With the clock striking midnight, the Chiefs were burning the late oil to trying to work out a deal what would make them the winner of the Samari Rolle sweepstakes. All signs are pointing to that getting done as both parties are eager to get the deal done. Rolle wants to play for the Chiefs and his old friend Gunther Cunningham. And the Chiefs appear to maneuvering the salary cap internally to fit the large signing bonus that it will take to land the premier cornerback of the 2005 free agent class.
The hold up appears to be the results of the MRI results on the knee injury he suffered last season. The Chiefs doctors want to make sure its healed and fit for the start of training camp. If it is and from all acounts he will be ready for two-a-days, then it should only be a matter of time before the Chiefs ink Rolle to a long term contract.
Most other NFL teams are backing away from his salary demands and one NFL executive who I spoke with this evening told me that other teams are not in pursuit because he believed the Chiefs were the front runners. Rolle has no visits scheduled and from all indications, he is ready to become a Chief.
But how long this takes is reaching a critical point for the Chiefs if they want to pursue other NFL veterans. One of them remains linebacker Ed Hartwell who left Kansas City without a deal largely in part to the fact he wants a signing bonus that compares to the one the Chiefs will likely give Rolle.
Rolle wants a signing bonus somewhere between $12-15 million. Hartwell wants one between $10-12 million making him the highest paid free agent linebacker of this class. The market is only dictating a signing bonus between $5-8 million. That's the dilemma and the only reason that Hartwell flew from Kansas City to talk to the Arizona Cardinals.
Now Hartwell and his agent are no dummies. They played the Card, no pun intended, so they could make a point with the Chiefs that other teams want his services but if he doesn't get any offers, like the one he left on the table in Kansas City; it could backfire. Kansas City told Hartwell they want him to sign but they needed to get the deal done with Rolle first so they could juggle the cap to make sure they could add Hartwell and still find another cornerback and an additional linebacker to shore up their defense.
In fact the Chiefs would like to sign five new defensive players. They need another safety and could sign Tampa Bay cornerback Dwight Smith plus they'd like to find another nickel back who can cover slot receivers. They would like to convert him to safety so they could find someone who could step in for Jerome Woods who had a poor 2004 campaign. The Chiefs are expected safety Sammy Knight in town as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Hartwell is the key to the puzzle but Rolle is the move that has to happen first in order for the Chiefs to start reshaping their defense. Kansas City won't be as restricted by the salary cap as some are reporting.
Don't buy into the rumors that the Chiefs are only $2.2 under the cap. That's not accurate. Before the Chiefs received credit from the NFL for salary bonus's that were never earned by players like Priest Holmes, Shawn Barber, Eric Hicks and Jerome Woods; they sat roughly $4.6 million under the cap. The bonus money could have given them an additional $2 million.
If the Chiefs need more room, then they'll redo the contracts of Trent Green or Priest Holmes or Tony Gonzalez or any other high priced offensive player to create more cap room to sign enough defensive help to get this team back on the Super Bowl path.
In fact, I bet they'd each give up a portion of their salaries to help the cause if they were asked. The Salary Cap is subjective and it's a guide. If Kansas City needs the room, they'll find it. So reporting the number at this point is ridiculous.
Chiefs fans are impatient and honestly their going through a series of emotions that have them mad, angry and concerned that Kansas City will be bystanders in this free agency period. It could happen but not likely.
Look they offered Jeremiah Trotter a contract that included a $6.5 million signing bonus and he ended getting about $4.5 from the Eagles. So they obviously showed they were welling to over spend for a player they wanted. The problem was Trotter's heart was in Philly not Kansas City.
The Chiefs have a plan and we have to let them execute it. If they lose Hartwell, then they'll move to Kendrell Bell who passed his physical with the Chiefs on Friday. He has the talent to play any linebacker position on the field. In fact, once Rolle is signed, the Chiefs could make a run for both of them.
If they still want another cornerback, they could find one in the draft or sign Dwight Smith who would instantly become the teams third nickel cornerback if he does not move to safety. They could draft a cornerback like Brandon Browner who in my opinion is the best cornerback available in the draft behind Antrel Rolle. He'll be sitting at #15 just waiting for the Chiefs to pluck him.
But none of that can happen until they sign Rolle. With the Chiefs preparing for the NFL 101 Banquet this weekend, it would be a good time to show some of the top players and coaches in the NFL, the newest Chief or Chiefs.
Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated as we'll keep you updated as to the latest and most accurate news in regards to the Chiefs free agent comings and goings.