You can understand the sigh of relief in the Warpaint Nation when the Chiefs inked a deal with linebacker Kendrell Bell on Tuesday afternoon. Kansas City finally upgraded one of their weaker positions on defense, and can now focus on what to do next. They have a plethora of options, although they might have to make some trades to get the next wave of defensive players in town.
First, though, they'll entertain cornerback Ty Law on Wednesday or Thursday. His agent Carl Poston has indicated that he's ready for teams to look at his client and see how Law's foot is responding to off-season surgery. Ty remains the premier cornerback on the market who is free to sign with any team. Safety Sammy Knight is also headed to Arrowhead to meet with the Chiefs, who really want to upgrade their safety position. He's the last of the Tier One free agents left at his position.
Now Law could come a little cheaper than he would have a few weeks ago because the free agent cash is running out for the NFL contenders. That could prove good for the Chiefs—not only because they can get a veteran like Law for less money, but because it will allow them to have cash leftover to address other needs before the draft in April.
Knight is a nice player who could either be a back-up to Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley or take over for one of them as a starter. The Chiefs have to upgrade the safety position and they can't enter the 2005 season with the same group backed up by Shaunard Harts or Willie Pile. Now Woods could be a June 1 cap casualty.
The only other player on the market is disgruntled Safety Donovin Darius from Jacksonville. He was furious that the Jaguars franchised him again and he has said everything and insulted anyone who will listen to him about how about he wants out of the Sunshine State.
From what we've gathered the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins are interested in his services, and now the Chiefs could be involved in the hunt. If the Chiefs give up their second pick for Patrick Surtain, they could ship that pick to Jacksonville for Surtain. Now Kansas City must ask themselves who'd they rather have on the roster; provided they can reach a deal with either of them.
I'd take Darius over Surtain because I think they can get Ty Law at a price that will put them in a position to sign more players. Plus, the Chiefs should be able to grab a veteran or two on June 1st when the next round of cuts will be made by NFL teams who don't want to count salaries against the 2005 cap. Any team that cuts a veteran before then must absorb the cap hit for both salary and the remainder of the signing bonus in 2005. Not many teams can afford to do that.
The Chiefs still have other options on defense and a new name could be circling the halls of Arrowhead very soon. The New Orleans Saints are shopping former Kansas State defensive end Daren Howard. It's been reported that New Orleans just wants a second round draft pick for one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. If that's the case, I'd much rather have a dominating defensive end like Howard who would give Kansas City one of the better defensive lines in the AFC West. The strength of the defense is along that front line and more depth at that position would allow us to be even more aggressive, provided they can add another linebacker and cornerback to the mix before the draft.
Now the draft could yield some success and it might yield an impact defensive player, but the Chiefs can't count on that, nor should they. They need to solve their defensive issues prior to the draft so they can bring in solid athletes at numerous positions and upgrade the talent on this roster.
They could still make a run for free agent linebacker Ed Hartwell, who isn't finding the free agent market as golden as he thought when he visited the Chiefs last week. Kansas City remains interested in him and they still are the front-runner if the price is right. It's a fact that other NFL teams are not willing to give him that kind of signing bonus that Bell got from the Chiefs. Hartwell might have to lower his asking price if he does not sign with a team by the end of this week. Kansas City could use him and put him on the outside if they put Bell in the middle where he belongs.
With that said we've learned Hartwell plans on making his decision as early as this evening and from what we've learned the Chiefs had made the highest offer for his services. The Chiefs, Dolphins, Seahawks and
Kansas City still has a variety of things they can get done to upgrade the defense, but now it will be more difficult because they lost out on some of the top free agents at linebacker, safety and cornerback. Their task is difficult but it became a bit easier when they signed Bell on Tuesday.
Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated for more Chiefs free agency news.