But a look back can provide some idea of what the Chiefs can expect from this year’s draft.
The season behind: The Chiefs didn’t get much from this group when they were rookies. In fact, their rookie of the year was a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, cornerback Marcus Cooper. Fisher started 13 games at right tackle but his season wasn’t what could reasonably be expected from the first overall pick in the draft. His play was uneven at best, particularly earlier in the season. He struggled as a pass-blocker against stronger opponents and their power moves. He proved unreliable, missing three regular-season starts plus the playoff game with injuries ranging from shoulder to concussion to groin. The Chiefs were counting on productive playing time from Kelce and Commings before injuries cost them all of their rookie seasons. Kelce in the preseason developed a knee ailment that eventually required surgery. Commings broke his collarbone during the first practice of training camp. The Chiefs were hopeful Johnson could be a starter at inside linebacker, but a preseason injury set him back and he never made a serious challenge. Kush and Catapano were drafted as developmental players and that’s the role both settled into, though injuries forced the Chiefs to use Catapano at times and he showed some pass-rush ability. Wilson was a huge disappointment, even as a sixth-round pick. He was cut during the preseason and the Chiefs didn’t think enough of him to bring him back to their practice squad.
The seasons ahead: Fisher may be the only full-time player from this group again in 2014, but it’s reasonable to believe the Chiefs could still get some production from the others -- Wilson being the exception. The Chiefs are confident that despite his rocky debut season, Fisher will eventually become the player they envisioned when they drafted him. He will move over to left tackle after playing on the right side and should benefit greatly from an offseason in the Chiefs’ weight program. Commings could wind up as the starter at free safety if the Chiefs don’t draft a player to fill that position. Otherwise, the Chiefs will look for ways to get him on the field. He was going to challenge for playing time in their nickel defense last year before his injury. The Chiefs are eager to get Kelce involved in their passing game. He was very involved before his injury. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of spots to best use his ability to get down the field and beat coverage to make catches. Davis became more involved as last season went on and should get more playing time this year, assuming the leg he broke in the playoff game allows him to and his fumbling habit doesn’t reappear. Eventually, Davis could be the replacement for Jamaal Charles. At 227 pounds, he’s bigger and more powerful than Charles and he’s fast for a player his size. He probably won’t ever give the Chiefs what Charles delivered as a pass receiver last season. It speaks to what the Chiefs think of Johnson that one of their first moves in free agency was to sign veteran Joe Mays to be a starter at inside linebacker. Johnson may be a special-teamer for whatever remains of his Chiefs career. Catapano may never develop into a full-time player but his ability as a pass-rusher gives him a shot at a lesser role. Similarly, Kush may continue to be a backup, but watch what the Chiefs do with starting center Rodney Hudson, who is scheduled to become a free agent next year. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Chiefs, Kush could inherit the spot if he develops as the Chiefs hope.
Best pick: As expected for the first overall pick, Fisher should become this draft’s best player. Despite his struggles last season, he frequently showed the athletic ability a great offensive tackle needs. But Kelce should eventually become the best pick from a value standpoint. He could become the Chiefs’ best pass receiver at tight end since the traded Tony Gonzalez.
Worst pick: Since Wilson couldn’t hang around until the end of his rookie preseason, he has to qualify, for now. The others still have a chance to be productive players. But the situation doesn’t look good for Johnson, either. As an inside linebacker, he would be a part-time player, coming out of the game on passing downs. But the Chiefs evidently believe he’s not advanced enough to handle it yet.
The Chiefs' first preseason opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals with the game scheduled for Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals also haven't announced a date for the game but they have said their first training camp practice will be on July 23. Teams aren't allowed to begin camp more than 15 days before the first preseason game, so unless the Bengals are starting with a rookie camp (and they didn't label it as such) their game against the Chiefs could be no later than Aug. 7, a Thursday night. That date also makes sense because the Royals are on the road that night but are occupying adjacent Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 8 and Aug. 9.
If the game is indeed on Aug. 7, the Chiefs would also have their first training camp practice on July 23, assuming coach Andy Reid intends to take advantage of the full 15 days.
The date for Kansas City's next preseason game is set for Sunday, Aug. 17, at the Carolina Panthers. The game will be nationally televised by Fox.
The following week's game is against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead. The Vikings have announced the game will be on a Saturday, Aug. 23, and begin at 7 p.m. CT.
The Chiefs conclude their exhibition schedule at the Green Bay Packers. The league announced that game will be played on Aug. 28, a Thursday.
Kiper hasn't changed that in his latest mock draft . But he has switched receivers for the Chiefs.
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So I went back and looked at how the teams that paid their linemen well, and those that didn't, fared last season. Turns out that six of the 11 highest-spending teams with regard to the cap made the playoffs. The Chiefs, by the way, were 11th. The Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks? They spent more than any other team on their offensive line.
The eight teams with the lowest salary-cap expenditures on the offensive line didn't make the playoffs last season.
With regard to cash spending, six of the nine highest offensive-line spenders made the playoffs. Nine of the bottom 10 spenders didn't.
It's just one year, making it a small sample size. I went back through previous years and the correlation between offensive-line spending and making the playoffs isn't historically so consistent. And a lack of spending at other position groups also seemed to mean failure. The bottom six spending teams at both running back and wide receiver, for instance, didn't make the playoffs. The bottom four spending teams at tight end, also failed to reach the postseason, and interestingly the top four spending teams at this position group did.
So there's probably a million different ways of doing it correctly. Maybe the Chiefs are on to something. There's no reason for them to panic after losing three of last season's offensive line regulars to free agency. They've been diligent in recent years in loading up with linemen in the draft and then developing them, so they can line up and play a game right now and possibly be fine.
Possibly being fine doesn't help teams make the playoffs. That's why I'm not certain the Chiefs are set yet on the offensive line.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who was arrested in November for marijuana possession, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Riverside (Mo.) Municipal Court to lesser charges of littering and defective equipment.
In return for his guilty plea to the littering and defective equipment charges, the marijuana charge was dismissed. Bowe paid $610 in fines and court costs.
According to Riverside police, Bowe was pulled over on Nov. 10 for doing 48 mph in a 35 mph zone. The officer detected the strong odor of marijuana coming from the car. After a subsequent search by a police K-9 dog, marijuana was found in Bowe's car.
Bowe's attorney filed a motion last week that evidence from the traffic stop should be suppressed.
This wasn’t intended to be a referendum on specific moves. We’re all probably in agreement at this point that last year’s mega-dollar signing of Dwayne Bowe wasn’t a good one. But the Chiefs at the time decided they were going to put that money long-term into a wide receiver instead of an offensive lineman like Branden Albert.
Though there is plenty of room for debate on the specific decisions the Chiefs are making, I like their general philosophy of paying their playmakers.
Fans are decidedly mixed on it. Here is a sampling of the comments:
- Andy Reid is a former offensive lineman and former offensive line coach. He understands the importance of those positions. That's why it's intriguing the Chiefs are 31st among the NFL's 32 teams in salary-cap commitments for their linemen and last in cash spending. Perhaps it's part of the Chiefs' long-term planning not to sink a lot of money into their offensive linemen. It will be interesting to see not only what the Chiefs do in the draft with regard to selecting linemen, but how they handle contract situations with linemen who will soon become free agents. Center Rodney Hudson and guard/tackle Jeff Linkenbach are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2015. The contracts of guard Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson will be up the year following. The Chiefs can't continue to lose linemen at the rate of two or three a year without investing heavily in the position through the draft.
- A player who led the NFL in touchdowns, was third in rushing yardage and fifth among running backs in pass receptions is a steal at a much higher price. What the Chiefs are giving to Jamaal Charles is borderline criminal. Charles' salary-cap number of $5,233,333 is 10th among NFL running backs. The closest statistical comparables to Charles last season were Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Chicago's Matt Forte. McCoy rushed for more yards (1,607) than Charles (1,287) but had fewer pass catches (52) and total touchdowns than Charles (70, 19). Forte had more rushing yards (1,339) and pass receptions (74) than Charles but fewer total touchdowns (12). McCoy's cap number this year is $9.7 million. Forte's is $7.9 million. In terms of cash spending, or what their teams will pay this year alone, McCoy gets $8 million, Forte gets $6.9 million and Charles $3.9 million.
- The more I think about it, the stronger I feel that the Chiefs should hold on to Eric Berry. He's only 25 and won't be 26 until late December. So, in theory at least, his best years should be coming. As a strong safety, he plays a so-called non-premium position but he's still a playmaker who impacts the game.
- I recently broke down the Chiefs' salary-cap situation (offense here and defense and kicking specialists here). It showed them with regard to the NFL average to be heavy spenders at certain position groups (wide receiver, linebacker, defensive back, punter, kicker) and light spenders at others (offensive and defensive lines). These priorities seem generally well placed to me. Spend money on playmakers. I'm interested in hearing what you think about this. Are the Chiefs putting their cash in the right places? Tweet me (@adamteicher) with your thoughts.
Turns out the Chiefs don't have things so bad when it comes to paying the bills. An ESPN The Magazine study of 294 pro sports teams foreign and domestic show the Chiefs to have only the 132nd highest average salary of $2,171,845.
In total payroll terms, they're in 28th place at $115,107,799. Relative to other pro sports teams, that may not be a hefty bill.
Still looks like it to me. If you're interested, here's the entire list.
But Berry shouldn't be one of them. Though as a strong safety he doesn't play a so-called premium position, Berry still finds a way to impact the game. He's a playmaker and the Chiefs need to do anything they can to hold on to this type of player. And another thing: Berry is just 25. He won't be 26 until late December, so his best years should be ahead of him. If the Chiefs trade Berry, they'll see him making plays for some other team for another six or eight seasons.
No, you don't dump players like Berry. You build around them. If the Chiefs need to find some salary-cap space next year, there will be other candidates. Dwayne Bowe immediately leaps to mind.
Berry is expensive now and he will be expensive to re-sign soon or at the end of his contract, which expires after two more seasons. But premium players come at a cost. That's the way this works. The Chiefs could always keep Berry around in 2016 as the franchise player if the sides can't agree on a deal for the longer term.
However it's done, the Chiefs need to keep Berry.
Salary-cap commitments: $6,649,267
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 5.1
NFL average: $12,840,629
Chiefs rank on DE spending: 25th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are spending only about half of the league average on these positions. For purposes of this discussion, Mike DeVito is labelled as an end because he’s basically a run defender who comes out of the game on passing downs. He makes up most of the Chiefs’ cap spending at this spot with a figure of $4.9 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $5,407,274
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 4.2
NFL average: $8,979,256
Chiefs rank on DT spending: 22nd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are again well below the league average here (about 40 percent below) and that’s counting not only Dontari Poe but Vance Walker as tackles. Poe is still playing under his rookie contract and has a cap number of $3,087,274. That’s only 27th highest among NFL defensive tackles.
Salary-cap commitments: $23,066,768
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 17.8
NFL average: $15,526,469
Chiefs rank on LB spending: 5th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend more than 50 percent beyond the league average at linebacker, but they’re getting their money’s worth. Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson on the inside are each working on a string of at least two consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Hali alone accounts for about half ($11,464,706)of the Chiefs’ cap commitments at this position. Johnson ($4,550,000) and Houston ($1,598,812) are bargains.
Salary-cap commitments: $19,886,878
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 15.4
NFL average: $12,150,127
Chiefs rank on CB spending: 3rd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend about 67 percent more for their cornerbacks than the NFL average. One starter, Brandon Flowers, has the third-highest salary-cap number for an NFL cornerback ($10,500,000) while the other, Sean Smith, is 16th ($5,750,000). No other Chiefs cornerback has a cap figure above $1 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $13,319,700
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 10.3
NFL average: $8,333,907
Chiefs rank on safety spending: 6th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend about 67 percent more than the league average at this position, mainly because of Eric Berry and his cap number of $11,619,700. Berry was drafted fifth overall in 2010, the last year before the NFL overhauled rookie contracts, so he’s benefitting from the huge deal he signed then. Berry has the highest salary-cap number for a safety and the only one over $10.1 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $2,708,750
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 2.1
NFL average: $1,864,515
Chiefs rank on kicker spending: 8th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs have about 47 percent more committed to Ryan Succop than the average NFL team does to its kicker.
Salary-cap commitments: $3,800,000
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 2.9
NFL average: $1,706,906
Chiefs rank on punter spending: 2nd among 32 teams
Analysis: Here’s another sign the Chiefs value their kicking specialists more than some other teams. Re-signing Dustin Colquitt to a new contract was a priority for general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid when they were hired last year. His cap number is more than twice that of the average NFL punter.
Salary-cap commitments: $595,000
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: .5
NFL average: $838,863
Chiefs rank on LS spending: 23rd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefssigned Thomas Gafford to his second straight one-year contract worth the NFL minimum.
"You can’t have enough good offensive linemen," Reid said then. "You can’t win without offensive linemen. You can’t win without defensive linemen. That’s just the way the game works. You’ve got to be strong in those positions. I understand the importance of that. That’s what we need here."
That’s a fine philosophy. Championships have been won by teams that embraced it.
But the Chiefs are 31st among the NFL’s 32 teams in salary-cap spending on their offensive line. When it comes to cash spending, or money teams are doling out to offensive linemen this year alone, the Chiefs are 32nd and last. They're spending $7.9 million this year on their offensive linemen.
I wasn’t among those predicting gloom and doom for the Chiefs when they lost three offensive linemen to free agency. They've spent a lot of their draft picks in recent years building depth on their offensive line to better withstand this type of hit.
I also believe you get what you pay for and right now, at least, the Chiefs are paying very little for their linemen. Part of that is the result of going with younger players on the offensive line. Four of the five starters are in the contracts they signed as rookies. The other starting spot is up for grabs but could be given to a developmental player such as Rishaw Johnson, who is making the minimum salary.
Teams can’t spend lavishly at all positions. The Chiefs this year are spending much higher than the league average at wide receiver and, as we will see in a subsequent post, linebacker and defensive back.
If they’re going to do that, they have to spend less than the average at other positions. For the Chiefs, the offensive line positions are among them.
The only way Reid's words make sense in this context is if the Chiefs' continue to use a high pick or two each year on offensive linemen. That way, they can keep a supply of talented but lower-paid linemen and save money for other positions.
So don't sleep on the possibility of the Chiefs drafting an offensive lineman in an early or middle round this year. It makes sense from both need and financial perspectives.
Here, we'll look at how the Chiefs' cap situation breaks down with regard to offensive positions. Later, we'll look at defense and special teams.
Salary-cap commitments: $11,898,333
Percent of Chiefs' total cap: 9.2
NFL average: $11,667,289
Chiefs rank on QB spending: 15th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are spending about 2 percent more than the league average on their quarterbacks. This will change when they extend the contract of starter Alex Smith, who currently counts $8 million against their cap. That's tied for the 15th-highest QB cap number with Oakland's Matt Schaub. Chase Daniel's salary-cap number of $3.4 million is fifth among players listed as backups on their team's depth chart, but Daniel is the only one of those five who has never been a starter.
Salary-cap commitments: $7,775,255
Percent of Chiefs' total cap: 6
NFL average: $7,750,422
Chiefs rank on RB spending: 13th among 32 teams
Analysis: Again, the Chiefs are very close to the league average in spending at this position. Most of their cap allotment at this position goes, of course, to Jamaal Charles. His cap number is $5,233,333. Charles is still a bargain at that price. His cap number is just 10th among NFL running backs this year. Knile Davis has the Chiefs' next highest cap number for a running back at $646,504 but that puts him far down the league's list of runners.
Salary-cap commitments: $16,366,594
Percent of Chiefs' total cap: 12.7
NFL average: $13,534,504
Chiefs rank on WR spending: ninth among 32 teams
Analysis: Here's where the Chiefs' spending gets out of line, both for the league average and what they're getting for the money. The Chiefs are spending 21.75 percent more than the league average on wide receivers but last season that group was last in the league in pass receptions and yardage. Dwayne Bowe leads the way with a $12 million cap charge. That's the sixth-highest cap number in the NFL for a player who caught 57 passes for 673 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season last year.
Salary-cap commitments: $6,122,076
Percent of Chiefs' total cap: 4.7
NFL average: $6,137,131
Chiefs rank on TE spending: 15th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are spending very close to the league average at this position. Most of their spending here goes to the starter, Anthony Fasano. His cap number is $4,281,250, giving him the 11th highest figure at his position. Travis Kelce has the next highest cap number for a tight end at $700,826 but he's well down the league list for this position.
Salary-cap commitments: $12,314,356
Percent of Chiefs' total cap: 9.5
NFL average: $21,449,958
Chiefs rank on OL spending: 31st among 32 teams
Analysis: Here the Chiefs drop well below the league average in positional spending. Only the Detroit Lions are spending less in salary cap on their offensive line. This is the byproduct of allowing three regulars from last season to leave as free agents. Meanwhile, the linemen who have the top three salary-cap figures are working under the contracts they signed as rookies. Left tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in last year's draft, has far and away the highest salary-cap number for a lineman at $5,043,295. Even at that, Fisher has the 43rd highest cap number for an offensive lineman. Left guard Jeff Allen ($1,266,497) and center Rodney Hudson ($1,115,577) are next.