Un-chartered Waters for Kansas City

Now that we know the Patriots and the Eagles will fight it out for the Lombardi Trophy, the NFL hype machine is chugging along at full power. The next two weeks will focus solely on these two NFL franchises as they each prepare for the Super Bowl in Jacksonville. If the Chiefs want to experience all the pressure and hype that comes with playing in late January and early February, this offseason is crucial to improving this team and fielding a contender.

I'm not trying to insinuate Kansas City needs to sign the biggest name free agents available and to trade up in the draft and acquire the number one overall pick. That would be foolish. But so is "standing pat" with the current crop of defenders on the roster. Face it; the draft has been unkind to Kansas City the last few years. Ryan Sims is good, but not a difference maker. Eddie Freeman and Eric Downing were solid--if you like wasting 2nd and 3rd round picks on guys that aren't even on the team two and three years later.

Truth is, I like Sims and think he just needs more time on the field to get better. His rookie year was tarnished by injury and he seems to work hard when he's on the field. But ultimately defensive linemen are judged by tackles and how well the linebackers behind them play. Sims had 15 tackles and two sacks in 2004. Not what I consider 6th overall pick numbers. Linemen like Sims are expected to tie up blocks and let the linebackers fly around and make plays. Why did we give all that money to Shawn Barber again? Didn't we have a guy named Donnie Edwards here the year before? I don't know, maybe it's just me.

Sure Kansas City can hope Mike Maslowski returns from injury and steps in next year. But is it feasible to expect "Mad Dog" to step in and just turn this defense around? I wouldn't bet on it. He's a little bit slow, but the guy's a competitor. His motor is constantly running---allegedly. The Chiefs should look at Edgerton Hartwell, Morlon Greenwood and Adalius Thomas--all solid linebackers from great schemes, the Ravens and the Dolphins.

If Kansas City wants to look at value, look no further than the injury list of linebackers from this past season. Julian Peterson, Kendrell Bell and Nate Webster are all solid players who suffered injuries and could come at reasonable rates. The name recognition is one thing, but getting past the injuries will determine their value. All in all the free agent linebackers available are as deep a group as any this offseason.

I'm just not sold on this defense quite yet. Eric Hicks played well, just not great. We need guys on the line that can tie up two offensive linemen, or at least a tight end and a lineman. I like Hick's game and think with some more talent around, he could be better. Regardless, he'll be a Chief next season and it's doubtful Kansas City adds any defensive linemen through free agency. Jared Allen was great and should develop into a solid player for the Chiefs. He's got energy and brute strength that compliments his speed quite nicely. Lional Dalton was Kansas City's best acquisition in 2004 and should start on opening day.

The secondary could use some revamping as well. William Bartee is not an NFL starter and at best should cover the opposing teams #3 receiver, as long as that team isn't the Patriots or Colts. Dexter McCleon, though punished in the media and usually by the opposing teams #2 receiver, plays bigger than he is and is worthy of being the nickel corner. Eric Warfield played well early in the season and showed improvement from 2003 to 2004, but he is not the answer as the Chiefs #1 cornerback. He needs to slide over to the #2 and Kansas City must add a player to shut down the opposing teams best outside weapon. Ty LawFred SmootTy Law and Fred Smoot

Sure Law carries a high price tag. And I know Smoot is only a restricted free agent and is likely to re-sign with the Redskins. But you get my drift. Spend some money at the cornerback position, because it's normally one of the few positions where the player truly earns his money. It's the toughest position in the game to play and it's probably the most important defensive position on the field. Invest in the defense Kansas City and you shall be rewarded.

But lest not forget the small dilemma the Chiefs face on offense. All the positions are just fine should Kansas City not try and add any offensive players. But by adding a playmaking receiver, the Chiefs will help their defense as well. On offense a consistent threat on the outside keeps the secondary honest and doesn't allow them to cheat another defender in the box to stop the run.

A top tier receiver ties up the opposing defense's best corner. Therefore he's not covering the middle of the field, or wherever Tony Gonzalez is. This allows Gonzalez to make more plays, though his numbers were astronomical this season, and allows the offense another weapon to stay on the field longer controlling the clock and more importantly the tempo of the ballgame. Players like Plaxico Burress, Jerry Porter, David Patten and David Givens will command high paychecks, and Kansas City should consider them, but only after they shore up the defense.

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