It's not been a good 24 hours for the Kansas City Chiefs. First they lost linebacker Monty Beisel to the New England Patriots on Thursday night and then according to a report in the KC Star; linebacker Scott Fujita is undergoing arthroscopic ankle surgery. The injury stemmed from the Ravens game last October but nothing was done about the ankle until now and Kansas City is suddenly wondering who's going to start at two of the three linebacker spots.
If the season started today; the Chiefs would line up Kendrell Bell, Keyaron Fox and Kawika Mitchell with second year man Rich Scanlon as a back-up. If that happens, it won't matter if the Chiefs make the trade for Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain. This defense will have a hard time competing with that only one experienced and proven linebacker on the field.
The Chiefs obviously knew that Fujita was facing surgery before deciding not to get into a bidding war with Patriots over Beisel. Kansas City already knows that Mike Maslowski might not return from his experimental knee surgery and they know Shawn Barber won't be ready until at least October if then.
There is little doubt now that the Chiefs will be forced to use their first two draft picks on linebackers and that poses a problem because Kansas City would like to get a solid pass rushing defensive end if they swing a deal for Surtain.
But now they have to focus on linebackers and in the first round they are keying on Texas Linebacker Derrick Johnson and Virginia Linebackers Darryl Blackstock. The Chiefs in fact have talked about moving into the Top Ten to snare Johnson but that might require they give up their second round pick. Tentatively that pick is reserved for the Miami Dolphins who want to acquire it for Surtain. In the second round a name to remember could be San Diego State middle linebacker Kirk Morrison. He was a sure fire first rounder a year ago if he had not returned for his senior season. But his production fell out but NFL scouts all like him and he could be available in the second round.
But according to the local paper, Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil appears to have modest concern over the pending surgery on Fajita. He expects him to be ready for the June Mini-Camps. But privately the team has to be nearing a panic mode at linebacker. Can this team afford to have as many as two rookie linebackers starting on this defense in 2005? This team has made so many strides this off-season with the defense adding at least three new starters but they still have more work to do before the draft.
With that said, its' time for Kansas City to strongly consider making a run at former Houston Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper. After being released a week ago, many NFL teams thought he was a lock to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals. But after making a visit, he left town without a contract. Though other teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns have shown interest; nobody is lining up the brinks truck to sign him.
A lot has been said about Sharper and Chiefs fans have been clamoring for him since March when word spread the Texans were looking to trade their veteran linebacker. But nobody offered them a second day draft pick thus he was released.
The Chiefs have been very quiet in regards to their interest or lack thereof in regards to Sharper but I see little choice in keeping that quiet any longer. It's time to get him in Kansas City for a visit or at least call his agent to see if he has any interest in the Chiefs. Even if Fujita recovers from ankle surgery and he can return to the starting lineup; they still don't have anyone on this roster that can play on the other side.
Kansas City took a modest risk in signing Bell who has a history of injuries but from all accounts in off-season workouts; it appears that he'll be fit to start the season. The reports from the New York rags claiming his shoulder injury could be career threatening appear to be false.
Sharper's age is a concern and it should be for the Chiefs. He's on the downward slide of his NFL career but that doesn't mean they can't squeeze a couple of seasons out of him until they can rebuild their linebacker corps. Kansas City has had success in luring veteran linebackers to the squad. In 1999 the Chiefs signed 30-something Marvcus Patton and he played four solid seasons for Kansas City. He led the team in tackles in two of those seasons and was one of the few bright spots on the defense from 1999 to 2002.
Now it's known what kind of coin Sharper is looking for but he knows as the draft gets closer his stock will probably decline as the free agent money shrinks as teams start allocating money for draft picks. That could be what the Chiefs are waiting for as they continue to hold their salary cap hostage until the Surtain deal concludes.
It's a huge risk but it appears one the Chiefs are willing to take at least for right now.
In other Chiefs news, the team announced the signing of veteran fullback Robert Holcombe on Thursday. The former Titan becomes the third veteran from Tennessee to join the roster in the last three days. He followed defensive end Carlos Hall and wide receiver Darrell Hill to Kansas City who both agreed to earlier in the week.
Holcombe only signed a one-year deal but we're told that he could sign a long term deal once incumbent fullback Tony Richardson makes his intentions known beyond 2005. T-Rich has indicated that he hopes to be working in the Chiefs front office when he retires.
Warpaint Illustrated has learned that the interest in veteran wide receiver Kevin Johnson is very real for Kansas City. A source told us this morning that the Chiefs are hopeful of working out a contract with the former Baltimore Raven receiver. He would likely replace Johnnie Morton in the starting line-up as the second receiver spot.
As for Morton, Vermeil indicated that he's still in their 2005 plans. But the fact, he has refused to workout with the Chiefs in the off season indicates that his days in Kansas City could be numbered. We've been told that the decision to dump Morton might have already been made and that could happen in June when a slew of NFL veterans will get their pink slips from the Turk.
But for obvious reasons, Kansas City can't tip their hands at this point in regards to Morton. But with rumors circulating about trying to sign Johnson and the Chiefs very real interest in Oklahoma Wide Receiver Mark Clayton in the upcoming NFL draft; it's easy to assume that Morton will be looking for a new team in a couple of months.
Stay tuned to Warpaint Illustrated for more Chiefs news.