2014 NFL Offseason: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs (Last Year: 11-5)

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2014 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
G Jeff Linkenbach, DT Vance Walker, ILB Joe Mays, CB Chris Owens.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Dee Ford, CB Phillip Gaines, RB De’Anthony Thomas, QB Aaron Murray. Chiefs Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR/KR Dexter McCluster, OT Branden Albert, G Jon Asamoah, G Geoff Schwartz, DE/DT Tyson Jackson, ILB Akeem Jordan, CB Dunta Robinson, S Kendrick Lewis, S Quintin Demps.

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Offense:
The Chiefs averaged nearly 28 points per game this past season despite the fact that Alex Smith struggled to connect downfield on most occasions. Whether the reason for that was Smith’s limited arm strength or his poor supporting cast is debatable. What’s not is that Kansas City had an absurdly easy schedule. The team battled all of the inept NFC East squads, as well as the Jaguars, Titans, Texans, Bills, Browns and Raiders twice. Smith was able to just dump off short passes to his play-makers and have them do all of the work.

That strategy won’t be as fruitful in 2014. The Chiefs have to take on all of the NFC West teams and their dominant defenses. The Patriots and Steelers also loom on the slate. With that in mind, Smith will have to threaten the opposing stop units downfield, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to do that for the same two aforementioned reasons. He still has major physical limitations, which would explain why his YPA dropped to a pedestrian 6.5 without Jim Harbaugh aiding him. He had a solid touchdown-to-interception ratio of 23:7, but that’s not sustainable, especially given the tougher schedule on the horizon.

Kansas City didn’t do anything to help Smith in terms of giving him better weapons. In fact, the team lost Dexter McCluster, who was a big part of the offense. Dwayne Bowe is still on the roster, but he’s one of the least-efficient receivers in the NFL. The good news is that he’s been working with a nutritionist and a personal trainer in an offseason for the first time in his career. The Chiefs will need that to pay off because Smith’s other non-running back weapons are the inconsistent Donnie Avery and the unknown Travis Kelce, a second-year tight end who missed his entire rookie campaign because of a knee injury.

Of course, Smith will feed the ball to Jamaal Charles as much as possible. Charles saw his carries drop from 285 to 259 in 2013, but his catches doubled. He logged 70 receptions for 693 receiving yards to go along with 1,287 rushing yards, and he scored 19 times in the process. Charles won’t be 28 until December, and he doesn’t have an extensive workload history, so he should be just as effective this upcoming season, minus the fact that he’ll be facing tougher defensive opponents.

One other thing that could hurt Smith is the decline of the offensive line. Left tackle Branden Albert has bolted for the Dolphins, leaving Eric Fisher to man the blind-side position in his wake. Fisher struggled immensely as a right tackle during his rookie campaign, but perhaps there’s a chance that he’ll be better at his natural position. Of course, there’s a decent chance he could be a complete bust because he wasn’t supposed to be the No. 1 overall pick in one of the weakest drafts in recent memory.

Albert’s departure will force Donald Stephenson into the lineup on a full-time basis. Stephenson didn’t play very well in 2013, and neither did projected starting left guard Jeff Allen. Making matters worse, Jeff Linkenbach, who couldn’t even crack Indianapolis’ starting lineup (the Colts had brutal blockers), is projected to start at right guard. Center Rodney Hudson is the only stable piece up front.

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Defense:
Prior to their Week 10 bye, the Chiefs limited every single opponent of theirs to 17 points or fewer. Some saw this as a remarkable feat, but Kansas City played a barrage of terrible quarterbacks in the first half of the season, including Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell and Jeff Tuel. It would have been disappointing had Kansas City not limited those signal-callers to fewer than three touchdowns.

Things fell apart for the Chiefs after that, as the Chargers, Broncos, Raiders and Colts posted 41, 35, 31 and 45 on them, respectively. A tougher schedule was one of the reasons for that, but there were other issues. One major problem was the injury to Justin Houston. The third-year pass-rusher dominated along with Tamba Hali, as the two combined for 20 sacks in the first 10 games. However, Houston was out for the entire second half of the season with an elbow injury. He’s healthy now, but he has been a no-show at OTAs because he wants a new contract. If he misses workouts, he could have a down year.

Given Kansas City’s lack of depth at outside linebacker and Houston’s contract demands, it’s understandable why the team spent the 23rd-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft on Dee Ford. Some teams viewed Ford to be a reach that high. If all things are ideal, he won’t start for a while, but the Chiefs will at least be able to add to their pass-rushing rotation.

The Chiefs’ other offseason acquisition of note was Vance Walker, formerly of Oakland. Walker can rush the passer pretty well, but he’s always done so in the Raiders’ 4-3. It’s unknown how he’ll transition into the 3-4, but he does not project as a good scheme fit. He’ll start along with Allen Bailey, a solid run-stuffer, and Dontari Poe, who had a monstrous 2013 campaign. Poe dominated in terms of stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, establishing himself as one of the elite nose tackles in the NFL. Poe has been in even better shape this offseason, so as difficult as it is to believe, he’ll be even better in 2014.

Kansas City is mostly set up front and on the edge, and it also has quality players at one of the inside linebacker spots (Derrick Johnson) and both safety positions (Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah). The main issues, as the public witnessed during Indianapolis’ ridiculous comeback in the playoffs, are next to Johnson and the cornerback position. Beginning with the former, Nico Johnson, Joe Mays and James-Michael Johnson will all battle for that spot. Johnson, a 2013 fourth-rounder, played just 17 snaps last season. Mays was signed over from Denver, but he isn’t any good.

At corner, the Chiefs thought they were set with Brandon Flowers at one of the spots, but he has proven to be a poor fit for the new scheme and was released recently as a consequence. With him gone, Kansas City will have to go with some sort of combination of the mediocre Sean Smith, inept Chris Owens, unproven Sanders Comings and third-round rookie Phillip Gaines across from Marcus Cooper, who was inconsistent last year.

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule and Intangibles:
The Chiefs need to bring back the Arrowhead magic that existed prior to 2007. Since that year, Kansas City is a dreadful 20-37 as a host, though it was 5-3 in 2013.

Andy Reid had poor special-teams units in Philadelphia after John Harbaugh left for Baltimore. That was not the case last year for the Chiefs, as they combined for four return touchdowns. However, three were scored by players who are no longer in Kansas City (Dexter McCluster twice, Quintin Demps), while the fourth was delivered by Knile Davis, who may not be ready to play right away because of a fractured fibula that he sustained in the aforementioned playoff loss to the Colts. That would help explain the fourth-round pick the Chiefs used on De’Anthony Thomas.

Kicker Ryan Succop did not perform well in 2013, going 22-of-28, including 1-of-4 from 50-plus. He was a combined 5-of-5 from that range in 2011 and 2012, so there’s a chance he could bounce back.

Pro Bowler Dustin Colquitt was 11th in net punting average. He tied Arizona’s Dave Zastudil for first in terms of pinning opponents inside the own 20.

“The Chiefs have a very easy, last-place schedule. They battle just four opponents who made the playoffs last year. Seven of their first nine foes are: Jacksonville, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland and Buffalo.” That’s what was written here last summer. This year, the Chiefs have a much more brutal slate, as discussed.

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Rookies:
Go here for the Chiefs Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2014 Kansas City Chiefs Analysis: The Chiefs took advantage of poor opponents in the first half of this past season and caught fire. They slowed down once they had to deal with tougher foes, so Kansas City fans can expect more of the same in 2014. It’s unlikely that the Chiefs will venture into the playoffs once again. In fact, high expectations could capsize this team if it starts slowly.

Projection: 7-9 (3rd in AFC West)

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2014 NFL Season Previews

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Chiefs are missing a second-round pick, so they want to move down more than anything. Their aim is to do so and then grab a guard like Xavier Su’a-Filo or Joel Bitonio. After that, they have to use some selections on the receiving corps and secondary. Getting some help in the front seven and on the defensive line is another goal.

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I get the feeling that the Chiefs spent more time trying to trade their pick rather than deciding whom they were going take. They let the clock run down because they were desperate to move out of the No. 23 spot, but they couldn’t do anything and panicked, taking Dee Ford off the board. That was a dreadful selection; not only was Ford deemed a reach by teams we’ve spoken to, but he didn’t even fill a need. There are members of Kansas City’s organization who don’t even like the pick. It was that bad.

The Chiefs redeemed themselves a bit with Phillip Gaines in the third round. Gaines is a tall, athletic, talented cornerback, who could start once Brandon Flowers is dealt. Taking Aaron Murray in the fifth frame was also a solid move, but once again, Kansas City had to redeem itself because of a reach – which was De’Anthony Thomas in the previous round.

Kansas City unquestionably came away with one of the worst classes this year. It made multiple reaches and failed to address most of its glaring needs. That’s not how teams are supposed to draft.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

23. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn: D Grade
Ugh. The Chiefs have not been drafting well in this new regime. Their class last year was Eric Fisher (who struggled), Travis Kelce, Knile Davis and Nico Johnson. They dealt this year’s second for mediocre Alex Smith. And now they’re taking a second-round prospect who fills a minimal need. Things are not looking very bright in Kansas City.

There’s no doubt that Ford is a reach. The Chiefs could have moved down and still picked him. Ford also won’t start anytime soon with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in front of him. This is the worst pick of the first round thus far, but at least it’s not on a Millen level.

87. Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice: A- Grade
There’s talk that the Chiefs could trade Brandon Flowers, so it makes sense that they spent a mid-round selection on a cornerback. Phillip Gaines didn’t get any national attention because he played at Rice, but he was terrific, albeit against inferior competition. He’s also very athletic, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he emerged as a solid starter down the road.

124. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: C+ Grade
Wow. This is a couple of rounds earlier than De’Anthony Thomas was expected to go, but the Oregon play-maker should be a good weapon for Alex Smith. Kansas City’s quarterback can’t throw deep, so he’ll need another target to dump the ball off to. Thomas also serves as a needed backup for Jamaal Charles, a need created by Knile Davis’ injury.

163. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: A Grade
Nice. Alex Smith cannot lead the Chiefs deep into the playoffs, but perhaps Aaron Murray will be able to. Murray would have gone much earlier had he not torn his ACL, so Kansas City is getting a steal and perhaps its future starting quarterback. This is an awesome pick in the fifth round.

193. Zach Fulton, G, Tennessee: B Grade
It’s a shock that the Chiefs waited this long for a guard, as I was told that the position was under consideration in the first round. Zach Fulton fits the range though, so no complaints.

200. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OT/G, McGill: A- Grade
There was some buzz about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and some even thought he could go as high as the fourth round. The Canadian could eventually compete for the right tackle job.

Season Summary:
The Chiefs were the final undefeated team in the NFL, but the big question was whether or not they could advance deep into the playoffs with Alex Smith at quarterback. That turned out to be a non-factor, as the defense, which was responsible for the team’s hot start, surrendered the second-greatest comeback in NFL history in the opening round of the postseason.

Offseason Moves:
  • Chargers sign CB Brandon Flowers
  • Chiefs cut CB Brandon Flowers
  • Chiefs sign OT J’Marcus Webb
  • Chiefs re-sign WR Kyle Williams
  • Chiefs sign CB Chris Owens
  • Texans sign S Kendrick Lewis
  • Redskins sign ILB Akeem Jordan
  • Giants sign S Quintin Demps
  • Chiefs sign DT Vance Walker
  • Chiefs sign G Jeff Linkenbach
  • Chiefs sign ILB Joe Mays
  • Titans sign WR/KR Dexter McCluster
  • Falcons sign G Jon Asamoah
  • Chiefs re-sign S Husain Abdullah
  • Giants sign G Geoff Schwartz
  • Dolphins sign OT Branden Albert
  • Falcons sign DE/DT Tyson Jackson
  • Chiefs re-sign DE/OLB Frank Zombo
  • Chiefs cut CB Dunta Robinson

    Team Needs:
    1. Wide Receiver: Kansas City may use its first-round pick on a receiver, as Alex Smith’s only somewhat reliable downfield target is Dwayne Bowe, and even he can be inconsistent with drops.

    2. Safety: I don’t know what happened to Kendrick Lewis, but he’s not the same player he once was. Meanwhile, Husain Abdullah will be a free agent. The Chiefs have to think about spending one of their top two picks on a safety. Re-signed Husain Abdullah

    3. Cornerback: Dunta Robinson proved to be a bust acquisition, as he was a huge liability for Kansas City this past season. The front office will have to find a new nickel corner. Signed Chris Owens

    4. Tight End: Alex Smith struggles to get the ball downfield, so the Chiefs could use an early-round selection on a better intermediate target.

    5. Inside Linebacker: Starting inside linebacker Akeem Jordan is set to hit the market, but Kansas City could have used an upgrade over him anyway. Signed Joe Mays

    6. Right Tackle: Eric Fisher will likely move over to the blind side if Branden Albert isn’t retained. In that case, a new right tackle will be needed. Signed J’Marcus Webb

    7. Guard: Two of Kansas City’s top three guards (Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah) happen to be impending free agents. One of them will have to be retained. Signed Jeff Linkenbach

    8. Outside Linebacker Depth: The Chiefs should probably add a third pass-rusher just in case Tamba Hali and/or Justin Houston get injured again next season.

    9. Running Back Depth: The Chiefs found out they had very little behind Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis in their loss to Indianapolis.

    10. Quarterback: Alex Smith can’t win a Super Bowl because of his limitations, but the Chiefs aren’t going to do anything about this. The coaching staff likes Tyler Bray anyway, so he may get a shot at some point.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Vance Walker, DT, Raiders. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chiefs

      Vance Walker is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none defensive tackle. He’s passable as a starter.

    2. Joe Mays, ILB, Texans. Age: 29. — Signed with Chiefs (2 years, $6 million)
    3. J’Marcus Webb, OT, Vikings. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs
    4. Jeff Linkenbach, G, Colts. Age: 27. — Signed with Chiefs
    5. Chris Owens, CB, Browns. Age: 27. — Signed with Chiefs

    Kansas City Chiefs Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Branden Albert, OT, Chiefs. Age: 29.
      Signed with Dolphins (5 years, $46 million)

      Branden Albert is more talented than this rating says he is, but he’s always injured and has played all 16 games only once in his career. He’s a strong blind-side protector when healthy.

    2. Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Chargers (1 year)

      Brandon Flowers has been a tremendous zone cornerback in the NFL for quite some time, but he really struggled in Kansas City’s new man scheme last year. At just 28, Flowers could perform on a Pro Bowl level if he finds the right fit. The Falcons and Texans are reportedly interested.

    3. Geoff Schwartz, G, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Giants

      Geoff Schwartz started in the second half of the season and was pretty dominant. He appears to be over a hip injury that knocked him out for the entire 2011 season.

    4. Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $12 million)

      Dexter McCluster is a nifty offensive player and a much better return specialist. He scored twice on special teams in 2013.

    5. Tyson Jackson, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Falcons (5 years, $25 million)

      Tyson Jackson has turned his career around with Andy Reid. He still doesn’t offer anything as a pass-rusher, but he put the clamps on the run rather well in 2013.

    6. Husain Abdullah, S, Chiefs. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Chiefs

      Husain Abdullah started the final two games of the season, and by watching him, it makes you wonder why Andy Reid didn’t play him more earlier. Abdullah picked off Andrew Luck twice in a playoff loss.

    7. Jon Asamoah, G, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Signed with Falcons

      Jon Asamoah was benched in the second half of the season, but he had actually blocked rather well when he was in the lineup. His replacement, Geoff Schwartz, was just better.

    8. Kendrick Lewis, S, Chiefs. Age: 26.
      Signed with Texans

      Kendrick Lewis got off to a strong start in his career with two solid seasons, but has regressed since. Perhaps he’ll be able to recapture what he had in 2010 and 2011.

    9. Akeem Jordan, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Redskins

      Akeem Jordan can’t play three downs, but he’s a smart linebacker who provides very good run support.

    10. Dunta Robinson, CB, Chiefs. Age: 32.
    11. Quintin Demps, S, Chiefs. Age: 29. — Signed with Giants
    12. Frank Zombo, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Chiefs
    13. Kyle Williams, WR, Chiefs. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Chiefs

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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