According to Metro Sports in Kansas City, the Chiefs #1 free agent target on March 3rd is cornerback Troy Vincent. The television report indicated that Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was very high on the soon-to-be former Eagles cornerback and would like to see the Chiefs acquire him for his revamped defense.
Cunningham wants to deploy an attacking defensive scheme next season and in order for the plan to be executed, the Chiefs need a shut down corner. Vincent would be that man. If he were to be signed by the Chiefs, Vincent would start opposite Eric Warfield who has the ability to compliment Vincent with his size and speed.
Cunningham is confident that Warfield will be solid corner in the new defense but he might not be sold on McCleon as the other starter. Thus the interest in Vincent remains high according to the report.
That would appear to leave Dexter McCleon as the odd man out but that might not be the case.
If Vincent becomes a Chief and safety Jerome Woods does not resign with Kansas City, McCleon could move to the safety position. McCleon played safety when he was with the St. Louis Rams after switching from cornerback in 2002.
When the Chiefs signed McCleon back in the 2003 off-season, they promised him an opportunity to compete for a starting job at cornerback; not safety. At the time, McCleon might have been an insurance policy in the event that Woods, who was coming off a broken leg that kept him off the playing field for the entire 2002 season; could not play effectively in 2004.
But McCleon quickly earned the starting spot over the incumbent William Bartee and had a solid year for the most part. He was tied for the team lead in interceptions with six with safety Greg Wesley. In fact, his play the first half of the season had Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil praising him as the teams defensive MVP to date.
However, he did not play well in the second half of the season and he was burned badly in the playoff loss to the Colts at Arrowhead in January. Some have questioned his size. But when you combine the facts that he played so much zone defense because of injuries at linebacker and the inability to put together a solid pass rush; it's understandable why he struggled down the stretch.
So McCleon can't take all the blame for his poor second half of the season but he could have played better over the last seven games of the season. Still, the Chiefs need above average play from their cornerbacks in 2004 if the defense is going to make the leap to being middle of the pack.
Vincent is more physical than McCleon both in size and stature. He's also very good at supporting the run.
So the Chiefs have options with McCleon even if Woods does sign a new contract. If Woods is back and Vincent signs, then McCleon would move to the inside and cover slot receivers or move to safety opposite Wesley. That would also give the Chiefs more time to develop Julian Battle; who the Chiefs believe will be a solid cornerback in the NFL.
If they choose to scrap that plan, Battle could also be converted to safety if Woods leaves and cornerback William Bartee signs on for another tour of duty with the Chiefs. Battle did play some safety in college at the University of Tennessee.
* The Chiefs current salary cap number sits at $72.1 million. The expected 2004 salary cap according to NFL sources will be somewhere between $80.5 to $81.5 million. With that gap, the Chiefs have some room to sign most of their current free agents. They still have key players without a contract for next year. Besides Jerome Woods, Eric Hicks, John Tait and Jason Dunn lead the pact of top tier potential free agents that could be on the open Market March 3rd if the Chiefs don't resign them. In addition to those four; back up players such as William Bartee, Kendall Gammons and Derrick Blaylock are also without contracts for 2004.
* Reports continue to circulate that the Chiefs remain interested in trying to acquire quarterback Drew Henson. His agent Tom Condon has told reporters at this weeks NFL combine in Indianapolis that he has yet to hear from any clubs since the Henson's workout last week in Houston. The Texans own his rights and a trade would have to be made with Houston before Henson could make any deals with any team. If Henson is not signed prior to April's draft, he will be eligible to be redrafted by any NFL team.
* If the Chiefs had serious thoughts about acquiring cornerback Champ Bailey, those hopes might be dashed when the Washington Redskins put the franchise tag on him Thursday. By doing so, the Redskins must pay Bailey $6.5 million dollars against the 2004 cap. The Redskins just agreed to a deal to acquire Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell so their cap situation is even more precarious now then it was on Thursday when Bailey was tagged. A team can still trade for Bailey up until March 3rd but a deal with anyone seems unlikely at this point.