Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition VIII

This week we discuss Tamba Hali, Larry Johnson, the offensive and defensive lines, and big-name free agents.

What are the odds that Tamba Hali can shed a few pounds and make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4?

Nick Athan: The odds aren't good because Hali does not have great lateral movement, and that's a problem if he's going to be an outside linebacker. I've debated the topic of Hali on our message boards and I think he's a guy that's often injured and needs a better cast around him in order to be successful. That's the way he had it at Penn State and when Jared Allen was around.

Now he has to be the man but does not have the pass-rushing skills to be dominant. He frequently gets manhandled against the run, so there's little evidence at this point in his career that he can play any other position. Thus far his pro career has been a disappointment.

Michael Ash: I'm sure Hali could lose a few pounds if he put his mind to it. His speed has been mentioned as a reason why he wouldn't work well as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and that's surely true when comparing him to some of the better 3-4 pass rushers, but I can't imagine that a healthy Hali runs any slower than Mike Vrabel does at this point. In other words, while Hali probably isn't an ideal fit at outside linebacker over the long haul, he could fill that role until the Chiefs can better upgrade the position.

C.E. Wendler: While Hali might be a decent pass rusher in a 3-4 role, that problem with playing him at outside linebacker really has nothing to do with speed (although that doesn't help). Hali, like most 4-3 defensive ends, is terrible in coverage. At some point, if he's playing linebacker, he will have to cover someone and just about anyone is a mismatch. Offensive coordinators would try to pick on Hali if he was a full-time outside linebacker.

Where he might have some value for the Chiefs in the 3-4 is as a part-time pass rusher, entering the game in the obvious passing situations and pinning his ears back. Hali had a terrible season in 2008, but we've seen him beat right tackles throughout his career. There's no reason to think he's lost that ability. Of course, if he can't stay healthy he's useless in any scheme.


If the Chiefs do keep Larry Johnson, or force him to stay, what are the chances of him giving 100 percent when he is needed? What's to stop him from dogging it?

Nick Athan: I can't see Johnson giving anything but lip service at this point. He's not going to play for the Chiefs right now and his mind is made up. He's told people he wants nothing to do with Kansas City and the fact he slipped into town for a day to meet with Scott Pioli and Todd Haley and left town in short order, leads me to believe he's not coming back.

The Chiefs have the cap room to make eliminating Johnson a non-issue. They'll take a $7.5 million cap hit, but the team still has $35 million available. Cutting or trading Johnson won't be an issue. Either way, we won't have to worry about him giving any percentage of effort in a Chiefs uniform.


What happens if the Chiefs keep LJ?
G Newman Lowrance - Getty

Michael Ash: If Johnson wants to have a future in football beyond the Chiefs, he'll give it his all when he plays. If he gives less than 100 percent, there will only be two ways for people to interpret his performance - either he physically can't perform at a high level anymore, or he's quitting on his team.

With running backs becoming easier to find these days, the NFL has become a league where a player like Shaun Alexander hasn't been able to find steady employment just a few years removed from being the MVP. LaDanian Tomlinson may be cut soon. Knowing that, what kind of market would there be for a moody 30 year-old running back with legal problems who also has huge red flags in regards to his on-field performance?

C.E. Wendler: While it seems highly unlikely we'll ever see Johnson in a Chiefs uniform again, in the event a miracle occurs and he sticks around, I wouldn't anticipate him loafing. That's never been Johnson's style, despite what disgruntled fans may say.

If Johnson sticks around for 2009, most likely it would be because no other team wanted him, or he didn't find a team he wanted to play for. I don't think the Chiefs will cut him outright, they'll try to get something for him. If they can't, once again, Johnson would be looking to prove something to the rest of the NFL, and that requires 100 percent effort.


With the free agent market now weak at the offensive and defensive line positions, what do you believe the Chiefs' plans are? Can the players in place get the job done with better coaching and player development or are these units going to struggle again this year?

Nick Athan: April's draft is loaded with quality linebackers well into the second day. The Chiefs are going to add at least a pair of linebackers in the draft because they need depth if they shift to a 3-4 defense. The addition of Darrell Robertson brings some ability to get to the quarterback. He's the type of young player who could make some noise in training camp.

But the coaching will have to be better and it will be, with the exception of Tim Krumrie, who hopefully learned from his mistakes a year ago. Of course, it would be nice if the Chiefs finally identified a defensive coordinator.

Michael Ash: With the possible move to the 3-4, it's hard to say what the Chiefs' immediate plan may be along the defensive line. They may want to see how some of the team's existing players – Hali, Dorsey, Tyler, McBride, etc. – fare in that scheme before targeting their replacements.

Along the offensive line, it's likely the plan is to start finding and developing good linemen, which seems simple enough, but is something the Chiefs have failed to do for several years. The Patriots have done a good job of that, turning their mid-round draft picks into starters, and this year's class appears to be deep at positions like center and guard. If the Chiefs can find a right tackle somewhere, that's a good start.

C.E. Wendler: We know the Chiefs wanted to upgrade the defensive line, because they went after Albert Haynesworth. Since they failed there, it's a good bet they'll look to the draft to upgrade the nose tackle position. They may like some of the candidates for 3-4 defensive end currently on the roster – Turk McBride, Alfonso Boone, etc.

But it's going to be pretty much impossible to rebuild both lines in one offseason. The Chiefs are better off along the offensive line, but not by much. Don't expect domination from either unit, regardless of who is drafted or signed. Likely there will be some real struggles early on, especially on defense.


What are the odds that the Chiefs really have tried to pursue some of the "heavyweights" in free agency, and the unfortunate truth is that Kansas City is just not an attractive place to play right now?

Nick Athan: I don't buy that for a second. It's all about the money. If there is a constant in the NFL it's money. The best free agent offensive lineman in free agency, Jason Brown, jumped from a Super Bowl contending team in Baltimore to the St. Louis Rams. Why? Because they offered the most money and from some accounts he'd have preferred to play elsewhere but he took the coin.


Maybe Albert Haynesworth hates barbecue?
Mark Humphrey - AP

Free Agency is all about the money and it does not matter who is the head coach, the general manager, the state of the team or anything else. The Chiefs were in the Albert Haynesworth sweepstakes and have been in on others but they simply didn't offer the ridiculous contracts other teams offered to land premier talent. It has and always will come down to money.

Michael Ash: There's definitely truth to that general statement. Without question, the Chiefs are more attractive with Scott Pioli than they were with Carl Peterson, but it doesn't change the fact that the team has only won six games over the last two years. No matter how much confidence players may have in Pioli, top-flight free agents who want to win aren't lining up to come to Kansas City at the moment.

C.E. Wendler: It's been that way for years and likely will always be that way. The Rams have spent more money than the Chiefs in free agency in recent years, but do you see them attracting any huge names? Small-market teams just don't get much play these days. The Bills are lucky Terrell Owens became so tainted in recent years, otherwise they'd have never had a shot at signing him.

But you know what? Big-ticket free agents rarely win championships. Once the Chiefs start building through the draft, no one will care about "the one that got away."

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