As free agency nears, Chiefs position themselves to be players under new leadership
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The new group in charge of the Kansas City Chiefs is going right to work, making bold moves to turn around a franchise that went 2-14 last season.
They traded for a new quarterback in Alex Smith. They locked up two of their own in wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt. They franchised left tackle Branden Albert and raised some eyebrows by releasing players once thought to be major free-agent signings.
In doing so, new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid already have put their fingerprints on a franchise that has had one winning season in the last six, hasn't won a playoff game since 1993, and hasn't been to the Super Bowl since winning it under Hank Stram in January 1970.
They've also changed the culture of a franchise in a rut.
"All along, I think from an organizational objective, we said we were going to create a plan, develop a plan, and these just happen to be the first details of the plan," said Dorsey, a longtime Packers executive hired in January to replace the fired Scott Pioli.
"We have some talented players on this roster," Dorsey told The Associated Press this week. "We've been able to retain them, and it made sense from an organizational standpoint. This was the way we felt it made sense to move forward to the next phase of the plan."
That phase begins in earnest Tuesday with the start of the new league year.
The Chiefs will finally be able to announce their trade with San Francisco for Smith, whom Dorsey and Reid undoubtedly believe can shore up the quarterback position. They will also dive head-long into free agency, where they'll attempt to fill several areas of need, and then finish their preparations for the April draft, where they have the No. 1 overall pick for the first time.
There's also a decision to be made about quarterback Matt Cassel, who is almost certain to be released with Smith coming on board, and perhaps a couple other veterans on the roster.
It's a busy time for Dorsey and Reid in the offices at One Arrowhead Drive, but the gregarious Dorsey laughs about the flurry of moves and points out, "It's always a busy time."
"I mean, part of this movement was from a philosophical belief that has been ingrained in me," said Dorsey, who learned his trade under Packers executives Mike Holmgren and Ted Thompson.
"Winning organizations do moves like this, and what that does is it makes players realize that these guys are true to their word," Dorsey said. "If we play and do what we're supposed to do, at the end of the day, they're going to give us what our just due is."
That's similar to the viewpoint held by Pioli, his predecessor.
In the past few years, the Chiefs have reached long-term deals with linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and cornerback Brandon Flowers.
But the speed and conviction that Dorsey and Reid displayed in retaining Bowe, who signed a five-year, $56 million contract, and Colquitt, whose five-year, $18.75 million deal makes him the NFL's highest-paid punter, sent a message that the Chiefs intend to be serious players.
That much was clear in a series of gushing Twitter messages Bowe sent out.
"I'm very blessed to be a member of the Kansas City Chiefs," he later said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to working with John and Coach Reid in the near future, (and) I'm excited to continue my career with the Chiefs and hopefully help this team reach our goals."
The signing of Bowe and Colquitt allowed the Chiefs to use the franchise tag on Albert, one of the league's premier offensive tackles. He'll make $9.83 million if he plays under the tag this season, though Dorsey said negotiations on a long-term deal are ongoing.
How did Kansas City pay for all these moves?
It freed up some money by releasing wide receiver Steve Breaston and starting right tackle Eric Winston, and then restructured the contract of defensive end Tyson Jackson, who essentially agreed to a pay cut from $14.72 million to a base salary of $4.2 million this season.
"Every organization would like to have a degree of flexibility," Dorsey said. "Part of the thinking, the process, is to have the ability to give us options, so we can go into these different phases when the new league year starts ... and have the flexibility to do different things."
The overhaul of the Chiefs has certainly captured attention around the league, and raised questions, too: How did they do all that so quickly? And what are they going to do next?
"Obviously, it was very important for them to start off quickly," said former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an NFL analyst for ESPN. "John's a good football man, and he worked with Andy in Green Bay, so they were able to get on the same page pretty fast."
The maneuvering has caused quite a stir in Kansas City, where most years, fans have turned their attention to March Madness or the Kansas City Royals, with the Chiefs merely an afterthought.
Shortly after Reid was hired, he arrived on a private plane at the city's downtown airport, and helicopters from local TV stations tracked him driving to Arrowhead Stadium. Hundreds of reporters converged for introductory news conferences for him and Dorsey, and talk of the Chiefs — what they might do in the draft, or in free agency — has dominated sport talk radio.
None of that matters too much to Dorsey, though.
As a player for the Packers, and as a longtime scout, it's only natural he prefers to keep his thoughts focused exclusively on what can best help the Chiefs be successful.
That means finding the best players available and keeping those already on the team.
In short, exactly what he's done the past couple weeks.
"The only thing important in my eyes is acquiring the best talent I can for this organization, so we can stack up the most W's as possible," he said. "That's the way I go about it, and the way I view things. My sole responsibility is to get players here. That's what I do."