Four Moves For Chiefs

With NFL Free Agency ready to begin, the Kansas City Chiefs are cap and cash heavy in what many consider an average market. Nonetheless the competitive gap in the AFC West continues to shrink and with a solid March, a team that finished 2-14 a year ago could compete in 2009. Here are four moves that would contribute to such a revival.

1. Acquire quarterback Matt Cassel -

There isn't a quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft who's as prepared for the NFL as Cassel. Tuesday he signed his one-year tender, guaranteeing him $14.65 million this season. That's a lot of coin for a man who has started only 15 games in his NFL career.

Last year the Patriots ended the season with an 11-5 record, including an opening day victory over the Chiefs, but that wasn't good enough to qualify for the playoffs. However, it did give other NFL teams notice that Cassel is ready to lead his own team.

Right now he's the best quarterback option for the Chiefs. Tyler Thigpen has the tools to be a starter in this league, but is he good enough if the Chiefs dump the spread offense in 2009? And can he make plays in the fourth quarter? Can he win more than a single game as a starter?

The answer to those questions is more than likely a yes, but this new era of Chiefs football under General Manager Scott Pioli is anything but predictable. He hired an unproven coach in Todd Haley, who after weeks on the job still does not have a full coaching staff in place. That means Pioli is probably running most of the show right now. He doesn't know if Thigpen can be the man or not, so he can't afford to gamble.

Pioli knows Cassel better than anyone and it's unlikely Cassel would have signed his franchise tender before the start of free agency if he didn't think he was moving to another NFL city.

The Chiefs won't be alone in their pursuit of Cassel. The Detroit Lions, who have backed off from Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, have the cap space, like the Chiefs, to make a strong run at the Patriots' backup.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have loads of cap space and need a starter. The team jettisoned Jeff Garcia and now has no options at quarterback. That makes them more desperate for Cassel than Kansas City or Detroit. Either way the Chiefs won't offer anything more than a second-round pick for Cassel. That's a fair price considering the Houston Texans will send Sage Rosenfels to Minnesota for a fourth rounder.

2. Sign defensive end Igor Olshansky -

The Chiefs are familiar with Olshansky, who has spent the last five seasons in San Diego. If Kansas City moves to a 3-4 defensive scheme, he'd be the perfect fit to replace Tamba Hali, who might be more of a backup this season depending on whom the Chiefs acquire in free agency or the draft.

Olshansky is the type of system player Pioli mentioned in his opening press conference – big, strong, smart, fast, tough and disciplined. Regardless of whom the Chiefs choose to be their new defensive coordinator, he's a coaches dream.

He makes plays, works hard and could play defensive end for the Chiefs for the next five to six years at a high level. The Chargers apparently to this point don't see the value in re-signing him.

However he comes with some baggage. Olshansky had his worst season in 2008 with only 29 tackles and a single sack, but he might be a more affordable option than the Dallas Cowboys' Chris Canty.

3. Sign wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh -

He's the best wide receiver available and Pioli knows if KC's offense is going to grow, it needs another big-play receiver. The Chiefs have something in Dwayne Bowe but what they'll get out of him remains a question mark. His drops are a red flag, so the team needs someone to push Bowe and produce.

Houshmandzadeh has wanted out of Cincinnati for years and had to be happy when the organization put the franchise tag on kicker Shayne Graham. The bad news is that Houshmandzadeh will want to be paid as one of the top players at his position. Though the Chiefs can afford it, they have to weigh into the equation what they can expect out of him as he enters his ninth NFL season.

The only reason to pass on Houshmandzadeh is if the Chiefs can lure Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquin Boldin away from the NFC. Right now he wants a new contract, and who better to run routes in Haley's offense than the player who did it so well the last two years in Arizona?

4. Hire Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator-

This move has been bantered about on our message board, but he's the best option for the Chiefs' new defense. It's been insinuated that Crennel could be some sort of an advisor to either Gary Gibbs or Clancy Pendergast, but it's odd that we're hitting March and the Chiefs still don't have a coordinator on defense, nor a quarterbacks coach for that matter. But for some reason Crennel's name keeps popping up in Kansas City.

There might not be a better coach who can convert the Chiefs' defense into a 3-4 powerhouse. He wasn't great as a gameday NFL head coach, but he knows defense better than any other coordinator the Chiefs have had in a long time. If it wasn't for his ability to design and implement defense in New England, the Patriots might not have won any Super Bowls.

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