Nobody knows for sure if signing either Ty Law or Patrick Surtain would guarantee improvement on defense but it couldn't hurt. One thing is certain if Kansas City can't sign one or the other by the NFL Draft in April, this defense would only marginally improve in 2005 with the current additions and that means more trouble for Kansas City next season.
First let's give kudos to the Chiefs for signing linebacker Kendrell Bell and safety Sammy Knight. Even further they tried to sign linebacker Ed Hartwell and would have done just that; had not the Atlanta Falcons increased their guarantees for the former Raven linebacker after his agent actually convinced the ‘Dirty Birds' management that the Chiefs were a serious player for his clients services. They never were unless he accepted the offer that had been unchanged since the signing of Bell.
Factor those moves with the near signing of cornerback Samari Rolle, who had a change of heart when the Ravens showed him some love, and still the Chiefs have to be pleased but not satisfied with their off-season to date.
As impatient as fans have become since they sighed Bell and Knight, everyone has to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. The Chiefs remain in the hunt for free agents that can upgrade the talent on this roster. Though the Chiefs might not get choice A or B from this point out, they still have options and now they might be forced to find a diamond in the rough if Law or Surtain don't join Kansas City. But that's a proposition that has every Chiefs fan worried. So let's hope that's not the case because the pickens are slim.
One of the players in the Chiefs sites is cornerback Patrick Surtain whom many believe that the Chiefs remain the front-runner despite any of the so-called published reports that indicate otherwise. The Seahawks who had been the other player in the Surtain sweepstakes have backed off their stance to acquire him since they inked veteran cornerback Kelly Herndon to an offer sheet. It's a near certainty that the Denver Broncos will not match the offer sheet to retain their former starting cornerback. That means Herndon will become the coveted starter for Seattle that they've tried to find since they lost Ken Lucas to the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
The problem with Surtain is the fact the Miami Dolphins, who retain his rights, have yet to back-off their demands of a second round draft pick as trade compensation to acquire the Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback. It's doubtful the Chiefs will give up their second round pick now or on draft day. As one Chiefs official told me this morning, "We're not inclined to part with them (any draft picks)."
That means unless the Dolphins softened their stance, the Chiefs aren't willing to part with that coveted second round pick at least not now while there is a lull in free agency. They have an extra third round pick as compensation for losing John Tait to the Chicago Bears a year ago but those picks can't be traded away to another club so they can't use that to entice the Dolphins.
As we get closer to the draft, things will change as NFL teams will scour the balance of the players left in free agency and make some moves to position themselves on draft day one way or another. That means they could part with draft picks to acquire players or the other way around. They could dump players to get more picks. If not everyone will wait until veterans are released in June. But in this crazy off-season it's possible that a late flurry of free agent activity could happen just days before the NFL Draft begins next month.
Ty Law is expected to be out of the walking boot in the next week but it's doubtful he'll make any return visits to Arrowhead until the two screws that are surgically implanted in his foot have been removed. Only then will NFL teams be able to see how far he's progressed after the surgery. Law is convinced he'll be ready by mid-training camp at the latest. But team doctors for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chiefs have yet to share that sentiment. Law visited both places and received the same news. Nobody is going to offer him a contract until he's more mobile.
Still with that said if the Chiefs attempt to acquire either Law or Surtain, it will come down to coin. I'll preface this by saying the Chiefs have the cap room to do whatever they want in regards to signing one or both cornerbacks. But as we learned with the Rolle negotiations and Hartwell for that matter; it takes two sides to complete a deal and that might be the biggest obstacle facing the Chiefs today.
Law, despite raking in over $40 million from the Patriots since his career began back in 1995, wants to get paid like some of the other veteran cornerbacks who struck large signing bonus's this off-season. Plus factor in there is a chance that Law could still return to New England. His agent, Carl Poston, has indicated that he has a four-year, $24 million deal on the table for Law from the Patriots. Now I'm no genius but if that was the case, then Law needs to sign that now and take more of Bob Kraft's money.
Law has everything the Chiefs need to complete their free agent trifecta. It seems from all accounts that both sides are a fit amongst the contenders that remain for his services. The other suitors the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts have major cap problems thanks to their franchise designations. The Jets are saddled with defensive end John Abraham who wants out of the Big Apple after contract talks stalled last week. Abraham signed his one-year tender so he's now one of the top paid defensive ends in the NFL. But he's counting $8 million on the 2005 cap and that's hampering the Jets from making a serious run at Ty Law. Same goes for the Colts who are in the same boat with running back Edgerrin James who wants to be traded to the Dolphins.
Law is in the catbird seat but as we get closer to the NFL Draft his leverage might shrink. This could be the best collection of cornerbacks to hit the open market in the last ten years. The Chiefs could eventually get two starting, yet unproven, cornerbacks with their first two draft picks. But do they want to start the season with two rookie cornerbacks getting significant minutes? I doubt it and with the pending suspension of Eric Warfield, the Chiefs must find a veteran or two to bulk up the secondary at cornerback.
As for Surtain, the thing that bothers me about him is why he isn't standing up and pounding on his agent to hammer out a deal with the Chiefs. You'd think he' want to get out of Miami fast and from what we've heard new Head Coach Nick Saban isn't making any friends amongst the veterans. Surtain wants out but he's going to make $7 million this season and it's obvious that he loves the coin as well and could stay in Miami to collect his money and enter the free agent market next year.
That's fine but if was serious about coming to Kansas City, he would have to know with his buddy Sammy Knight on the roster; this defense could compete for the AFC West crown with his addition to the defensive backfield. Maybe he enjoys playing for a losing organization but if had any kind of success in Kansas City; he would be beloved and worshiped.
But for some reason, he's not pushing things and though the Chiefs might be reluctant to give up that second round pick in March; that might not be the case in April. The Chiefs have tried to bring Surtain in for a visit but the Dolphins won't allow it until the two sides agree on compensation. I asked a Chiefs official this morning and requested a status report on talks with Surtain and the Dolphins and they were anything but optimistic at this time. "That isn't close at this time." Not good news but again not discouraging because everything is about positioning and the Chiefs have dug themselves in for a fight for both players.
Still I believe that Surtain must force the action and his agent needs to spin the deal so it gets done with both sides content they got the better end of the deal. The Chiefs can't afford to lose out on Surtain or Law for that matter if they truly want to compete on defense next season.
Either player suits me fine though I would prefer Law over Surtain only because of the Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Because after that; the Chiefs are down to Andre Dyson, who the Chiefs have zero interest in at this time, Renaldo Hill (Arizona), Mario Edwards (Tampa Bay) or Nick Harper (Indianapolis). Though each of the latter four would be an improvement over anything the Chiefs have on the roster outside of Eric Warfield, none of those players brings fear to opposing wide receivers. Each have flaws in their game but Kansas City might be hard pressed to sign one of them if Law or Surtain slip through the cracks.
That means the Chiefs can't wait too long for either Surtain or Law because eventually another team will step forward and offer more than the Chiefs would have to give up right now.