Windows of Opportunity: Forever Young

Whether acquired through trades, free agency or quality drafting, the Chiefs' player personnel is now top-heavy. This is in stark contrast to the 1990's, when the majority of the team's star talent was on defense. When I say "top-heavy," I mean it in the sense that the talent levels and the achievements have been off the charts on the offense.

Excitement was plentiful during the Vermeil Era. Multiple rushing and receiving touchdowns were not just hoped for, they were expected. The greatest worry was whether or not the scorekeeper could maintain pace with the offensive juggernaut.

If you asked a Chiefs fan 10 years ago what he thought of the offense, he'd probably tell you the same thing a modern Chiefs fan would concerning the defense.

"We need to build that side of the ball up before our window of opportunity closes."

The Chiefs defenses of the ‘90s were nearly as invincible as the Chiefs recent offenses. There were windows of opportunity during several seasons. Unfortunately, the old defense never got a true complement on the offensive side of the ball.

The current Chiefs offense faces that same letdown from the defensive side. The unstoppable defenses succumbed to time. As the numbers in the age column kept rising, the window kept sliding shut on the great defenses of the ‘90s.

A glance at the projected starting lineup is worrisome when you consider what happened to the Chiefs defenses of the ‘90s. The wrong side of 30 is not an admirable position for long-term success.

Offense
Pos. Name Age Ht. Wt. (lbs.)

QB Trent Green 36 6'3" 217

LT Willie Roaf 36 6'5" 320

LG Brian Waters 29 6'3" 318

C Casey Wiegmann 33 6'2" 285

RG Will Shields 35 6'3" 320

RT John Welbourn 30 6'5" 310

TE Tony Gonzalez 30 6'5" 251

FB Ronnie Cruz 25 6'0" 237

RB Larry Johnson 27 6'1" 230

WR Eddie Kennison 33 6'1" 201

WR Samie Parker 25 5'11" 190

Average age of projected offensive starters: 30.82 years old

Defense
Pos. Name Age Ht. Wt. (lbs.)

LE Eric Hicks 30 6'6" 280

LT Ryan Sims 26 6'4" 315

RT Lional Dalton 31 6'1" 315

RE Jared Allen 24 6'6" 265

OLB Derrick Johnson 24 6'3" 242

MLB Kawika Mitchell 27 6'1" 253

OLB Kendrell Bell 26 6'1" 245

CB Patrick Surtain 30 5'11" 195

CB Benny Sapp 25 5'9" 190

SS Sammy Knight 31 6'1" 215

FS Greg Wesley 28 6'2" 206

Average age of projected defensive starters: 27.46 years old

The scramble to raise the defense's talent to prevent another letdown hasn't been realized via free agent acquisitions this off-season. However, to be fair, the talent needed didn't quite match the affordability this year. One thing is increasingly clear with this new regime: the Chiefs will build their team around the talented veteran leadership. The faces around that talent will get considerably younger.

Take note of the interest the Chiefs have displayed in the free agent market this off-season. All players the Chiefs have shown a strong interest in have been under 30. Age is the new "fat" and the Chiefs will be looking to cut the fat. Several things happened this off-season to support that notion.

1) The Chiefs briefly flirted with releasing the aging Will Shields.

2) CB Eric Warfield was released. Granted, Warfield's off-the-field antics and poor play contributed to his release. However, it could be argued that the Chiefs were willing to invest time in Warfield (in past years) because of his potential. With his advancing age, that time investment no longer was an option.

3) LB Gary Stills was released. His high salary and age no longer fit within the concept of getting younger.

4) LS Kendall Gammon was resigned for the veteran minimum, but cheaper and younger LS Adam Johnson is on the roster for competition and potential replacement.

5) DT shakeup. DT John Browning is contemplating retirement. Lional Dalton was resigned, but look for DT Ryan Sims, DT Junior Siavii, and DE/DT Jimmy Wilkerson to have increased roles in the rotation. The signing of DT Ron Edwards adds more youth.

6) The signing of QB Casey Printers and interest in QB Joey Harrington acknowledges the fact the Chiefs need to someone to take over for the aging Trent Green.

7) Letting FB Tony Richardson sign with the Vikings. His value to the Chiefs came mostly through leadership, and the Chiefs have an abundance of that on the offense. With Richardson's departure, the Chiefs' average offensive age dropped a full year.

The emphasis is clear. The Chiefs will build this team through youth. With Edwards at the helm the draft will have more importance and free agency will be another avenue to add young talent.

This is not a full-bore rebuilding strategy. It's a strategy to rejuvenate this veteran team so that the team can stay "Forever Young" and maintain open windows, rather than having them slam shut once the age threshold is reached.

This team will get younger. The challenge is to keep it on a winning note while doing so, and perhaps widening that window opening and stepping right through it.

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