A Successful Combination

With the latest signing of veteran linebacker Zach Thomas, we're beginning to understand what the Chiefs mean by veteran presence. It really isn't as surprising as some would have you think. The addition of the 13-year (seven-time Pro Bowler) veteran is no less intentional than the Matt Cassel/Mike Vrabel deal earlier this year.

It's clear Scott Pioli is going to develop a culture based on excellence and football wisdom. If you look closely at the makeup of most of the veteran free agents signed since the start of free agency, they have one thing in common - experience.

Experience can't be taught, but it can be bought. If the Kansas City Chiefs are truly serious about winning, then bringing in veterans with winning experience is a sound strategy. You see the addition of personnel from Super Bowl squads and division winning squads, but what I also see is that each one of these signings is aimed at enhancing the experience at different positions.

It started with Mike Vrabel, Monty Beisel and now Zach Thomas at linebacker. That philosophy also includes Bobby Engram at wide receiver, Mike Goff on the offensive line and you could even argue Matt Cassel at quarterback.

If the Chiefs have an eventual goal of moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme, then they will need personnel with experience in that scheme. With the move to a more vertical offense, the Chiefs will need personnel experienced in some aspects of Air Coryell. The vision will continue to be to add to areas that are lacking in experience. Don't count out additional moves by Pioli with input from Todd Haley that will include veterans before, during and after the draft.

Why add all these "old guys" to a team that couldn't win but two games last year? Because those "old guys" bring intangibles that don't exist on this Chiefs squad - football wisdom and a winning culture. Any organization that is re-tooling for expanded production or the addition of a new product line relies on the personnel who have the experience to make the re-tooling a success. A veteran presence, whether by addition, attrition or subtraction will allow the Chiefs an opportunity to succeed in the company of previous failure.

I have no doubt that the next incarnation of the Kansas City Chiefs will have a different idea of its own dignity and in that dignity, determine a level of self esteem that could result in discovering a deserved swagger that has been missing these last few years. I can't help but be optimistic based on these latest moves that we will again see an upswing in the program perhaps not too dissimilar to the first few years of Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer.

As in the first years of the Peterson/Schottenheimer era, the Pioli/Haley era will be measured by the effectiveness of not only the free agents they have added but how well they draft. Of course, the first draft helmed by Peterson in 1989, which included the fourth pick overall, netted the Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas.

The first draft helmed by Pioli in 2009 could result in the addition of another vaunted linebacker in Aaron Curry. While Curry may not be anywhere near the player Thomas was coming out of college, does Pioli think that the currently valued "top athlete" in the draft is worth the third overall pick? I've reviewed the first round of this draft and don't see the Chiefs staying in the top five.

Pioli may make a move to gain extra picks in the first round and possibly the second. He may trade with one of several teams but the current favorite, at least in some circles, is the Denver Broncos. Philadelphia has also come up.

Pioli is a businessman. If it works out, whether the draft value chart is used or not, he will set his own value and make trades that make sense for the Chiefs. Whether they work out as planned is totally up for review once training camp and the pre-season begins.

We'll get a true sense of direction for the Kansas City Chiefs after April 25. As I've said before, value is in the mind of the beholder. Whether Pioli picks conservatively or whether he reaches for someone, he'll make the pick (or trade the pick) for the best interests of the organization.

Pioli doesn't strike me as a gambler, so don't expect him to reach for someone that won't make the grade. I do expect him to nail a couple of impact rookies and add additional veteran free agents.

Remember the trio of disgruntled veterans that have stated their collective desire to vamoose from Kansas City? I'm sure there are potential deals for them all, which would add value and bring in personnel who really want to play for the Chiefs. Regardless of the ultimate resolution of this issue, in the end the Chiefs will have succeeded in supplementing youth with needed experience.

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