It's a very different terrain for Andy Reid and John Dorsey as they guide the Kansas City Chiefs into the 2014 NFL season with the start of free agency.
A year ago both were on the job for only two months but they had quickly put together a game plan for adding talent to the roster they inherited after a 2-14 season in 2012. That disaster led to the firing of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel, with Reid and Dorsey taking over. They had enough maneuvering room under the NFL salary cap that they were able to plug in more than a dozen veteran players through trades and free agency. Some of those players were big contributors in the team's 11-5 season and a trip to the playoffs.
That's old news now. Reid and Dorsey face a continuing rebuilding job on a roster that has some talented front-line players, but lacks in depth able to push the starters for playing time. They took immediate hits in free agency when they lost left tackle Branden Albert, guard Jon Asamoah, wide receiver-returner Dexter McCluster, guard Geoff Schwartz and defensive end Tyson Jackson.
Albert landed in Miami, Asamoah with Atlanta and McCluster moving to Tennessee. Schwartz signed with the Giants and Jackson with Atlanta.
The first day of free agency left the Chiefs with an unstable situation on the offensive line, a group that struggled early last year but performed well in the last six weeks and in the postseason game against Indianapolis.
"They came together, they grouped together and towards the end of the season they came together," Dorsey said of his offensive line at the NFL Combine. "I see this moving forward as a very good positive."
Free agency looks like it may hinder that "positive" growth; the trio of Albert/Schwartz/Asamoah started 28 games during the 2013 season at left tackle and right guard. Albert and Schwartz were the two best blockers the Chiefs had during the season, and Albert earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. If Schwartz joins the procession out of Arrowhead Stadium that removes three of the team's top seven blockers and leaves question marks about left and right tackle, along with right guard.
Reid doesn't point to free agency as the mode to fix the holes in the Chiefs roster. Like Dorsey, the head coach believes the team should be built through the NFL Draft.
"I'm not a big free agency guy; that wasn't our MO there (Philadelphia) and my thought on that hasn't changed," Reid said. "I'm lucky enough to be with John, and that's his feeling. I think you kind of plug things here or there."
Losing players, especially starters and contributors in free agency calls for action on the open market of veteran players, but Reid is convinced that method can only go so far.
"If you think you are going to make a team out of free agents, I don't think that necessarily works," Reid said.
Reid and Dorsey will troll the free agency waters and zero in on players they are familiar with, like wide receiver Jason Avant (drafted by Reid in Philadelphia). A healthy Jermichael Finley from the Packers (back/spine injury in 2013) might get consideration.
--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.
The Chiefs will be at home against Cincinnati in Week 1 and Minnesota in Week 3, while going on the road to play Carolina in Week 2 and Green Bay in Week 4. The game against the Panthers will be at 7 p.m. Central time Sunday, Aug. 17 on FOX.
--Running back Jamaal Charles was named the winner of the team's Derrick Thomas Award as most valuable player for the 2013 Chiefs season. It was the fourth time in five years that Charles was selected by his teammates for the honor; his only miss came in 2011 when an ACL tear in his left knee cost him 14 games. "Four out of five ... I can't believe it," Charles said. "I've played with a lot of great players and to be honored by them with the DT Award so many times is a highlight in my career." Charles led the NFL in offensive yards during the 2013, gaining 1,980 yards with 17 touchdowns.
--Cornerback Marcus Cooper was named the team's Mack Lee Hill Award winner as the best rookie for the Chiefs during the 2013 season. He was honored on a vote by his teammates. Cooper was one of seven players claimed by the Chiefs off the waiver wire just six days before the season opener. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft by San Francisco but was released on the final roster cut. Cooper quickly established himself as the team's nickel back and ended up playing in every game and he finished with three interceptions. "I got a lot of help getting here and I want to thank my teammates," Cooper said. "I hope I can stay around here for a while."
--Former running back Priest Holmes was selected as the 44th member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame and his name will join the team's ring of honor on a facade inside Arrowhead Stadium. Holmes spent seven seasons with the Chiefs (2001-07), and was selected for three Pro Bowls (2001-03) and was named all-Pro those same three years. He ran for 6,070 yards with Kansas City and scored 83 total touchdowns. Holmes is the first running back chosen for the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 10 years, since the late Joe Delaney was honored in 2004.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WIDE RECEIVER: the offense needs more weapons for quarterback Alex Smith, especially at wide receiver where the Chiefs did not have a consistent performer all season. Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Donnie Avery combined to catch 150 passes for 1,780 yards and nine touchdown catches. That's only a touchdown every 17 catches. Now, McCluster is gone, signed as a free agent by Tennessee.
--FREE SAFETY: From his arrival through the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Kendrick Lewis has been the Chiefs starting free safety. The only time he wasn't in that role was caused by injuries, especially to his shoulders. Lewis appears to be a smart player, but he lacks speed and explosion that a deep safety in today's NFL must have. He signed March 21 with Houston.
--TACKLE: the departure of six-year starting left tackle Branden Albert leaves a major hole in the offensive line. Last year with the first selection in the 2013 NFL Draft they selected offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who started at right tackle. Donald Stephenson was the backup at both tackle spots, and if he steps into the opening lineup, that leaves the Chiefs devoid of tackle help off the bench.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Kyle Williams was claimed from the waiver wire in November after he was released by San Francisco and he saw four plays in special teams in his first game with the Chiefs. He then tore an ACL during practice the next week and was finished for the season. It's doubtful he'll draw much attention from the rest of the league as he rehabs his way back to the field.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--S Husain Abdullah: UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Thomas Gafford: Potential UFA; $730,000/1 yr.
--TE Richard Gordon: Potential RFA; $645,000/1 yr.
--LB Frank Zombo: Potential UFA; $1.625M/2 yrs, $100,000 SB.
--G/T Jeff Linkenbach: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--ILB Joe Mays: UFA Texans; $6M/2 yrs.
--RB Joe McKnight: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--CB Kevin Rutland: FA; $570,000/1 yr.
--CB DeMarcus Van Dyke: FA; $645,000/1 yr.
--DT Vance Walker: UFA Raiders; $10.02M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--T Branden Albert: UFA Dolphins; $46M/5 yrs, $8.5M SB/$25M guaranteed.
--G Jon Asamoah: UFA Chiefs; $22.5M/5 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Demps: UFA Giants; $1M/1 yr, $100,000 SB/$100,000 RB.
--LB Robert James (released).
--DT Tyson Jackson: UFA Falcons: $25M/5 yrs.
--TE Dominique Jones (released).
--LB Akeem Jordan: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Kendrick Lewis: UFA Texans; $795,000/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.
--WR Dexter McCluster: UFA Titans; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DE Brandon Moore (released).
--DT Jerrell Powe: Not tendered as ERFA/Texans; terms unknown.
--CB Dunta Robinson (released).
--G Geoff Schwartz: UFA Giants; $16.8M/4 yrs, $3.2M SB/$6.2M guaranteed.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Jamaal Charles
- John Dorsey
- Geoff Schwartz
- Branden Albert
- NFL Draft
- Marcus Cooper
- Dexter McCluster
- free agency