UFA/RFA – These are players who were employed, but their contracts have expired. The difference between unrestricted and restricted will depend on the rules worked out in the labor agreement. Previous rules had players with four years experience being unrestricted, three years were restricted. Last year without the salary cap, it was six years for unrestricted status. Last season, the Chiefs had four UFAs: WR Terrance Copper, NT Ron Edwards, LB Demorrio Williams and S Jon McGraw.
  • CFA – These are players coming out of the college ranks who were not selected in April’s NFL Draft. On the roster as CFAs were Mike Cox, Rudy Niswanger, Jovan Belcher, Cory Greenwood and Rick Price.

The Chiefs figure to be active in all three areas of free agency because they have holes to fill on their roster if this group is going to be improved over last year’s team. That is the only way the Chiefs will remain a contender – yearly improvement of the talent level and that must come from every available source.

What will the Chiefs look for among the various FAs? Here’s this man’s opinion of the holes on the roster that need to be filled to increase the competitive level on each side of the line of scrimmage. They are listed in order of importance to the team’s success in the coming season:

Offensive tackle

  • On the roster – Branden Albert, Bobby Greenwood.
  • Free Agents – Ryan O’Callaghan, Barry Richardson.

No matter how you slice or dice it, the Chiefs need tackles. Even if they signed back both O’Callaghan and Richardson, they would still need another body in the mix to help provide depth and competition at this spot. Blockers to come in and challenge starters Albert and Richardson will only make them better. Both had average to good performances last year, but given the fact both are going into their fourth seasons there should be a lot of room for growth. Even if the Chiefs should resign both O’Callaghan and Richardson, they need to add OT help. ACTION – the Chiefs should sign one tackle from all three groups, SFA, UFA and CFA.

Wide receiver

  • On the roster – Jonathan Baldwin, Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Quinten Lawrence, Verran Tucker, Jerheme Urban, Chandler Williams.
  • Free agents – Terrance Copper, Kevin Curtis.

It’s hard to see either Chambers or Lawrence sticking with this team for the 2011 season. Chambers inactive status for the game in the playoffs was evidence enough that his time with the team is over. Lawrence has never gotten anything going and has not had an effect on the offense or special teams in two seasons; it’s time for him to move on. Copper’s value has been as a special teams player, and that gives him an edge over everyone else in the picture save possibly Tucker. Bowe and Baldwin figure to be in the starters, with Urban and Tucker pushing for playing time. That leaves at least one spot open for a player from free agency. ACTION – the Chiefs should sign a UFA/RFA in the middle of the pack, a veteran with some experience catching the ball that can contribute on special teams. If they can’t make that happen, then they should re-sign Copper.

Defensive end

  • On the roster – Allen Bailey, Glenn Dorsey, Dion Gales, Tyson Jackson.
  • Free agents – Wallace Gilberry.

The Chiefs continue to wait for Jackson to reach his potential. They’ve waited two years and there has been minimal improvement and impact from the first-round pick. Gillberry has shown improvement in each of the last two years and it would seem a no-brainer for the Chiefs to re-sign him. ACTION – the Chiefs should go after a veteran defensive end type, a SFA or UFA who has played in the league before and has a track record. They got lucky last year when Shaun Smith had the best season of his career. Maybe they can get lucky again.

Nose tackle

  • On the roster – Jerrell Powe, Anthony Toribio.
  • Free agents – Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith.

Even if all four of those tackles return, the Chiefs could sure use help inside. Until the Chiefs get dominant play from the nose tackle position they will not have one of the league’s better 3-4 defenses. Edwards and Smith are average players at best. Powe is a bit of mystery given the fact he played just three years in the past six. Toribio didn’t get a chance to show much of his abilities last year. ACTION – if there’s one position where the Chiefs should seriously consider a UFA it’s on the nose.

Inside linebacker

  • On the roster – Jovan Belcher, Justin Cole, Cory Greenwood, Derrick Johnson, Micah Johnson, Demorrio Williams.
  • Free agents – Corey Mays.

There are a lot of inside backers on the lockout roster, including Cory Greenwood who was a free agent but re-signed with the Chiefs before the doors were locked by the league. Belcher has put together a remarkable story, undrafted out of Maine as a defensive end and moving into the starting lineup at linebacker in two years. The question must be asked is how high is his ceiling? Can Belcher improve? The level of performance – especially against the run – must get better to push the defense to a higher level. ACTION – The competitors to push the production level next to Derrick Johnson may come from bodies already on the roster, topped by Greenwood and including Micah Johnson and Justin Cole. The Chiefs should keep their eye on the SFA and CFA markets for outside influence on the position.

Cornerback

  • On the roster – Javier Arenas, Jackie Bates, Jalil Brown, Brandon Flowers.
  • Free agents – Brandon Carr, Travis Daniels, Maurice Leggett.

If it turns out to be a foursome of Carr, Flowers, Arenas and the rookie Brown, then the Chiefs will have a talented and young secondary in need of one more cornerback. Arenas served as the nickel back last season, but he’s much better sneaking up to the line of scrimmage on a blitz than he was in coverage on the slot man. A much bigger and physical Brown may take some of those snaps on the corner as well. A fifth corner is needed, one that would be an improvement on Daniels, Bates, or the injury-plagued Leggett. ACTION – UFA cornerbacks cost too much money, so the Chiefs should work the SFAs and CFAs groups to find a body to help.

Quarterback

  • On the roster – Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Ricky Stanzi.
  • Free agent – Brodie Croyle.

Where the Chiefs go at this position will be interesting to watch. There’s always the chance that Croyle will return, but that will likely be only if the team pursues him. What Haley sees in Palko is something that’s hard to figure, but the head coach really likes his potential. As a draft choice, Stanzi obviously will be on the roster. The question is whether the Chiefs go after a veteran backup, somebody who has actually started a game in the NFL. I doubt that person will be Croyle. ACTION – the Chiefs should sign a SFA or UFA that has some history as a starting NFL quarterback.

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Coming up the rest of this week – a look at the best SFAs, UFAs and CFAs the Chiefs have found in their history.


10 Responses to “Filling Roster Spots … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 24, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Good stuff. I actually think the Chiefs need a legit running back. J. Charles is going to get dinged up. And while T. Jones is coming back, that position could be upgraded. Jones is, at best, an average RB, IMHO.


  • May 24, 2011  - gorillafan says:

    I agree with you and pretty much everything Bob said. I feel like Jones was a great addition but I am not that impressed. Maybe Mccluster will fill a greater roll this year. But he too, like Charles, is small and and get dinged more easily. We definately need to get a SFA or UFA in my mind at that position as well.


  • May 24, 2011  - Matt Hoover says:

    I think we must resign Shaun Smith, Wallace Gilberry, Brandon Carr, and Barry Richardson.

    Something (Gilberry’s Twitter account, mainly) that Gilberry is going to go look for a starting job in a 4-3 defense.

    Richardson has the higher ceiling and physical potential than O’Callaghan, but I wouldn’t mind seeing both brought back. If Matt Light becomes a Chiefs, that changes things, but I think we go with B-Rich again here. Great improvement last season from the young player.

    Carr will be brought back without a doubt, and I hope we’ll see both him and Flowers locked up long-term with extensions in the next year.

    Shaun Smith became a leader of this defense and this team, and I think he’s a lock to come back as a rotation player but also as Tyson Jackson insurance.

    After that, it’s a matter of upgrading. I’d love to see Copper back, but we do need that 4th veteran receiver on the field, and it’s not Chris Chambers.

    I think we’ll add some competition for our starters at RT, NT, ILB (Belcher) and then we’ll build depth. Depending on what happens with Mike Vrabel, it’s possible we’ll find a new starter there as well, unless we’re willing to roll with Studebaker until Houston can take over.


  • May 24, 2011  - HawkeyeMike says:

    Nice article. I think the Chiefs will really like Stanzi down the road. he is a smart kid who studies the game and busts his butt to learn.


  • May 24, 2011  - RW says:

    Think about the avalanche of news that will come tumbling down the side of Mt. NFL when/if this lockout ends. Free agent signings, ditto the UDFAs, vet re-signings, rookie signings, front office/coaching movement news, workout news, OTAs, Mini-camps, pressers, statements of most every kind, roster cuts, and even more that I haven’t thought of in this scenario.

    How much of the above is going on right now in the shadows? Probably a lot in terms of foundation work. For now, there’s that huge body of news water being held back by the Dam Lockout (A little play on words for the alert readers).

    Excellent story by Bob and a question: What are the upcoming calendar dates that must see the lockout ending before certain items on the NFL calendar get cancelled or moved later,(such as today’s announcement of the NFL Rookie Symposium getting deep sixed), i.e., at what date is training camp in peril, first pre-season game, etc?


  • May 24, 2011  - well says:

    brandon carr/b-rich are definitely returning, I see a long term deal for carr, KC is going big at corner and flowers is probably on the outs along with gilberry as future trade bait


  • May 24, 2011  - well says:

    palko=tebow practice.

    palko=guy no one else will bring in and yet knows our system

    simple as that, shocking so few have come to this conclusion


  • May 24, 2011  - John says:

    Bob,

    I disagree with you when you write this about Jackson
    “They’ve waited two years and there has been minimal improvement”

    If you call the difference between the Tyson Jackson we saw in early 2009 and the Tyson Jackson we saw the last 3 or 4 weeks of 2010 “minimal improvement” then I would hope for minimal improvement from every player on the team.

    Jackson looked very good in the first half of the MNF game against SD, and then finally, after beginning to heal from his injury, looked good and at times dominant in games near the end of the 2010 season. He played well in the Ravens game too.


  • May 24, 2011  - LoverOfAllThingsBobNot says:

    Bob, you suck and Whitlocks makes you his boy!!
    Does King Carl still bankroll this pathetic excuse of a website?




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