The NSLU*: An Approach to Resolving Exposure and Weaknesses of the Chiefs – Part I

 

 

 

Thinking upon the upcoming NFL activities and the draft, it is likely that most fans, writers, pundits and analysts would almost unanimously agree that the glaring weakness of the Chiefs roster has been on the defensive side of the ball for the past two seasons. Here are the exposures, listed without order of importance except to put the defense in front of those on offense: NT, ILB, CB Inside, CB Outside, OLB and Safety. It is apparent to most that all the problems are solved at Inside Linebacker. When Reggie Ragland was acquired, I gave him a huge nod and he proved my point—and this resolved one the exposures that was addressed in the NSLU earlier volumes where a defensive draft was promoted. Ragland, most assuredly, is a strong “MIKE” ILB. What is left to do next is find Derrick Johnson’s replacement.

 

I am not convinced that DJ will be able to “heal” more in this off-season and it may well be that his career as a player is at an end.

 

At the same time, it is quite obvious that Dee Ford and Frank Zombo are not a solution on the outside. Nor is Tamba Hali, who could contribute little to the OLB role in 2016 and 2017. It is time for him to retire also. The effect of Houston not having a top talent opposite him at OLB is one reason Houston’s contribution fell off in 2017.

 

The Chiefs acquired Bennie Logan for the interior line but he proved ineffective in replacing what Dontari Poe did for the defense and that loss has got to have a resolution in 2018. I am not saying Logan is a bad player – I am saying he was miscast to play at NT. His price tag is going to be well over $8m in 2018 and it is likely his contract is going to be limited to a one-year deal.

 

Promoting Brett Veach to GM: the Positives Thus Far

 

After John Dorsey was “Fired,” Brett Veach was promoted to the helm of the Chiefs Football organization. The actions he has taken, have improved the Kansas City Chiefs football roster significantly. It should be noted that thus far, Veach has had no action which his a “negative”. A review of the activity is highlighted in the following remarks.

 

From sources we understand that Brett Veach was involved in encouraging the drafting of Patrick Mahomes. Not being fearful of much criticism, in 2017 I took on a role of being a critic of drafting a QB, and wrote about that several times and commented on it frequently. The result… “Dang Me” if Dorsey didn’t draft a dang QB. But at least there is a record of my stated direction in the draft. Too often for some. The fact that Mahomes has had solid feedback thus far is to his credit and such has been the from numerous experts, pundits, observers and writers including myself (based on his pre-season Performance). If this turns out to be an “Ace” we will see proof in 2018’s season. His pre-season appearance in 2017 looked very good. As I have made clear in previous NSLU articles, drafting a Quarterback as the Chiefs did would have no effect on winning the AFC and getting to the Super Bowl. Which it did not. Having that true QBoF? Now That is a True Ace which we may have gained already. The result though??? Indeed, they won the division but could not win a playoff game – AGAIN!

 

If the Chiefs had spent the values of their draft positions in 2017 with focus on defense, the existing exposures that existed in 2016 would have been resolved to a large extent and thus the 2017 draft might have, maybe [and so on] gotten the Chiefs to at least the AFC title game. Those values, applied to the existing exposures and weaknesses on both sides of the ball would clearly have set up the 2018 draft such that the position to be able to solidify — for example, the Secondary — replace aging players, upgrade at least one position on each of the trench linemen on both sides of the ball.

Certainly, in the 2017 draft, an Outside and Inside Linebacker could have, and would have, likely been obtained. At the same time, it is a good bet the Chiefs could also have obtained a Cornerback level starter for the RCB. But that is “Spilt” milk. [move on, there’s nothing to see here]

 

 

Next, Veach took action acquiring two inside linebackers. The first, Kevin Pierre-Louis, saw quite a bit of play as the season wore on. I don’t think he is anything to write home about but he was seeing the field. To get him, Veach traded away DJ Alexander who had received a Pro Bowl nod on special teams. Alexander though, did not see much action the field of play as a linebacker. I think this action is a wait-and-see type event for KPL. He saw significant playing time and hence he would receive a positive grade for that contribution but he’s not a player of the stature to take over for the “WILL” and/or the defensive front seven captain’s role. The Chiefs are looking for that type of player, still.

 

However, the next transaction was the acquisition of Reggie Ragland: trading the 4th round pick to the Bills for Ragland who was the Bills 2016- 2nd round pick. In 2016, I had Ragland as a “too be drafted” player in the 2nd or 3rd round. Ragland brought to the Chiefs what was missing in the role of the “MIKE” linebacker which was previously manned by Josh Mauga who was lost for much of the 2016 season and released when Ragland was obtained. Ragland offered proof to the pudding with his play in 2017 – and that he steadily improved each step of the way tells us a lot about him.

 

The next move by Veach was to trade the Chiefs 5th round 2018 pick to the Browns to acquire Cameron Erving. Erving was rated as a round 1 or low round 2 pick for the draft in 2016. He didn’t fit the OL at Cleveland. Some are questioning this move but with all the injuries in 2017 to starters, Erving in his first season, new to the offense and certainly the playbook, played well enough at two positions to warrant keeping him. Some question this but it wasn’t until LDT went out with an injury that he started getting snaps on first team.

 

I think too, that Matt Nagy and Co. shifting down on blocking with a simplification was important not only to Erving but also the rest of the interior linemen. With Morse back in 2018, the left guard position will be up to a player to win: Erving, Ehinger or Witzmann. I would bet on Erving. [sidenote: In fact, the more simplification of Andy Reid’s playbook, the more easily the Chiefs players could internalize it and “make it happen”-DEB].

 

 

Harrison Butker, what can you say? The selection of Butker off the Panthers Practice squad was an “Ace” and attributed to Dave Toub tracking him and suggesting that Veach bring him in. Cairo Santos had pre-season injury that did not improve and the Chiefs had to make a move. Enter Butker. This was a huge exposure for the Chiefs and Butker settled in nicely and peformed at top notch level all season long. His misses of note were largely all 50 yards plus, including the miss against the Titans in the playoff game. But the rest? Pure icing on the cake and you cannot blame a loss on a placekicking attempt over 50 yards. The Chiefs signed kicker Harrison Butker off of the Carolina Panthers practice squad. Butker is under contract for 2018 and that is not just a “good” acquisition, it was an “Ace.”

 

Darrelle Revis was the next signing that has import. Revis has a HoF consideration in his future. He is now entering his 13th season, an old pro with tons of experience that might bring stability and a lot of knowledge to the secondary players who are not named “Berry”. The problem with the future for Revis and KC is Contract cost and Cap hit. See more on this later. You cannot say that Revis did not perform, or do his duty. In fact, the self-bounce TD that the Titans scored was knocked away from the intended receiver by Revis – a good defense in itself. A fluke rebound to the Titan Quarterback ended up being the difference in the gamee as it resulted in a TD. The Chiefs would have forced a Field Goal at that point, with an incomplete pass which would have changed the outcome of the game. It was sort of like the immaculate reception of Pittsburg by Harris. I don’t think Revis played the position wrong, and he didn’t have any miracles in his very limited time after signing on with the Chiefs. See more about this in the topical discussion about the cap.

 

How to Value the Alex Smith Trade (three aces)

The Alex Smith Trade was not total greatness. Veach could have made a different deal, one of which was with Dorsey and the Browns, which I understand was perhaps a better offer. On the other hand, Veach could have waited to see if a team was more desperate than those in the running for Alex Smith’s services. But then, that would have been gambling and Veach sold his position short and found a big profit.

 

I think here, you have to consider the player who was added as well as the acquisition of the Redskins 3rd round pick, which is 14th while the Chiefs pick 22nd. What this gives the Chiefs is an additional Top 100 player pick in the 2018 draft and that is important in and of itself. The deal included Kendell Fuller, CB and Fuller is the third part of this trade which is an “Ace”. Consider first the Chiefs captured about $16+m dollars in cap space for the trade of Smith. Secondly, they acquired a 3rd top 100 pick in the draft. Thirdly, Kendall Fuller is an “Ace” in and of himself due to his level of play: PFF had him in the top 5 players at the corner position and #1 in the slot. One of the Chiefs largest exposures in the past two seasons has been at two positions in the secondary: Slot CB and RCB.

 

By acquiring Fuller at the very least, you resolve two exposures. Steven Nelson can move inside and man the slot – and he did very well here but due to the lack of talent on the outside, Nelson was often moved outside. We are witness to the result of Sutton trying to patch things together and make it work. It didn’t. Maybe in this respect, Hunt was correct in saying player depth was one of the big reasons the Chiefs defense could not do the task at hand.
IF this resolves the two exposures in the secondary, namely the Slot and a lacking talent outside opposite Peters, the trade allows Veach to look at the remaining exposures on defense: NT, ILB and the potential acquisition or drafting of a 3rd safety capable of a starting role.

 

Introduction to the CAP and It’s Implications

(also, a “Veach” area of responsibility)

 

It is also apparent that the Chiefs have had a problem with available cap space: here’s the status:

From Spotrac.com:

Adusted Salary Cap: $179,502,068
Active Contracts: $167,939,601
Dead Cap: $ 9,378,250
Rollover(from 2017): $ 1,502,068
Total: $177,317,851
Estimated cap space: $ 2,184,217
Cap space(top 51) $ 7,614,217

 

Example Market value Estimates:

Bennie Logan: $9.5M
Dee Ford: $8.7M
Darrelle Revis: $5.9M

 

 

At this point, we have traded Alex Smith, leaving only Justin Houston and Eric Fisher over $10M’s. This is a good thing. But with less than $10M Cap monies available for trades or acquiring Free Agents, there is much work to be done.

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Look for PART II of “An Approach to Resolving Exposure and Weaknesses of the Chiefs”  Coming Midweek here at ArrowheadOne.

 

Cordially to all, David Bell – now let’s the rest of us get on to Montana!

*NSLUNo Stone Left Unturned

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