Hakim and Chiefs Reach Agreement

It didn't take long for the Kansas City Chiefs to find a replacement for Johnnie Morton. Late Friday evening they reportedly secured the future rights to wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim. The former St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions wide receiver spurned an offer from the New Orleans Saints to be reunited with Head Coach Dick Vermeil and Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders.

According to the Saturday mornings on-line addition of the KC Star, Az-Zahir Hakim agreed to a contract late last night. Warpaint Illustrated has confirmed that if all the contract items are finalized this weekend, Hakim should be at OTA's this week and will participate at the Chiefs mandated mini-camp scheduled for next weekend in Kansas City.

Hakim is likely to battle for the third wide receiver slot behind Eddie Kennison and second year man Samie Parker. Kennison is coming off a career year in 2004 and Parker has been the best offensive player at OTA's. If Parker can stay healthy, he would give the Chiefs a dimension of speed that Kansas City has never been able to develop under Vermeil outside of Kennison.

Thus Hakim will compete for playing time with Marc Boerigter, who's recovering from double knee surgery, fourth round draft pick Craphonso Thorpe, who has his best of work last week and MR. OTA Richard Smith. With the addition of Hakim, Dante Hall could be relegated to special teams duty only and that's been an off-season goal of the Chiefs. As previously mentioned, Hall has struggled in his return game the last year and a half; the primary reason is the teams' reliance to get him more involved in the offense. Hall just can't be a productive return man if he's taking a regular turn in the offensive rotation.

Hakim comes to the Chiefs after three relatively unproductive seasons in Detroit. Like the man he replaced in Kansas City, Johnnie Morton, he languished with the Lions who ran an offense that didn't suit the talents of Hakim. Learning the Chiefs offense won't be much of a challenge for Hakim. He played under Vermeil for two years and under offensive coordinator Al Sanders for three years in St. Louis.

In fact his best year in the NFL came in the Rams Super Bowl Championship season back in 1999. He scored eight touchdowns while averaging nearly 19 yards per catch. Though he only caught 36 passes that year; he was a valued playmaker on the team that was generally referred to as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf' by sportswriters around the country.

He left the Rams after the 2001 NFL season and headed to Detroit where the Lions gave him a lucrative contract; one that surprised many around the league. But Hakim never developed into the starter that many had thought would happen when he left the Rams. In 2003, Hakim managed only four touchdown receptions, though he caught 49 passes; he averaged only 9.8 yards per catch. He also developed a case of the drops and turned the ball over three times as he battled himself within an inconsistent offense. Last season for the Lions he caught only 31 balls and scored three touchdowns in just 12 games.

But those stats mean very little for him in Kansas City. He won't be asked to be the go-to guy and that's the role he excelled in at St. Louis; so it's doubtful that the Chiefs would use him in any other way. But he will be counted on to bring some veteran leadership to a wide receiver core that's very young but talented. Outside of Kennison, no other receiver on the roster has started an NFL game outside of Boerigter who started two games back in the 2002 season.

It's far too early to determine if Hakim can position himself as a starting wide receiver on this talented offense but his presence should definitely increase the competition for playing time amongst the receivers on the roster heading into training camp in late July.

This move gives the Chiefs some insurance if players like Parker, Thorpe and Smith don't get the chance to develop their game this season. They won't have the pressure to play above their capabilities and won't be thrown into the fire before their ready; that might not be a bad thing for this team. With Hakim on the roster, they'll be able to take time to develop their game and if they become better players with a veteran ahead of them, then it's a win-win situation for the Chiefs.

There is little doubt based on the heated and passionate workouts of the OTA's thus far this off-season; that Kansas City is hell bent on putting together its most talented roster in team history. With the addition of Hakim, the Chiefs are shoring up one of the teams question marks heading into the 2005 season. Granted Hakim comes with major question marks but the rewards clearly out way any risks of adding the veteran receiver.

The decision to drop Morton was a no-brainier and the decision to add Hakim makes complete sense for the Chiefs. Dick Vermeil was the one pushing for Hakim and after all the talented additions on defense this off-season, he did not want to go into training camp without a veteran receiver on the roster after the release of Morton.

Still it remains to be seen if Hakim can stay healthy and be a productive member of the Chiefs offense. Fortunately he won't have too much pressure on him and if Kansas City can get any production out of him or he pushes the young receivers; the move to sign Hakim could end up being one of the Chiefs most important acquisitions of the off-season.

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