Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition I

This week we discuss Matt Cassel, Tamba Hali, the 3-4 defense and Tyler Thigpen.

Do you think that Pioli will trade our second-round pick for Matt Cassel (assuming the Pats franchise him)? If so, is this a good move or was Cassel a product of the weapons at his disposal?

Nick Athan: First and foremost there is no way the New England Patriots are going to deal Matt Cassel for a second-round pick. They'll want a first-round choice but in my opinion he's not going anywhere as long as Tom Brady is on the shelf. Depending on who you believe - and nobody would know better than Pioli - Brady isn't likely to be ready until 2010. In fact, I believe that he'll never be the same as he was before the injury. Thus, I can't see any scenario where the Patriots won't hedge their bets and franchise Cassel. Yeah, it's a lot of money, but that's what championship teams do.

Michael Ash: I think it will probably take more than a second-round pick to get Cassel from New England. That's assuming they trade him at all – if the rumors about Tom Brady not being ready for 2009 are true, then obviously they aren't going to be too interested in shipping out Cassel.

As for whether it would be a good move, if we were to assume that Pioli is willing to give up a high draft pick to bring Cassel to Kansas City, then obviously our new general manager doesn't think he was just a product of the weapons around him. I'm guessing Pioli has a better read on the situation than I do.

C.E. Wendler: Guessing what Scott Pioli is going to do at this point is something I'm not prepared to do. He has no history as a general manager. The Patriots never traded for a starting quarterback when he was in New England. Of course, they also never spent a high pick on one. So who can really say?

As for Cassel, the few Patriots games I watched last season aren't enough to really pass a judgment on him. I will say this – his arm strength is lacking, and the Chiefs don't have an offensive line or receivers akin to what the Patriots have. Food for thought.

Why did Tamba Hali regress so much this season? I saw a spark in him toward the end of the season for a couple of games where he was getting some pressure, but why couldn't he do it consistently. What do you think the future holds for him?

Nick Athan: Two words - Jared Allen. It's really that simple. Hali is not going to be a 10-15 sack guy. He's a complementary player right now. With Allen, Hali could have easily had double-digit sacks had he wrapped up quarterbacks when he had them in his grasp in 2007, but he can't play right defensive end - best place is left defensive end.

What does Hali need?
Doug Pensinger - Getty

Hali needs two things to improve - a dominating pass rusher opposite and a stronger push up the middle from the defensive tackles. Without that he's not going to be all that productive.

Michael Ash: His never-ending battle with injuries, the failed move to the right side of the line, his lack of development. Those are the key areas I would highlight. The injury bug may never go away, but if Hali receives better coaching than I think he's gotten to this point – coaching that will help him develop more as a pass-rusher – maybe there's still some hope for him.

C.E. Wendler: Hali certainly plays better at left defensive end, no question. He's just not athletic enough to beat left tackles. But you really have to question what kind of player he's become when he struggles against even the greenest of offensive tackles, as he did in the Chiefs' season finale against the Bengals last year. Hali had a horrible game against an offensive tackle making his first start, ever.

I loved Hali's game in 2006 and 2007. We have to wonder if the injuries have taken their toll. We're talking about a player who was never the most physically talented defender to begin with. At least he won't cost much to keep around.

The 3-4 defense. What sort of offseason moves need to be made to make this happen? What are the advantages over the 4-3? Will Pioli make this happen with current personnel? Will the transition happen regardless of the head coaching decision?

Nick Athan: Scott Pioli has built several teams that ran the 3-4 defense but that's going to be an expensive and difficult project in Kansas City. One, Glenn Dorsey is not the space-eater that defense requires. Assume you solve that problem. At best, the Chiefs have one solid linebacker, Derrick Johnson, who hasn't lived up to his first-round status. But if Pioli deems this is the way to go, he will build it that way.

Michael Ash: Way too much needs to happen this offseason for the Chiefs to start using a 3-4. They would need to find a nose tackle (or sit Tank Tyler at an all-you-can-eat buffet until training camp). They would need to make serious and drastic upgrades at linebacker. They might want to find a trade partner for Glenn Dorsey, because unless he overcomes his size to produce as a 3-4 defensive end, he doesn't fit into the scheme.

I don't see Pioli as the kind of guy who would force a round peg into a square hole, and doubt he's going to switch over to a 3-4 with the current roster looking like it does. But if that's his long-term plan, the team might start moving in that direction with their draft picks and free-agent signings. Still, the biggest roadblock would be Dorsey.

C.E. Wendler: It's not accurate to think Pioli is someone who is locked into the 3-4 defense. New England ran a 4-3 defense at the beginning of his tenure. When Pioli was in New York, the Jets didn't exclusively run a 3-4 defense the entire time. The same can be said of Bill Belichick's Browns teams of the early 90s, of which Pioli was a part.

But Nick and Michael hit it on the head. When you look at KC's current roster, there's a real void of players who might fit into a 3-4 defense. I don't see a single linebacker or defensive end who really fits the mold of a standup outside pass rusher, ala Shawne Merriman.

If Herm is fired does Thigpen's chance of being the starting quarterback vanish?

Nick: There is no doubt the Chiefs will draft a quarterback at some point this April, unless of course Cassel somehow becomes a free agent. Thigpen is a backup player. He's not proven he can be a starter as of yet, and who knows what offense he'll be playing in next season.

What's Thigpen's future?
G Newman Lowrance - Getty

Will it be Edwards and Chan Gailey's or Mike Shanahan's or Jon Gruden's or... let's hold off on that assumption for now. Bottom line, if USC's Mark Sanchez is available with the third pick, he'd be a solid choice.

Michael Ash: Not necessarily, because firing Herm doesn't put another quarterback on the roster. Whether Herm is here or not, the Chiefs will still have to go out and find someone to replace Thigpen before he can lose the starting job, and that's not as easy as waving a magic wand around.

Even drafting a quarterback doesn't guarantee Thigpen will lose his job. If the Chiefs took USC's Mark Sanchez, for example, they may not plan to play him right away since he's coming out early and only had a year of starting experience in college.

C.E. Wendler: It could. No coach is coming to Kansas City because he wants to work with the alluring talents of Tyler Thigpen. That's harsh, but it's reality. When a coach from another team sits down and watches tape of Thigpen, what is there really to be all that impressed with? Besides his running, what does Thigpen do particularly well? Generally, starting quarterbacks need to have at least one outstanding trait in their passing repertoire.

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