Free Agency in Rear View Mirror

Heading into the final weeks of draft preparation, the smart money remains on cornerback as the position the Chiefs mostly likely will address with their first pick, No. 30 overall.

Kansas City also has a need at wide receiver and might be tempted to bite there should an attractive receiver fall within their grasp at that point.

Still, with the draft being deep in quality wideouts this year, Kansas City people seem to believe they can get help there even in the second or third rounds.

The Chiefs are set with a three-man corner corps in starters Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon and nickel William Bartee. They were good enough to play for the league's 20th-ranked pass defense in 2003, but the Chiefs still need to upgrade here. Especially considering that McCleon will be 31 in October and Warfield is coming off back surgery.

Julian Battle, Kansas City's third-round draft pick last year, wasn't ready to contribute as a rookie. Perhaps that will change by his second season. He represents the Chiefs future at the position right now.

The Chiefs know they probably won't acquire a corner who could help immediately with the No. 30 pick. But in looking two years down the road, they have reasonable hopes of getting a draftee who could help relatively soon.

The free-agent signing of veteran defensive tackle Lional Dalton doesn't exactly add the missing component that will make the Chiefs rushing defense better than the third-from-worst unit in the NFL last year.

Still, the 315-pound Dalton represents the kind of cost-efficient player the Chiefs like to acquire in these latter weeks of free agency.

"He's a big, strong, powerful guy who has played there before," noted Chiefs president Carl Peterson. "He allows us some other options. We don't have to draft a guy at that spot."

The Chiefs learned last week that they will open the 2004 season on the road in Denver in a Prime Time ESPN game.

Kansas City and Denver, two playoff participants last year, will kick off their seasons in a 7:30 (Central) game at Invesco Field.

The last time the Chiefs opened the season in Denver was 1997, when they lost 13-3.

They rebounded to finish 13-3 and win the AFC West that year.

Coach Dick Vermeil became the third Chief inducted into the NFL Alumni's "Order of the Leather Helmet" during the organization's annual Evening with the Legends dinner at Orlando.

Since 1978, the NFL Alumni has inducted 56 individuals into the order that recognizes contributions to professional football. Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt was inducted in 1981 and Hall of Fame quarterback turned broadcaster Len Dawson went in 2000.

"Like everybody else, we'd love to have a 340-pound defensive tackle -- a great big guy, a slugger -- to rotate through there. Dalton's not that kind of guy. If he's that big, he's just fat." -- Coach Dick Vermeil on the acquisition of Lional Dalton at defensive tackle.

The Chiefs apparently will not aggressively pursue Denver receiver Chris Cole, who visited the team last week.

Cole, a strong special teams player at Denver, was a former college teammate of Pro Bowl returner Dante Hall at Texas A&M.

CB Darrius Johnson

P Jason Baker


TE Billy Baber; CB William Bartee; LB Monty Beisel; RB Derrick Blaylock; LB Quinton Caver; DT Eric Downing; TE Jason Dunn; LS Kendall Gammon; S Shaunard Harts; DE Eric Hicks; S Lyle West; S Jerome Woods.

OT Chris Bober (New York Giants)
DT Lional Dalton (Washington Redskins)

QB Jonathan Quinn (Chicago Bears)
OT John Tait (Chiacgo Bears)

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