Move #5: Chasing Rocky

This might seem like a strange topic for one of the top ten moves of the off-season, but sometimes effort is important. Rocky Bernard ended up turning down a better offer from the Chiefs to remain in Seattle, but the fact that Kansas City identified a player who could make an impact on the roster spoke volumes.

A lot can be said about an organization with a new head coach when it identifies a young ascending player on the rise. It's even better when he's snuck into town during a free agent bonanza in full swing, with nobody really noticing until after he arrives.

Not many people knew that much about Bernard outside of the brass in Seattle. The young defensive tackle has been nothing short of consistent for the Seahawks. He's quietly become one of the better players at his position, which is amazing considering his ability to plug the middle and get to the quarterback.

The Chiefs noticed. They felt he'd be a perfect player to line up next to an underachieving Ryan Sims. At the time, Lional Dalton was still exploring his free agent options and the Chiefs were pulling out all the stops to convince Bernard to become a Chief.

In four NFL seasons, Bernard has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback. Last year he had 8.5 sacks (18 for his career) and two more in the post season. But he's not a one-dimensional player. He had 42 tackles in 2005, solidifying one of the NFL's better defensive lines.

Kansas City entered the free agent market knowing that they were not going to be major players. The free agent class was anything but stellar. It might have been the weakest in history. With the CBA between the players and owners barely dry, the best players on the market signed quickly. Some of them visited one city and didn't leave until teams coughed up millions of dollars.

In my opinion, the top free agent player from the class of 2005 is still on the market in the form of Ty Law. We'll save that subject for a later column in this series.

Still, Bernard gave considerable thought to signing with the Chiefs and most felt that since he stayed in Kansas City for several days, a deal was close. But just as Jeremiah Trotter did the previous year, Bernard returned to his original team.

Conspiracy theories suggest that the Chiefs offer was nowhere close to the one Bernard eventually received from Seattle. But it was close enough to make him think long and hard about signing with Kansas City.

He ended up getting a three-year, $13.5 million deal from the Seahawks. The Chiefs offered him the same amount of money over four years.

I don't blame the Chiefs for limiting their ‘A' free agent list to Bernard and Law. It makes sense. And it'll prove to be a wise move if Bernard loses his hunger for the game now that he has a few more dollars in his pocket.

In the interim, Kansas City pursued some ‘B' level free agents and signed defensive tackle Ron Edwards and cornerback Lenny Walls to one-year deals.

Not bad signings by any means, but not the big names fans were hoping for. But the Chiefs didn't want to bust their salary cap for over-hyped players.

Cleveland and Seattle overpaid for some of the top talent and the market dried up. Kansas City might have made the wisest decision by standing on the sidelines. History shows that only a handful of the top free agents in a given year make an impact, especially those coming off a career year like Bernard.

Next year, the salary cap room the Chiefs will have should allow them to fill any holes. With the salary cap expected to reach an all-time high next year, the Chiefs are positioning themselves to be players.

And that should result in an interesting off-season for Chiefs fans as Herman Edwards recruits some of the best free-agent talent in what should be a buyers market in 2007.

Next Up: Staying Put in KC

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