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Defense, Depth Could Highlight Chiefs' Second Wave of Free Agency

Posted Mar 22, 2012

The Chiefs aren’t done with free agency after addressing several positions of need on the offensive side of the football.

The Chiefs reeled in a big fish last week signing free agent right tackle Eric Winston. Perhaps the biggest fish in the pond based on Kansas City’s team needs.

RB Peyton Hillis and TE Kevin Boss will play significant roles in the Chiefs’ offensive success next season. QB Brady Quinn could be big a factor as well.

The team also re-signed one of its most versatile defensive linemen in Amon Gordon and brought in CB Stanford Routt to hedge the loss of Brandon Carr.

It was a solid first wave of free agency for the Chiefs and the team is being praised accordingly by local and national media outlets.

Even so, the Chiefs aren’t done signing players. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

Free agency’s second wave will likely see the Chiefs make defensive additions and address depth issues on both sides of the football. A look at the current roster makeup shows several remaining areas of need.  

Offensive Line: Eric Winston was a huge catch, but the Chiefs are far from done adding to the offensive line. There’s a true starting five in place from left to right – Branden Albert, Ryan Lilja, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and Eric Winston – but the line still lacks experienced depth.

The Chiefs usually carry eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, but often go into games with just seven active players. It’s a strategy that requires reserves be able to play multiple positions.

Hudson backed up all three interior positions last season while Jared Gaither served as the team’s swing tackle for the majority of the year.

Currently, the Chiefs’ offensive has little to no established depth behind its projected starting five. The reserves consist of players who spent all or the majority of last season on Kansas City’s practice squad. The Chiefs may also want to add a player (or two) who can make a push for a starting position.

The offensive line still has needs.

Running Back/Fullback: Peyton Hillis has fullback experience, but will be valued much more than a lead blocker in Kansas City’s offense. Last year’s starter, Le’Ron McClain, is now a San Diego Charger.

What the Chiefs do at fullback largely depends on new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s view of the position. History says he may opt for versatility.

Daboll used Charles Clay, a shifty hybrid-type player, as Miami’s primary fullback last season. In Cleveland, Hillis was originally penciled in as Daboll’s starting fullback before injuries called Hillis back into a feature role.

Shane Bannon is currently the Chiefs’ only fullback. It’s a big off-season for the former seventh-round who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad injured list.

Wide Receiver: Whether it’s addressed through free agency or the draft, depth at wide receiver remains a team need – particularity out of the slot.

Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin have a solid grip on the primary receiving positions, but Terrance Copper (8 catches for 114 yards in 2011) is currently the only reserve receiver to catch a pass last season.

The Chiefs played Breaston outside the majority of 2011 and rotated Keary Colbert in the slot along with Jerheme Urban while Baldwin was nursing a thumb injury. Colbert was released when Baldwin returned to health and Urban is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Nose Tackle: The heart of the defensive line remains the Chiefs’ biggest question mark after a week of free agency.

Amon Gordon served a vital role on the defensive line last season, but was most effective as a versatile reserve. Jerrell Powe returns, but played just seven defensive snaps as a rookie. Anthony Toribio spent all of last season on the practice squad.

The Chiefs have potential contributors at the position, but no clear-cut starter.

Defensive End: Allen Bailey looks to be the key reserve behind starters Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, but there is still plenty of room for added depth and competition.

Though Wallace Gilberry’s role diminished in 2011, he still averaged over 20 snaps per game last season. Thus far, he remains an unrestricted free agent. Brandon Bair will compete for a backup job, but has yet to play his first NFL snap.

If Jackson or Dorsey fell to injury, is there a reserve (like Shaun Smith in 2010) who’s ready to step into a starting role for Kansas City’s 3-4 base defense?

There’s still room for addition here.

Inside Linebacker: The Chiefs have already made a pair of moves at the position, re-signing Brandon Siler and releasing Demorrio Williams. Siler’s health, however, remains in question as he rehabs from a torn Achilles suffered last preseason.

Siler is currently the only reserve capable of pushing Jovan Belcher on the strong side. If healthy, Siler is also capable in being the top reserve behind Derrick Johnson on the weak side.

The team’s other reserves consist of weak-side linebackers. Special teams ace Cory Greenwood is the most experienced.

Safety: This could be the most underrated position of need for the Chiefs.

Eric Berry (knee) and Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) are both rehabbing injuries. In addition, three players who logged starts last season aren’t under contract.

Donald Washington (5 career starts; 57 career tackles) and Kyle McCarthy (4 career tackles) currently hold the top roles in the reserve ranks.

Between injuries, and Romeo Crennel’s use of sub-package sets, the third safety is an important part of Kansas City’s defense.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt look to be the starters in 2012, but there will be heated competition for nickel and dime roles.

Javier Arenas returns, as does Jalil Brown, and Jacques Reeves will get a chance to show he can make it back into the NFL. It would be surprising if the Chiefs didn’t add more depth to boost competition this spring and summer.

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