Now that Owner Clark Hunt and General Manager Scott Pioli have taken care of two of the biggest offseason needs- General Weis and Colonel Crennel- I think it's time to take a look at what else the Kansas City Chiefs need to address in the about-to-begin offseason.
The Chiefs grabbed some headlines by filling both coordinator positions with high-profile coaches, adding to the momentum gained from the beatdown handed to the Denver Broncos in the last game of the 2009 season. This is important as sometimes late season/offseason momentum can lead directly into positive early season results. This will be a unique offseason due to the bigwigs trying to ruin the game we love by arguing over the viable owners of millions of dollars. This will result in the least active free agency in many years because of the fact that players will need six years of experience to become unrestricted free agents instead of the normal four. What does this mean? Teams will need to either sign free agents that are 29 years or older or give up draft picks as compensation to sign players that are in the prime of their careers. I believe this leads to free agency becoming almost inconsequential while we will see a big jump in the number of trades. This is good news for the good teams and bad news for teams needing to improve a lot, which means the Chiefs will have to act swiftly and precisely to make the necessary upgrades to compete next year.
First off, the list needs a few guidelines to follow for legitimacy purposes. It is based on the individual position most in need of an effort to upgrade before the start of next season. Importance of position is a factor, meaning even though Tight End may be the team's worst position in terms of talent, it's not as important as another position in terms of winning. I tried to imagine my feelings going into the start of next season with the exact same personnel of that position from last year. This paragraph was extremely difficult to find the correct wording, so lets just pretend we're all on the same page and get on to the list...
Chiefs Top 10 Positions of Need:
1. Outside Linebacker- Defense will become legitimate once Tamba Hali is the second best outside linebacker/pass rusher, it is THAT important of a position to a 3-4 defense. Mike Vrabel and Andy Studebaker would make a great pair of backup OLB's. Julius Peppers could fill the position, but I can't imagine the Chiefs spending the necessary money for the prize of free agency. Shawne Merriman's freedom gets costly due to the new restrictions, but could be available for the right draft picks. Joey Porter might be the most likely free agent to fill the hole and would provide great leadership to a defense lacking in that area. A few potential early round prospects who I like are Jerry Hughes (TCU-2nd-mean-proved by picture) and Eric Norwood (South Carolina-3rd-quick). I would make a play for Joey Porter and draft Norwood in the third or wait until next year and go after one with a first round pick.
2. Slot Wide Receiver/Returner- I might be suffering from a severe case of Lance Longitis to have this position so high. The receiving corps is set with Chambers (if we resign him) and Bowe (if we don't trade him) on the outside, but has a huge hole to fill with a quick slot receiver to work underneath. I think the draft is the right place to find one and would love to hear any of the following names called: Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati-2nd), Jordan Shipley (Texas-3rd), or Jacoby Ford (Clemson-4th). The only other option might be to work out a trade for Steve Breaston, who Todd Haley knows well from Arizona.
3. Safety- The first position on the list that will be possible to address with the Chiefs current first round positioning. Eric Berry will most likely be the selection if he is still available, but there is a very good chance that he goes third to the Redskins. The draft is definitely the way to go because of the need to get younger at the position. Chad Jones (LSU-2nd/3rd) is someone I'm really high on. Mike Brown might look better paired with a more talented safety, and would serve as the perfect tutor for either Berry or Jones.
4. Center- Rudy Niswanger does a decent job, but is just too small and gets pushed around too much, especially when matched up against a 3-4 Nose Tackle. This became the weakest spot on the offensive line once Wade Smith solidified the Right Guard position in the second half of 2009. This is a position that I would address through free agency, because it is smart to have an experienced center to deal with all of the line calls.
5. Middle Linebacker- Demorrio Williams and Derrick Johnson would make a mediocre pair of starting Linebackers going into next year. It would be better to have them split time and get actual NFL talent at the position (sorry Corey Mays and Javon Belcher). This brings me to who I would take with the first round pick--Rolando McClain (Alabama-pictured). I feel like he would immediately step in as the defensive leader at the position best designed for leadership. This defense has not had a strong leader since the Mike Maslowski days. Other options include Brandon Spikes (2nd round slide) or a pair of veterans in Antonio Pierce or Keith Bulluck.
6. Nose Tackle- Ron Edwards does an unheralded job playing a little undersized at the nose. He would be a fantastic rotation guy, but doesn't quite cut it full time. Look for the top two tackles to get franchised out of consideration (Vince Wilfork and Casey Hampton). An interesting option could be Ryan Pickett, who will most likely be let go after the Packers drafted B.J. Raji in the first round last year. Draft options would include Terrance "Mount" Cody (Alabama-2nd-Man Boobs) or Cam Thomas (North Carolina-3rd). I'd be very giddy to snag McClain and Cody in the first two rounds of the draft.
7. Offensive Tackle- This is all dependant on if Branden Albert stays at Left Tackle or makes a switch to either Right Tackle or a guard position. We cannot continue to have this conversation every offseason, so a final decision needs to be made once and for all. The most popular prediction for the Chiefs first round pick is an offensive tackle (Okung-Okla St, Davis-'Gers, Baluga-Iowa), which isn't what I'd do per say, but I'm not totally against it. I would keep him at Left Tackle and make him put the weight back on that limited him last year. Ryan O'Callaghan even looked good the second half of the season at Right Tackle (funny how the whole line's play improved once JamaAl replaced L.J.). This will be the most important decision regarding the current personnel of the team to be made this offseason.
8. Big Running Back- Big drop off from the top 7 biggest needs this offseason. The draft is definitely the way to address a viable backup to JamaAl, who's role will be to log 10 carries a game, including 3rd and 1's and goal line carries. He should come from the later rounds and a few names I would like to see include Toby Gerhart (Stanford-3rd), LaGarrette Blount (Oregon-5th), or Stafon Johnson (USC-6th/7th). And I don't want to hear any Ladainian Tomlinson chatter, our team is already classy enough, and he sucks now.
9. Tight End- Very little currently on the roster, but neither Haley's Arizona teams nor Weis' New England teams had star tight ends. Leonard Pope is good enough for now with how many needs there are. I would not be surprised at all to see us go after free agent Ben Watson out of New England. I just don't want to see us draft one in the 2nd or 3rd round (unless Jermaine Gresham slides big time), but Kris Wilson and Brad Cottam have ruined me.
10. Offensive Guard- It will be very interesting to see what the Chiefs do with Brian Waters this offseason. There was some definite turmoil between Waters and the new regime that could end up with him being traded for a draft pick. If that happens, than this position shoots way up the list. Wade Smith did a fairly good job last year but is a free agent himself. This position is a circumstantial need. Getting Mike Iupati in the 2nd round would be great value and would be a rock for a decade at guard.