Obviously the Chiefs made giant leaps this season, but as we have just witnessed, its not enough to be a super bowl contender. Its already time to think about the offseason and figure out what needs to be done, position by position, to continue to improve and bring the team to an elite level next season. Lets take a look...
Quarterback: Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Palko
Analysis - Its safe to say that Cassel made huge strides this season. He proved that given the right pieces, he can lead the kansas city chiefs to a winning season. However, we also learned that if he goes down we are in trouble because our 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks don't scare anyone and cant even manage the game.
What needs to happen - a capable second string quarterback is a must. Signing either Alex Smith or Billy Volek (who will both be free agents) would be exactly what the chiefs need. Alex Smith has a big arm but has yet to be in a stable atmosphere where he knows his role, nor has he had a capable offensive line. Something as simple as stability and a change in scenery could do wonders for him. Billy Volek may be one of the most underrated backup quarterbacks in the league. He is game tested and has a career quarterback rating of 84.9 and touchdown/interception split of 27/15 in 27 games and 10 starts.
Running Back: Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle, (Dexter Mccluster)
Full Back: Mike Cox, Tim Castille
Analysis - Clearly the heart and soul of this team. This running back core has taken the Chiefs running game to a whole new level and struck fear in the heart defenses across the league. However, the fullbacks inconsistency has held back the running game. Cox, a pure blocker (who could even use some work in that area) and Castille, more of a pass catcher who is by no means physical or a good blocker, have hurt the offense all season.
What needs to happen - Signing a true Fullback would make the running game even more of a threat. Lawrence Vickers (Browns) and Vonta Leach (Texans) will both be free agents and would do wonders for the offense. One of the most important parts of a power run game is a good fullback who understands the game and isnt afraid to plow into a Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Jerrod Mayo, etc.. and the chiefs havent had that since Tony Richardson. Look at what Vickers and Leach did for Peyton Hillis and Arian Foster.
Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter Mccluster, "no dancing" Verran Tucker
Analysis - Dwayne Bowe took steps towards becoming an elite receiver, while Chris Chambers made management question why they re-signed him. Mccluster has proven that he can be a very good slot receiver, but anymore than that is risky. Tucker made a couple of nice catches throughout the season as well as some missing some blocks and dropping some passes, which was still somehow better than what Chambers did.
What needs to happen - Bowe needs a good number two receiver to take pressure off of him; a sure handed, down the field threat. James Jones (Packers) fits that description perfectly. He has been held to a slot receiver role due to having Greg Jennings and Donald Driver ahead of him. The Packers also have Jordy Nelson ready to take over the Slot role making it an almost certainty that the packers wont retain him. Anytime Jones has been given significant playing time, he has produced. He is the perfect compliment to Bowe.
Tight End: Tony Moecki, Leonard Pope, Jake O'Connell
Analysis - A position that killed the Chiefs in 2009 after the departure of Tony Gonzalez, became a strength again in 2010 with the addition of Moecki and Pope. Moecki proved to be a good blocker with great hands, and we have reason to expect him to be a starter for the Chiefs for a long time. Pope showed us that he has some blocking skills of his own with serviceable hands. O'Connell didnt make many plays or mistakes in his little playing time, which is all you can really ask from him.
What needs to happen - The Chiefs are very Solid here and we shouldn't expect them to make any major Tight End moves this off season.
Offensive Line: Branden Albert, Brian Waters, Casey Weigman, Ryan Lilja, Barry Richardson (Reserves: Jon Asamoah, Ryan O'Callaghan)
Analysis - There was a sigh of relief amongst Chiefs fans with the re-emergence of the Chiefs O-Line this season. Albert and Richardson made big strides at Tackle while Weigman, Waters and Lilja provided Veteran leadership and stability. Asamoah Gives the Chiefs a good reason to feel secure if Waters or Lilja were to ever go down (or retire in Waters case) But even though Weigman was an upgrade from Niswanger, he was man handled by Defensive Tackles far too often.
What needs to happen: In order to keep getting better, the Chiefs need to get a better Center. Although Weigman didnt make many mental errors, he was pushed around too many times and proved to be a liability. Ryan Kalil from the Panthers would be Ideal, but you can bet that they will do everything in their power to keep him. Albert and Richardson will continue to get better and hold down the tackles. O'Callaghan is a free agent, so if the Chiefs let him walk, another Tackle would be needed to push Albert and Richardson. John Trueblood from the Bucs would fit nicely if the price is right.
Defensive Line: Glenn Dorsey, Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith (Reserves: Wallace Gillberry, Tyson Jackson, Anthony Toribio)
Analysis - Dorsey looked good all year while Shaun Smith was a pleasant surprise. Ron Edwards was the epitome of mediocre, and Wallace Gillberry come up big as a down pass rusher. Tyson Jackson benefited from the competition of Shaun Smith and played very well towards the end of the season. A dominant Defensive Tackle is a must for the defensive to get any better. Toribio was a non-factor all season.
What needs to happen - Gillberry is a free agent and it will be interesting to see if a 4-3 team would give him a shot to start at defensive end or if the Chiefs will try to retain him. Expect the Chiefs to re-sign Shaun Smith but start Tyson Jackson next season. The Chiefs have to get better at defensive tackle and the only available dominant Defensive tackle on the free agent list is Haloti Ngata, and it is almost certain that the Ravens will either re-sign him or give him the franchise tag. That leaves the option of a trade. I see the Chiefs trying to make a run at Vince Wilfork of the Patriots (who they have been interested in for the past two off seasons). But if they come up short i see them trying to sign a good, younger, Defensive Tackle with some upside like Cullen Jenkins from Green Bay.
Linebackers: Mike Vrabel, Derrick Johnson, Jovan Belcher, Tamba Hali (Reserves: Andy Studebaker, Corey Mays, Demorrio Williams)
Analysis: The Derick Johnson that the Chiefs have been waiting for has FINALLY arrived! the Linebacking core showed that they were a strong point of this team. Jovan Belcher was stout against the run and will continue to make progress. He also looked very comofartable rushing the quartberback towards the end of the season. Hali emerged as an elite NFL pass rusher while Mike Vrabel really started showing his age. Studebaker looked good in his limited playing time but its left to be seen if he can be a full time starter in this league. Corey Mays is a good special teams player and very good back up at middle linebacker who would feel comfortable if he ever needed to be thrusted into a spot start. Demorrio Williams looked a lot better at outside linebacker as well as a down pass rusher rather than a middle linebacker. The linebackers would really benefit from a good Defensive Tackle.
What needs to happen - the Chiefs MUST RESIGN TAMBA HALI. That has to be priority number one this offseason. After that the Chiefs have to ask themselves whether they are comfortable with Studebaker as their starting outside linebacker opposite Hali. If not, Thomas Davis of the Panthers is a pro bowl caliber outside linebacker and is coming off an injury and could be had at a bargain price. Its time to let fan favorite Mike Vrabel go, unless he is willing to hang up the pads and come back as an assistant coach or linebackers coach. He is too much of a liability in coverage and as a pass rusher.
Corner: Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Javier Arenas, Jackie Bates, Travis Daniels, (Mike Richardson)
Safety: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jon Mcgraw, Donald Washington, Ricky Price
Analysis - Possibly the best young secondary in the NFL. Carr came up big when Flowers was down and Flowers showed that when he is healthy, he is an elite corner in this league. Arenas is a solid tackler and good in coverage and will continue to get better while Bates, Daniels, and Richardson are solid 4th/5th corners and special teams players. Eric Berry started off slow but really got cooking midway through the season and showed flashes of excellence and once he becomes more consistent, watch out pro bowl! Kendrick Lewis was a nice surprise this season taking over the other starting Safety spot next to Berry while demonstrating a good grasp of the defensive and ability to read quarterbacks. They can only get better from here folks... Mcgraw is as solid of a back up as they come as well as a leader on special teams.
What needs to happen: Overall this group is as good of a secondary as they come. Another good backup safety couldnt hurt because Donald Washington and Ricky Price showed us nothing when forced into playing time. Hussain Abdullah from the Vikings or Daniel Manning from the Bears will both be free agents and would both be wonderful additions on defensive side of the ball. Aside from that, there is no reason not to be excited about this young defensive back group.
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Punter: Dustin Colquit
Kick Returners: Javier Arenas, Dexter Mccluster, (Verran Tucker)
Analysis: once of the best punters in the league and very solid kicker. Succop could stand to add some range but he has shown he can be consistent within 50 yards. Arenas and Mccluster did a good job returning kicks and punts in their rookie campaigns showing that they can provide a spark to the team and give the offense good field position. Don't expect any moves to be made with the kickers or kick returners.
Obviously all of these moves can't be made. But if even a couple of these happen. Expect big things next season. Let me know your thoughts or any other realistic option you feel would benefit the team this off-season.