A Wide Receiver Is Needed In Kansas City
By Eric Paolini
The Kansas City Chiefs are in a tricky position at wide receiver. Throughout 2013, the position wasn't one of the strongest on a team that won 11 games. The Chiefs’ best receiver wasn't actually a receiver, but running back, Jamaal Charles. Matters weren’t helped when top receiver Dwayne Bowe turned in one of the worst seasons of his career just after signing a hefty extension.
That being said, the Chiefs did record double-digit wins and manage to get Alex Smith to throw for a career high amount of passing yards. The offense wasn't built to be a high-octane passing attack. While Bowe's frequent no-shows were damaging, they weren’t a killer.
For the Chiefs to improve their Super Bowl chances, they have to improve the passing game, and for this roster, that means upgrading the wide receivers. Even if Bowe doesn’t duplicate his poor season again, will it be enough? Probably not.
While Smith will never be a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady with the ability to lead his team on a 80-yard charge with less than 2 minutes to go, the sole game plan can’t be to just not be in that situation. There will be times when checkdowns to Charles or a tight end are not enough or not there.
Even though the position is one of the biggest areas the Chiefs need to improve, their options are somewhat limited. They don’t really have the money to go out and sign someone such as Eric Decker. It doesn't make any sense for this organization to add another high-priced receiver to a team that will still run a lot and favor a more conservative style of play.
Currently, there isn’t anyone on the roster that you can reasonably expect to make a jump next season. I don't care how high the Chiefs are on A.J. Jenkins, I won't believe it until I see it. In his two-year career, Jenkins has eight more catches than I do. The only reason the Chiefs haven’t completely given up on a player that has averaged four receptions a year is because he was a first-round pick.
While Dexter McCluster has emerged as not only a capable punt returner, but a pretty good one in 2013, he still isn’t a reliable receiving option. He seems to have the tools necessary to be a dangerous weapon, but they have never materialized on the field.
The same can be said of Donnie Avery. He had standout moments last season, but he could never sustain them over whole games, let alone week to week. He’s a receiver who is nice to have on the roster, but as a third or fourth option. Proceeding with Bowe and Avery as your one-two punch is not very inspiring.
Hopefully Bowe’s 2013 will prove to be a fluke and the $56 million man will be perform more like the receiver he is being paid like. But even then, a capable and consistent No. 2 wideout should be found.
The wide receiver pool in free agency this season is not exactly the deepest, and that’s not even taking into consideration the players who won’t enter free agency. If every wide receiver eligible for free agency hits the market, there really is only one receiver who could be called a clear number one, Decker. But I would hesitate to even call him a clear No. 1. How inflated are his stats from playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time on one of the greatest offenses of all time?
It's not a given any of the potentially available wide receivers won’t sign new contracts with their current teams before ever hitting the market. And players such as Decker, Anquan Boldin, Hakeem Nicks, and Emmanuel Sanders are probably out of budget for the Chiefs.
The fact is, turning to free agency to supplement the wide receiver corps may not be very fruitful. Few receivers would make sense for the Chiefs to sign. It's possible the Chiefs may take a one-year flier on oft injured Jeremy Maclin to reunite him with his former head coach, but will teams have soured on Maclin that much? I doubt it. Kenny Britt would make sense to be a one-year flier candidate if it were 2012.
There is one player in free agency who is a realistic choice for the Chiefs. All that it would require is for the Patriots to keep trying to win with a degree of difficulty by denying their quarterback solid weapons. Julian Edelman could hit the free agency market this offseason.
Edelman certainly deserves a raise from the approximately $750,000 salary he earned in 2013, but I can’t imagine it being big enough to price the Chiefs out. Edelman is still somewhat unproven. In 2013, Edelman played every game of a season for the first time. While 2013 was a very productive season for Edelman, he has never done anything similar. Maybe it was an emergence, maybe it was a fluke. I lean toward it being legitimate.
Edelman could give Kansas City, and specifically Smith, a safety blanket that is a little farther downfield than sideways passes to Charles and short dump-offs to tight end Anthony Fasano. Edelman would also be another player who could take part in the screen game, which would be doubly effective for the offense. Not only would it give Kansas City another legitimate option, but it would provide some relief for Charles.
Signing Edelman would make McCluster a redundant player (and therefore likely pushing him to another city) as he provides better play in the slot and can fill in McCluster’s role as punt returner.
Of course, the Chiefs could also turn to the draft. Wide receiver appears to be a strong position in the first round, and many are expected to be taken. ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have nine and seven wide receivers coming off the board in the first round, respectively. Kiper Jr. and McShay also agree in their current marks that Kansas City is going for a wide receiver, they just don't agree on which one. Our own David Seigerman has seven wide receivers being selected in the first round, although none by Kansas City.
Going wide receiver in the first round offers Kansas City a (potentially) lower cost and higher upside option to play alongside Bowe. Of course, that player could also mean more developmental time and may still leave the Chiefs without a reliable No. 2 for next season.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they don't have their second-round pick, which they surrendered to San Francisco because of the Alex Smith trade. If the Chiefs take another position on day one, the chances of getting a receiver who could contribute right away get slimmer.
An improvement at wide receiver would help deliver the Chiefs to a second consecutive winning season, a feat the organization hasn’t accomplished since the mid-’90s. To avoid any unintended hyperbole, a return of the same group could still accomplish another winning season. But just another season isn't really the goal is it? Of course not.