That's why the re-signing of tight end Jason Dunn was welcomed with a sigh of relief around Arrowhead last week.
Though listed as a backup to Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, the hulking Dunn (6-6, 276) was a key component in the double tight end set the Chiefs use often. It's a formation that's been invaluable to the Priest Holmes running game that sets up Trent Green's play-action passing attack.
"Jason Dunn might be harder to replace than John Tait," coach Dick Vermeil said. "Really strong blocking tight ends are hard to find. He wants to be a starter, but he plays on 38 to 40 percent of our plays. I consider him a starter in the running game, and we need him here."
That's why Kansas City loosened some purse strings in the offer made to Dunn in the wake of Tait's departure.
With Dunn looking seriously at Oakland, the Chiefs sweetened their initial offer to a six-year deal worth almost $7 million. Dunn gets a $1.5 million signing bonus now and a deferred $1 million payout in 2005.
Dunn's mere five receptions last season were his most since catching a career-high 18 passes at Philadelphia in 1998. Three of his receptions last year, however, went for touchdowns.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES:
The Chiefs made their first free-agent signing in landing Chris Bober, a long-time center who moved to right tackle with the Giants last year. Bober signed a five-year, $10 million deal. "He's an ascending player with a lot of versatility," GM Carl Peterson said of the 27-year-old Bober, who started 11 games at right tackle for the Giants when a need developed there. Added coach Dick Vermeil: "He won't necessarily replace John Tait, because there will be competition for that job with Marcus Spears and (second-year player) Bret Williams."
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Losing John Tait will not help us. He came on strong in this past year and really played some good football. I'm disappointed that we don't have him, but I'm happy for him. But at that salary, we could not jeopardize our cap. But I'm going to miss John Tait." -- Coach Dick Vermeil on losing a piece of an offensive line that had made 33 consecutive starts intact.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:
After re-signing five starters who were either free agents or prospective free agents, the Chiefs now turn their attention to retaining reserve cornerback William Bartee, a starter until the 2004 campaign when he was replaced by veteran free agent acquisition Dexter McCleon.
Bartee was drafted during Gunther Cunningham's first tenure with the Chiefs. Cunningham, now back at defensive coordinator, still believes Bartee can play. He's a better short-term solution at nickel back right now than second-year player Julian Battle, who clearly wasn't ready last year as a rookie.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (1):
DE R-Kal Truluck
PLAYERS ACQUIRED (1):
OT Chris Bober (New York Giants)
PLAYERS LOST (2):
QB Jonathan Quinn (Chicago Bears)
OT John Tait (Chicago Bears)