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Chiefs Post-Lockout Agenda

Posted Jul 4, 2011

What to look for from the Chiefs once the NFL Lockout ends

Regardless of the date that the NFL Lockout officially comes to an end, the Chiefs still have plenty ahead in preparing for 2011.

With America’s 235th birthday officially behind us, the downhill sprint towards NFL training camps has begun. Last year, the Chiefs opened camp in St. Joseph on July 29th – a mere 24 days from today.

When football returns, expect these six items to be at the forefront of Kansas City’s approach.

1. Sign The Undrafted

The Chiefs opened training camp last season with 12 rookie free agents on roster. After summer’s final cut, three of those 12 were part of the 53-man roster. Expect both sets of numbers to come in around that same total in 2011.

It’s impossible to say what the Chiefs first order of business will be without knowing the league’s post-lockout operating procedure, but signing the undrafted will be towards the top of the list. There are plenty of areas that a rookie free agent can contribute and Kansas City’s personnel department has been itching to complete its 2011 rookie class.

Being first on the undrafted scene is an important post-lockout step for developing teams like the Chiefs.

2. Address In-House Contracts

Thomas Jones spent his 2010 off-season learning the Chiefs playbook and working out in Kansas City with his new teammates. Ryan Lilja did the same thing, as did Casey Wiegmann and Shaun Smith.

With the off-season learning curve all but eliminated and the summer work ethic of players impossible to track, re-signing familiar faces may be the option of choice for many teams. In Kansas City’s case, there are a number of in-house unrestricted free agents whose future with the team needs to be addressed.

Noteworthy UFA’s include Terrance Copper, Ron Edwards, Jon McGraw, Shaun Smith, Mike Vrabel and Casey Wiegmann. Each made starts in 2010 and play positions that the Chiefs lack significant depth.

Contract extensions could be on the horizon for some of the Chiefs younger players as well. Franchised Tamba Hali is at the top of that list and others could follow. Last year, Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson, Andy Studebaker and Thomas Gafford each signed in-season extensions.

Restricted free agents might see more than just a tender.

3. Dip Into Free Agency

Will the Chiefs be the first team to sign an unrestricted free agent? Probably not.

Under Scott Pioli, the Chiefs free agent strategy hasn’t included a mad dash at the starting line or any public bidding wars. Last year, there was notable frustration across the fan base with the Chiefs relative inactivity during the first few days of free agency.

In the end, Kansas City effectively re-vamped its interior offensive line, added a mentor and workload relief for Jamaal Charles and inked a fan-favorite at defensive end. What began as a quiet start ended as one of the Chiefs most successful free agent classes in recent years.

The Chiefs are likely to be active participants in free agency again this season. There are still notable post-draft needs at offensive tackle and nose tackle, as well as depth concerns at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield. Just don’t expect the Arrowhead to be the first team logo on the scene.

4. Get Medical Reports

How is Brad Cottam’s neck progressing? What about Cameron Sheffield’s continued recovery from his scary preseason hit? Has Jerheme Urban’s hand healed properly? Jackie Bates’ knee? Donald Washington’s ankle? Even Jamaal Charles’ shoulder?

Whether players are nursing current injuries or fighting against the re-appearance of former ailments, the Chiefs training room is typically a busy place during the off-season.  Unfortunately, team doctors have been unable to check-in with players this off-season and the club would like updated medical files on just about everyone.

There are bound to be a few medical surprises across the league when the lockout lifts.

5. 24-Hour Classrooms

Get ready for crunch time. The coaches are up to date with opponent cut-ups, playbook installation and everything else that goes on during five months of off-season evaluation. Upon arrival, the players will be expected to play catch-up and team meeting rooms will become one of the most important places inside One Arrowhead.

Player-only workouts only go so far. Getting back to football is just as much mental as it is physical.

6. Sign Draft Picks

It’s no secret that the Chiefs expect WR Jonathan Baldwin to make an impact as a rookie. The same can be said for many of the other 2011 draft picks as well.

Without a structured off-season program in place, rookies must learn everything about their new team in a short amount of time. They’ve yet to learn the locker room laundry schedule, much less receive detailed playbook instruction.

The last thing that the Chiefs need is long, drawn-out contract talks with each of their draft picks

 Last year, Eric Berry missed just one practice because of ongoing contract negotiations. He also had a three-month head start on this year’s crop of rookies.

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