Ty Law holds a special place in my heart. In a sense, Law introduced me to life inside an NFL team. At the same time, he taught me a valuable lesson about free agency.
It was the summer of 2006, the final weekend of my first off-season with the Chiefs, when I got the call. This is the weekend you cherish most. Outside of a mid-season bye, it’s the only weekend away from work for the next five-plus months. But this year, the preseason was starting a week early.
Big news was about to hit. Ty Law was on his way to town. He’d agreed in principal to a five-year, $30 million deal contingent on passing a physical. He was flying in on Sunday with an official announcement scheduled for Monday, as long as he checked in healthy.
The Chiefs had flirted with the possibility of adding Law in on-again/off-again talks for months. Fans made their case to talk radio hosts and players lobbied for adding the All-Pro performer as well. Law was supposed to be the guy, the missing link that would take the Chiefs deep into the playoffs.
The 2005 Chiefs had, after all, become just fourth team since 1990 to finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs.
Playing on a bum foot, Law tallied a career-high 10 interceptions to lead the NFL in his only season with the N.Y. Jets. One of those picks came against Trent Green in an Opening Day route of the Chiefs. Law had been named to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time of his career.
Optimism was high. This was it. Law was the guy that Kansas City needed in order to field a respectable and improved defense in 2006. A perennial All-Pro and potential Hall of Famer was joining a very needy secondary.
Perhaps it was Law that did the best job of tailoring expectations during his introductory press conference.
“I can’t say one person can be the savior for any football team,” Law said. “Football is a team sport. If I can be a piece of the puzzle … They were one game away from the playoffs last year. Hopefully, my presence can get them that one game.”
And technically Law’s presence did just that.
The Chiefs 2006 season was extended by one game – a miserable Wild Card loss to the Colts where Law’s two INTs off Peyton Manning were about the only highlights. That game was probably the height of Law’s tenure as a Chief.
Law remains the Chiefs most anticipated free agent signing of the past decade. He also offers a reminder that championship teams are built through solid drafts. More often than not, marquee free agents aren’t worth the money they command on the open market.
Within 20 months of his signing, Law was released. The Chiefs officially cut bait on February 27, 2008. Former free agent signees LB Kendrell Bell, TE Jason Dunn and DT James Reed followed Law out the door and, just a few days prior, Kansas City had released G John Welbourn and WR Eddie Kennison.
At 34 years old, Law was part of the past and his signing was a move that represented the past as well. With a roster in disarray the Chiefs were heading young across the board. There was no other option.
In February of 2008, the Chiefs officially decided to blow up an aging and largely ineffective roster.
Was Law’s signing an unmitigated disaster? That’s probably a little much. But all of the hype surrounding his signing didn’t exactly come to fruition either.
Over the last 10 years, Kansas City’s “marquee” free agent signees have brought more ups than downs. The club hasn’t been burned by a grossly overpaid bust that makes top-10 lists, but there have been some definite black eyes in the mix.
Take a walk down memory lane. Here are some of the more noteworthy free agent signings Kansas City has had each year since 2001. What do you think?
2009: S Mike Brown, WR Bobby Engram, LB Zach Thomas, G Mike Goff
2007: LB Napoleon Harris, T Damion McIntosh, LB Donnie Edwards
2006: CB Ty Law, T Kyle Turley
2005: LB Kendrell Bell, S Sammy Knight
2004: QB Damon Huard, G/C Chris Bober
2003: CB Dexter McCleon, DL Vonnie Holliday, LB Shawn Barber
2002: WR Johnnie Morton, K Morten Andersen
2001: RB Priest Holmes, C Casey Wiegmann, CB Ray Crockett