Will The Chiefs Bring Kawika Back?

Will the Chiefs bring linebacker Kawika Mitchell back? What happens when a team's scheme doesn't play to a player's strengths?

Statistics in the NFL can be misleading. In the new NFL, the number of tackles a player records don't always add up to a player reaching his potential. What matters most is what you do on the field and how you impact the game.

Four years ago, Dick Vermeil couldn't say enough about Mitchell. He had a memorable game his senior season against the Oklahoma Sooners that catapulted him from a sure-fire second-day draft pick to a second-round draft pick.

In Kansas City, he hasn't been a total disappointment. He's amassed 239 tackles, but has only 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. His first two years in a Chiefs uniform were a learning process as he transitioned from one defensive coordinator to another.

He's not been the hard-hitting headhunter in the NFL that he was in college. Thus, he and the Chiefs are at a crossroads. So let's take a look at it from both sides.

Why You Sign Him
At the moment, the Chiefs don't have any options at middle linebacker outside of Mitchell. Last year's backup, Boomer Grigsby, has moved to fullback. Unproven second-year man William Kershaw has talent but zero experience.

The rookie crop this year is decent, but not overwhelming. The free agent class is thin, to say the least (though Donnie Edwards may catch the Chiefs' eye), and that is why Mitchell may draw an attractive offer from another team.

The Chiefs will have to fend off a pair of them that appear to be the early leaders in attempts to sign Mitchell. One is Detroit, and the other Miami, where Mitchell is building a new home.

The Chiefs have always taken pride in their linebacker corps since Derrick Thomas was drafted back in 1989. Mitchell isn't in that class, but he has tools that make him a decent fit in the middle.

The one thing in his favor is that the Chiefs know what they have in Mitchell. Any deficiencies in his game can probably be overcome by improving the talent in front of him.

But his best asset is his leadership, and this defense made a leap in 2006. Mitchell was a player who was always at the forefront of that progress and acted like the leader of the defense.

Sometimes it takes a few years for players to adjust to the NFL. The Chiefs can't be too quick to let Mitchell go if they feel he can become the type of player they envisioned he'd be when they gave him a starting spot before the 2005 season.

Why You Don't Sign Him

There is little doubt Mitchell will get a five-year, $25 million offer from some team with a large amount of coin to spend in free agency. As mentioned previously, the Lions are in the market for a starting linebacker, and Matt Millen might be willing to overpay for Mitchell's services.

The Chiefs can't afford to do that, as they have other pressing needs. Kansas City has to get the most out of their cap dollars by evaluating Mitchell's true value.

He's racked up some nice tackle numbers, but isn't the most fluid linebacker in the NFL. Starting middle linebackers also have to be able to blitz the quarterback on occasion, and too often last season Mitchell had clear shots at quarterbacks and whiffed.

In pass defense, he couldn't cover some of the better tight ends and running backs the Chiefs faced. Even worse, he didn't make any real game-changing plays. As a middle linebacker you have to make plays in critical situations.

Mitchell didn't do that enough in 2006. If KC's defense is going to become a top 10 unit in 2007, Mitchell might not be the right man to lead them.

Prediction: Chiefs pass and he signs a five-year, $28-million contract with the Miami Dolphins.

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