Chiefs Partying With Upbeat and Aggressive NFL

     The Kansas City Chiefs have never made much early news in free agency. Apparently, it’s a brave new world.

     The Chiefs under Brett Veach seem to be joining an NFL that is far more open to trading, cutting, and saying goodbye and hello to supposed friends and new neighbors. They also seem to be mirroring the L.A. Rams last season plan of, this is the time right now. Young quarterback under a rookie contract, go for it immediately.

     But to their credit, they seem to have also embraced making bold decisions on their own players that they have had enough of. I am not guaranteeing that cutting Justin Houston, Eric Berry, and trading Dee Ford will end up being good moves, but I agree with all of them.

     This is really a sea change for the Chiefs. John Dorsey was notorious for waiting a year late to get deals done with star players, the slow playing usually costing the Chiefs millions, and is indeed the seed for the Houston move. He should have been signed a year earlier, and would now have an expiring contract, instead of having a big number that the Chiefs wouldn’t swallow, and Houston wouldn’t renegotiate around.

     I wasn’t much of a fan of Dorsey when he was with the Chiefs, and eventually neither were they. I felt that his lieutenants were likely the ones doing the heavy lifting, but he sure is throwing everything at the wall in Cleveland to prove that theory wrong.

     Houston took the gamble in what overall has been a bullish market, but it hasn’t been so far for him. He is at the top of many lists of the most surprising lack of interest from teams, and seems to potentially be headed for a veteran minimum deal. He’s thirty years old now, has missed 21 games in the four years since his 22-sack season, and has not hit double figures in sacks since then. He still is a very solid player, but saving eight million against the cap seems wise. History is riddled with once great, highly paid, pass rushers who spent their last couple of years as shells of their former selves.

     Ford is fitting more into an NFL free agent season which as it opens is featuring money flying around like confetti, and teams making more trades than they ever have before. Even up to five years ago, actual players, not draft choices, being dealt was like seeing a unicorn. Now it is commonplace and even includes players as high profile as Kahlil Mack and Odell Beckham Jr.

     Ford should have plenty of motivation to prove the Chiefs wrong. Hitting him with a franchise tag he made clear he would gladly accept wasn’t enough for Kansas City, they then up and traded him to the 49ers, eager enough to say goodbye that they accepted the number two draft choice not this year but next. But motivation seems to be hard to judge in the case of the former number one pick. He was a disappointment, if not a borderline bust in his first four years, with a five-game burst of 8 ½ sacks in 2016 the only strong return on the first-round investment.

     Ford said all the right things all along, but seemed to be a guy who had played football more because he was good at it, than had a passion for it. Until, presto, his contract season this year. Ford had been a complete liability as a run defender heading into 2018, but that aspect of his game improved greatly and he not only sacked the quarterback 13 times, he forced seven fumbles.

     But the apparent combination of a switch to a 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo, and concerns that Ford’s newfound aggressiveness was merely the result of seeking a payday, fueled the Chiefs desire to say goodbye. He certainly got his payday. The 49ers will play him almost ninety million over five years. I wouldn’t have even dreamed about doing that kind of thing. Me thinks the Niners will regret this, but perhaps Ford was turning the corner in 2016, and 2017 was merely submarined due to injury. We’ll see.

     In some ways, it appears as if the Chiefs are saying, why pay a bunch of money to players that is in keeping with market value, but who were part of a defense that was about as bad as many in football, and dragged down a remarkable offense just enough to prevent a Super Bowl appearance.

     The next shoe dropped Wednesday afternoon, the one which surrounds the heel of Eric Berry. The odds against seemed remarkably high to me that there is a healthy, highly productive season left in him. It seems like a complete dice roll that he didn’t have surgery. Months of rest did allow him to play a full game against New England, but he wasn’t very good in it.

     I am not enough of an amateur psychologist or a detective to understand the Chiefs motivation in the Berry case up to the point where they finally released him. One thing is for sure, though. Overall, Brett Veach doesn’t like to sit still. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but it is fun to watch.

Danny Clinkscale