Chiefs Gearing Up for Free Agency

With just over a week away from the start of NFL Free Agency, the Chiefs have already stated that they plan to sign at least two or three new defensive starters. Last year they concentrated on signing their own free agents but this year they plan to change that strategy. Still they have five players that they must decide to keep before the spending frenzy can begin in earnest on March 2nd.

The Chiefs unlike other teams are fortunate that they only have five players to deal with this off-season from their 2004 roster. Of those available to test the free agent waters are running back Derrick Blaylock, linebackers Monte Beisel, Quinton Carver, Fred Jones, and tight end/long snapper Kendall Gammon.

Out of those five only Monte Beisel and Kendall Gammon are likely to be retained. The Chiefs need Beisel as he'll be penciled in as the starting middle linebacker next season unless the Chiefs make a run for a player such as the Eagles Jeremiah Trotter. Gammon made his first Pro-Bowl this year and he's the best at his position in the NFL. Second year man Jared Allen did long snapping at Idaho State but Gammon would be far to valuable to release at this point.

Blaylock is going to test the market and he should be a hot running back commodity once the dominos fall with Seattle Seahawks Shawn Alexander and the Colts Edgerrin James. Teams such as the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay will give Blaylock a serious look. He was impressive in spurts this past season but some wonder if he can adjust to being an every-down back.

The Chiefs also has four restricted free agents, which means they can match any offer that another team makes and they will be a Chief again. Wide receiver Marc Boerigter, linebacker Scott Fujita, safety Shaunard Harts, and fullback Omar Easy fall into that category.

From all accounts Boerigter is making remarkable progress from his knee surgeries. He's expected to start working out with the rest of the team when the off-season workouts begin in March at Arrowhead. The jury is out on Scott Fujita who likely will be retained but that's not a lock. Though he led the Chiefs in tackles a year ago, he has yet to show he can consistently make plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Still the Chiefs are in good shape unlike the Seattle Seahawks, who have 17 free agents 11 of them come from the starting lineup. The Seahawks will have a bit more difficulty signing all 17 of them compared to the Chiefs resigning their nine free agents.

One of the areas the Chiefs will have to work on the most is on the defensive side of the ball but those pickings are getting slimmer by the day. Two huge free agents that Kansas City had hoped to make a run included defensive ends John Abraham and Darren Howard. Both were tagged by their respective teams the Jets and Saints.

Another need is cornerback where the Chiefs should be able to get one or two decent cornerbacks. A pair that could hit the market come from the Sunshine State; Miami cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain are considered one of the two best tandems in the NFL. The Dolphins have indicated that Madison is likely to be cut because of his cap hit for 2005.

Surtain is trade-bate right now for the Dolphins, who need to bolster up their offense, which was one of the worst in the league last season. The Chiefs could use a pair of corners like that and should a trade be worked out with the Dolphins Pro-Bowler Surtain could change an address to Kansas City. However, Surtain has had issues with his teammates and his name was bantered about last year when all the Larry Johnson rumors were in high gear.

Madison could become a bargain for the Chiefs. Statistically he had a terrible season for the Dolphins as he failed to get a single interception in 2004. It was his worst year since becoming the fulltime starter in 1998. In 2000 he signed a seven-year deal with the Dolphins after picking off five passes in 1999, which tied him for ninth in the AFC.

The league cap number will be announced at 12:01am March 2nd. From all accounts pending any surprises the 2005 projected salary cap will be somewhere around $85.5 million dollars. According to Chiefs President Carl Peterson, the Chiefs are roughly $4.5 million under the cap with more room becoming available if the Chiefs restructure some of their veteran's contracts. Part of the Chiefs cap hit this season will be allocated as ‘Dead Money' but after last season when it was nearly $9.5 million for players not on the roster, that figure is substantially lower this season.

The Chiefs have done a good job in restructuring contracts and reducing the dead money over the past several seasons. Two teams who struggled last season, the Buffalo Bills, who cut the Patriots 1993 first round first pick Drew Bledsoe and the Cleveland Browns when they cut Jeff Garcia; find themselves in cap restriction this season and their ability to sign any free agents this season will be hindered by poor decisions.

One player who could surprisingly join that quarterback club could be Detroit Lions starter Joey Harrington. He counts $10.5 million against the 2005 cap and based on his performance thus far in the NFL; he could find himself searching for a new team.

That team could be in Kansas City. Carl Peterson coveted him three years ago and would have drafted him in the first round if he was available. But the Lions shocked everyone by taking so early in Round one that the Chiefs didn't get the opportunity. Harrington could learn a great deal being an under-study to Trent Green for a season or two. He would be the perfect candidate to become a back-up and eventual started for the Chiefs in 2006 or 2007.

For now Kansas City will focus on the players available in March and then work toward trying to find as many quality draft picks as they can who can contribute on the field in 2005. If they still have holes to fill come June 1st, they'll have another set of players to consider as teams prepare for the 2006 salary cap by releasing veterans who won't count against their 2005 salary cap. The Chiefs have generally passed on bringing in players in June but this year might be a different story.


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