Kansas City's defense failed miserably and was actually worse in 2004. While coaching and respect are important aspects of the game, the bottom line comes down to talent and teamwork. The Chiefs lacked the quality talent and necessary depth to compete at the highest level, week in and week out. This error in judgment proved costly for an organization that considered itself a Super Bowl contender.
Offensively, Kansas City was again near or at the top of the league in all offensive categories. Even with injuries to Priest Holmes and backup Derrick Blaylock, the Chiefs remained a constant force in the running game thanks to second-year pro Larry Johnson, who showed why he was the team's first-round pick in 2003. With the ability to run inside and the quickness to bounce the play off-tackle, Johnson is the future in Kansas City once Holmes steps aside.
Still, some subtle issues in the offense need to be addressed. The Chiefs lacked consistent production in the red zone and didn't have a true big man at wide receiver. Also, they struggled at times with turnovers and indecision.
Nothing short of a trip to the Super Bowl will satisfy the fans and the organization. The Chiefs have the highest-powered offense – not to mention the best offensive line – in the NFL, and they are ready to shatter all the records in 2005. Believe it or not, the offense could be even better this season.
Trent Green is poised for another 4,000-yard passing season and should have some new weapons. The aforementioned Johnson excels at catching balls out the backfield, and a veteran wide receiver like Travis Taylor or Ike Hilliard might be added in free agency. Also, offensive coordinator Al Saunders hopes to get wide receiver Samie Parker and tight end/H-back Kris Wilson into the flow of the game. Parker showed blazing speed last year after battling hamstring injuries the first 12 weeks of the season, and he might be the No. 2 or 3 receiver depending on how Marc Boerigter recovers from double knee surgery.
Defense is where the mess begins and ends.
The Chiefs have been one of the most active teams trying to lure free agents. If they can address the defense by signing a pair of cornerbacks (one starter and one nickel back) and then find two linebackers (one to play middle and one to play the strong side), they could be players in the AFC West.
Outside of rookie Jared Allen and his 9½ sacks and cornerback Eric Warfield, this defense does not have many playmakers. Safety Jerome Woods was a major disappointment last season after going to the Pro Bowl in 2003, and the Chiefs would like to find another veteran safety to compete with Woods, whose skills appear to be declining. The other starting safety, Greg Wesley, had a down year, but the Chiefs believe it was a fluke and chalked it up to the big contract he signed prior to the season.
This team will likely be without starting linebacker Shawn Barber until October. The Chiefs' big free-agent acquisition last year, Barber had major reconstructive knee surgery and won't be ready to practice until late in training camp. On special teams, the Chiefs will probably relieve return man Dante Hall on offense so he can once again become the most feared special-teams weapon.
The Chiefs also have the luxury of 11 draft picks, so they can build some depth and still compete for a Super Bowl title in 2005. If the defense can crack the top 16 by adding some key veterans and if the offense shows a greater sense of urgency in the red zone, Kansas City could become a Super Bowl favorite.
SALARY CAP STATUS
The Chiefs are approximately $4 million under the league-mandated 2005 salary cap.
Cornerback – The Chiefs ranked last in pass defense in 2004. Only Eric Warfield is potentially an average cornerback, and the roster is filled with below-average players at a position of crucial importance. The team needs to secure the services of no less than one high-quality cover cornerback through free agency. Acquiring a reasonable No. 2 corner is highly recommended for the Chiefs to take their defense to the next level.
Safety – Free safety Jerome Woods and strong safety Greg Wesley did not play well. They were consistently late in support, beaten in coverage and slow to react with run support. Woods, an All-Pro in 2003, has lost a step, and Wesley was a non-factor a year after getting an impressive contract extension. Bringing in some depth could prove beneficial if these two veteran players continue to struggle.
Linebacker – The Chiefs lacked quality and depth, with the middle linebacker spot being most evident. They acknowledged their dramatic need for improvement by signing free agent Kendrell Bell. Additionally, the Chiefs are seeking help outside due to uncertainty surrounding the return of Shawn Barber and the restricted free agent status of Scott Fujita.
Defensive end – Only for depth purposes.
Wide receiver – The Chiefs have shown a modest interest in acquiring a bigger receiver to help the team thrive in the red zone.
FREE AGENCY AND OFFSEASON
KEY ACQUISITIONS: LB Kendrell Bell (Pittsburgh).
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: RG Brandon Moore.