At the onset of free agency, the Denver Broncos had to make a choice between linebackers Al Wilson, who they signed to a $43 million contract or Ian Gold who might be the second best linebacker next to Ray Lewis playing in the NFL today.
I'm not blinded by my loyalty to the Chiefs but instead Kansas City should always look to upgrade one of the teams' strengths. Though they signed Shawn Barber to a $32 million deal next year and Mike Maslowski to a long term deal for far less money; the Chiefs know all to well that Scott Fujita is going to earn significant cash in his next contract; still Kansas City should make a run for Gold.
When the Chiefs hired Gunther Cunningham to return to Kansas City two months ago to coach the defense; he inherited a team that played a 3-4 defense. Since the Chiefs have three solid starters at linebacker and by their own admission they have work to do up front with the defensive line, converting to a 4-3 base defense could do wonders for the Chiefs if they could acquire Gold in the run first, pass second AFC West.
Gold was jolted by Broncos Head Coach and General Manager Mike Shanahan after the season ended. Gold went down with a season ending injury but Shanahan promised Gold that would not be a deterrent in signing him to a new long term contract.
Well it was and Gold has worked the free agent market thus far with little coin thrown his way. Shanahan put the hex on him and he's hoping to get him back for a bargain basement price plus incentives. But Gold to date is not interested.
The Chiefs have always prided themselves in acquiring ascending players and Gold fits that mold. He'll be 26 when the season starts in September but is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL. That has teams concerned but it shouldn't the Chiefs. Gold the former Michigan Wolverine standout has been a stellar performer for the Broncos.
He's still young enough and has the work ethic to overcome the surgery and be ready to start for the Chiefs or any other team by opening day. Gold in just five games this season with the Broncos had two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 26 solo tackles. Project those numbers out over the course of the season and Gold would have been an All- Pro.
But to acquire Gold, Cunningham and head coach Dick Vermeil would have to change defensive philosophies or use a rotating system amongst their linebackers. Though Fujita and Barber are mainstays, Mike Maslowski with his knee injury could be shifted to back up duty if Gold signs and the Chiefs stay with their 3-4 defensive schemes.
In the NFL, great linebackers can make a difference. If the Chiefs managed to switch to a 4-3 defensive format by adding Gold, then the Chiefs could rotate Maslowski, Monty Beisel, and Kawika Mitchell on the inside. That would allow Barber and Fujita to stay on the outside. Gold has the talent to play any of the four linebacker positions and can play probably play the outside better than both Barber and Fujita.
That's no knock on the Chiefs two outside starting linebackers from last season but Gold would instantly become the Chiefs best linebacker. He reminds me so much of Bobby Bell that Kansas City would be wise to make every effort to sign Gold to a contract.
Gold plays with great instinct and when healthy he has very few peers in the NFL. He's had some rough stretches with the Broncos but his battles with Shanahan have made it difficult for Gold to play at a higher level. Now he has a chip on his shoulder and NFL players with motivation can be dangerous; especially ones who switch teams to a division rival.
Gold might not be signed by anyone until sometime in April but Kansas City should be talking to his agent and offer an olive branch if for nothing more then to see how his progress is coming from the surgery.
There is little doubt that Gold would prefer to play for an AFC West team and stick it to the Broncos. There is not another team that would like to stick it the Broncos more than the Chiefs. With all the questionable moves the Broncos have made this off-season, the Chiefs could solidify their chances of repeating as AFC West champs with the addition of Gold to their defense.
In fact, I'll take the prediction one step further. I think the addition of Gold and the signing of cornerback Troy Vincent would elevate the Chiefs chances of becoming a a Top 10 defense. If that happens, Kansas City can start printing Super Bowl tickets for the big game in Jacksonville next January.