Post-Lockout Check List … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The NFL lockout should end this week or early next week with the final strokes put on a new labor agreement between owners and players.

When that moment comes, 32 NFL teams will shift into hyper-drive trying to make up for the lost time that has cost them the last four months. There will be no quiet and slow transition to the 2011 season – when the deal is done, the league will immediately hit the gas pedal and go to 70 MPH.

As with any situation, there must be a plan established that sets the priorities of what a franchise needs to get done, especially when the window is so short. I’m sure the Chiefs under the direction of Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have spent a lot of time creating their plan of attack for when the whistle blows.

Nobody around Arrowhead Stadium asked me, but here’s my post-lockout checklist for the Chiefs, ranked in order of importance and approach.

See if you agree.

1. Clark Hunt needs to immediately refund every cent that he cut from the paychecks of his employees because of the lockout. It was an unnecessary move and quite frankly leaves him with egg on his face given the fact there will be a labor agreement. Why would he make the move, take the public relations hit and be made to look like a miserly ogre before ever losing a dime due to the lockout? If this was Hunt’s decision, he needs to rethink his approach. If he was taking the advice of those around him, he needs to rethink his entourage.

Not only should Hunt immediately return the money he sliced, but he should double the total as a thank you to employees who had no say in the labor action, but continued to do their job and even spent time helping with the tornado cleanup in Joplin.

Make everything right in the building – that’s the first thing that should be done.

2. Bring the rookies in immediately for as much classroom time as possible. If that’s allowed under new rules, it’s important that the draft choices get in the house and spend time catching up on the playbook and the way things are done on the practice field. As college free agents are signed, they should immediately be added to the mix.

It will only help matters in St. Joseph when training camp starts if these young guys have a clue about where to go and what to do.

3. Sign the free agents from their roster that they want to keep and then sign a few more that they might have allowed to walk away. Given the situation, continuity from last season takes on expanded importance because of the compressed time-frame for preparation thanks to the lockout. There are free agents that the Chiefs may have let move on, or allowed to twist in the wind for awhile.

But now that prep time is short, it would help a team like the Chiefs if they kept as many players possible that are familiar with what’s being asked of them by the coaching staff.

Essentially, they need to sign Brandon Carr, Wallace Gilberry and Barry Richardson for sure. They need to get Tamba Hali to sign the franchise player tender offer. They should also bring back Shaun Smith, Ron Edwards, Leonard Pope, Ryan O’Callaghan, Rudy Niswanger, Reshard Langford, Jackie Battle, Mike Cox, Terrance Copper and Travis Daniels – none of those players are must-have contributors, but they know the landscape. They are suitable backup players.

4. Depending on the rules, get the nine draft pick signed and signed quickly. The Chiefs can hope that there is a rookie wage scale as part of the new agreement. That would make getting their selections in house a lot faster than if there was no system.

Essentially, these guys can’t afford to miss practice time fighting over a few thousand dollars. If they are going to be contributors in the 2011 season – and the Chiefs need many of them to be major contributors – then missed training camp work would be very painful and hard to overcome.

5. Bring all the quarterbacks – Matt Cassel, Ricky Stanzi and Tyler Palko and anyone else signed at that position – into the building immediately for daily sessions in the classroom before the start of training camp.

The Chiefs would love to enter the season with those three QBs as their crew and that means Stanzi has to be brought up to speed in a very quick manner. Although he’s a familiar face, there’s a new offensive coordinator in Bill Muir and a new QB coach in Jim Zorn who will be very active in the offense each week.

They won’t be able to make up for the four months that were taken away by the lockout, but Cassel, Stanzi and Palko need as much pre-camp prep time as possible to speed up the chemistry with Muir and Zorn and to allow them to be totally ready for a compressed training camp.

6. Venture into the unrestricted free agency market with the idea of adding three to five players. One of those should be a Class A player that would likely require a large contract. The other two to four players would be Class B and Class C guys, signed to fill specific roles or added to drive competition at specific positions.

While some teams might put this item at the top of their post-lockout checklist, the Chiefs don’t figure to follow that direction. This is an ownership and management that first and foremost wants to build this team through the draft. Free agents are to fill in the holes that will pop up in the roster each year; they are not players to build the future around.

If there was an entire off-season to prepare a player from outside to come in and contribute immediately, then it would make sense for Pioli and Haley to be more active than normal in the larger than normal UFA class.

But there’s nothing normal about this situation. That’s why the Chiefs should keep as many of their own free agents as possible, rather than signing a boatload of UFAs. If there is a salary-cap cash floor – meaning the team will need to spend 90-plus percent of the final cap maximum – Hunt and Pioli are going to have to spend a lot of money. They should reward the players they know, rather than throwing money at those they do not know.

7. With training camp rosters likely to expand to 90, sign 15 rookie free agents, the guys who were not drafted back in April. That would be at least one guy at every position on the roster, with a couple left over.

In two seasons, Hunt-Pioli-Haley established the foundation of what they want done with the franchise. But every year is a new adventure when putting together an NFL team and it would have been better for the continued growth of the Chiefs if they had the four months of the off-season to retool the roster.

Coming off a 10-6 season with a division championship, continuity is going to do more for the Chiefs in 2011 than throwing free agent money around willy-nilly. They need to attack what they already have, rather than chase people outside the building.

13 Responses to “Post-Lockout Check List … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • July 11, 2011  - Milkman says:

    A pretty good list, although I think the last thing Bob has listed should actually be the first. There are a lot of future starters that were not drafted still out there, as there is every year after the draft. For a team with several roster spots that need improvement, this should be their top priority.

  • July 11, 2011  - RW says:

    Nice report. I would only add that the language in the new CBA regarding forced spending by all franchises or the rumored 90% of cap as the floor will force even the flinty eyed Clark Hunt to let loose of several millions that he’s been hording.

    Money is going to be flying in all directions around the league for unsigned rooks, free agents, and vets brought back. Some clubs, like Oakland, are still top heavy with dead money (Thank you J Russell) on their books & will have to deal with that issue but the point is, the bold franchises will strike first and often while the more meek, cheaper operations will be looking at leftovers.

    The Chiefs might surprise and be big players in the valued free agent market but I don’t think it’s in Clark Hunt’s DNA to okay that strategy so I’m not getting any hopes up on that front. As to Hunt paying all those employees for lost wages, there are two chances of that happening:

    Slim and None. Slim just left town & None was driving.

  • July 11, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    I guess I didn’t notice but is Brodie Croyle still on the team???

  • July 11, 2011  - el cid says:

    Probably wrong but Brodie is in limbo until lockout ends.

    As we get ready for another season, the end of the lockout will but an emphasis on teams who have a plan and implement it quickly. With Hunt’s treatment of staff, how the Chiefs will respond will be all his fault or genius.

    As for Bob’s comments. I really doubt paras. 3 and 6 have a hope in hell of happening. It is not the style of the Chiefs to move quickly on anything, except for closing the checking account. Besides I am not sold on the idea that Mr Pioli does not want at least one more year of rebuilding without spending into the upper level of the NFL for the final push.

    Still we are coming to an end of this dispute and hope springs eternal.

  • July 11, 2011  - rwh1974 says:

    Hunt is not a football man, never was never will be. He played soccer in school, he’s invested heavily in MLS, and owns several soccer teams. The Chiefs and the NFL are just a cash cow for his money losing investments in soccer. The only reason he has been so heavily involved in negotiations is that he doesn’t want to be forced to pay his players like the majority of the teams do. If he’s forced to spend 90% of the cap that takes away from his bottom line and might force him to liquidate some of his money losing soccer investments. Or maybe he’ll continue the paycut for Chief employees and raise parking prices.

  • July 11, 2011  - BayouCityChief says:

    What position should that Class A free agent that we sign play? Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Backfield???

  • July 11, 2011  - el cid says:

    In a perfect world, the Chiefs would already have gotten a Class A WR (as in two years). So it may be time for that position but A level WR may not fit into the plan because there can be to big time misses. How about a Class A DE? or MLB?

  • July 11, 2011  - Slingblade says:

    Point 1 shows Clark Hunt made an amateurish move. I cannot believe that Pioli thought this was a good idea. Hunt looks like a spoiled rich kid who was handed a business he lacks the polish to handle. Cannot say enough about how he missed a great management opportunity to build on the momentum and chemistry from 2010.

  • July 11, 2011  - el cid says:

    Isn’t that the point of hiring Pioli? He was supposed to work hand and glove with Hunt, a dynamic duo to get thing right with the Chiefs. They win as a team and fail as a team. The future will tell the tale. It still stands that the Chiefs have shortcomings on several levels and will “hopefully” improve with time.

  • July 11, 2011  - Michael says:

    As always, great work Bob. The list is spot on. With that being said, this will not be a real season. No one will be in condition to play and starters will drop like flies and this will be known as the “replacement” year. So much for a 10 & 6 season.

    Sling nailed it; CH could care less about the franchise, unless it makes him money. I guess the acorn falls far from the tree.

    Thanks again Bob and,

    GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!

  • July 12, 2011  - Will says:

    Your strategy makes sense, but realizing these guys have had, what, seven months to come up with a strategy, it’s quite possible they may drift in a direction those of us in the great unwashed have yet to see. Whatever their decisions, in addition to refunding the employees (and I cannot agree more emphatically with that idea)I would suggest Clark renounce the $5.00 increase in parking. It will an ill conceived announcement at the absolute worse possible time. I almost find it amusing I’m writing on this when I told someone the other day that my interest is waning. It’s not the same for me. I doubt I’ll see every game…but in my heart of hearts, I wish them well.

  • July 12, 2011  - el cid says:

    Does it ever seem that people in position to make decisions in politics, business, sports seem to get a bad case of stupid and you wonder “what the hell were they thinking?”? Can $5 more for parking really help the bottom line for the Chiefs? He will get it because the Chiefs control the sports market but why? Cut into employees salaries, why? Hunt can do it but how many millions/billions does he need to put peanutbutter on the table? I do not suppose the Hunt family could go broke in 200 years and, face it, he is not spending it on the KC Chiefs. I sit here making a more than decent living but I am just a big hick staring open mouthed at the actions of the rich and arrogant.

  • July 13, 2011  - Russell says:

    I disagree that CH wont “make right” with the staff. He cant pretend to know this whole scenario does not go south. As a young business guy, maybe a little immature but he prepares for the worst. So what if he holds out for a few weeks, saves as much as he can, invests it and then gives it back like an escrow acct. Heartless? YEA it SEEMS but the players were threatening antitrust, lost preseason probably…In fact the staff may even get a bonus, or other perks… 30+M? guarantee for a safety! Doesn’t seem cheap to me. Just to throw in a few cheers for the family that took a RISK 50 years ago and came to KC. BTW, I agree the parking is a rake… The rest of the points right on, in a way exciting to see how all adjust.

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