The Chiefs off-season priorities have not changed. Signing FS Jerome Woods is first, RT John Tait second and DE Eric Hicks third. But should the Chiefs fail to reach a deal with two of those three, they may quickly turn their attention to Jevon Kearse.
Kearse is due to become an unrestricted free agent when the free agency period begins March 3. While Kearse and the Titans are in discussions to keep the three-time Pro Bowler in Tennessee, should they not reach an agreement, and should the Titans elect not to franchise him, the Chiefs may move in fast.
Kearse has a good relationship with the Chiefs new defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and that relationship and Cunningham's style of defense could make Kearse and the Chiefs a perfect match.
A two-time All Pro and three-time Prow Bowler, Kearse would be an ideal acquisition to a Chiefs defense that is badly in need of a pass rush. And Kearse can disrupt defenses from either end having played on the left side, then moving to the right side after the Titans acquired Kevin Carter.
A five year veteran out of the University of Florida, Kearse began his collegiate career at safety. But the Gator coaches realized he was better suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage. He moved to linebacker and then eventually to defensive end. Nicknamed ‘the Freak' because of his speed, quickness, athleticism and talent, Kearse was the 16th overall selection in the 1999 NFL Draft.
In his first three years in the league, Kearse had 14.5, 11.5 and 10 sacks becoming just the third player in NFL history to post double digit sack totals his first three years in the league - Reggie White and Derrick Thomas were the others to do accomplish that feat.
When healthy, Kearse is one of the dominant pass rushers in the league. Kearse is routinely the recipient of double teams and still makes his way to the quarterback. But Kearse has battled injuries the past few seasons and most teams are going to back off from paying him premier dollars because he's a one-dimensional player. He can be a sack master but he can't stop the run and the Chiefs need run stoppers more than they need pass rushers.
In 2002, Kearse appeared in just four games because of a toe injury and had only two sacks. In 2003, Kearse also missed two games but only played about half the team's total plays on defense. Kearse did force three fumbles; make 42 tackles and 9.5 sacks. But Kearse did not record a sack after week 10 including the playoffs.
For the Chiefs they have to decide if Kearse is worth the $30 million his agent is likely to demand. Kearse is represented by Drew Rosenhous and he was the agent who represented Hug Douglas last year.
Though the Chiefs made a wise decision by not signing Douglas last March, Rosenhous enjoys the process of holding teams' hostage in negotiations. That's his job. But the Chiefs for that reason alone, might refrain from making a serious offer to Kearse.
But there is little doubt that Kearse can help the Chiefs. Kansas City must decide if they can live with his shortcomings and maximize his potential by using him effectively in passing situations without causing them a liability in stopping the run.
This is one of many off-season questions, the Chiefs will have to answer on defense.