Changes are on the way in Kansas City – both inside the locker room and amongst the coaching staff.
It goes back to the old saying, “the only constant in the NFL is change.”
A worst to first division championship run and the biggest one-year turnaround in team history isn’t going to change that fact. The Chiefs have begun the process of evaluating their roster from top-to-bottom, self-identifying areas of strength and pockets of weakness.
“There is a lot of work to be done and it’s very critical that we get it right and as I’ve said multiple times, you can’t fill all the holes, you’ve got to continue to do the things that were done up to this point to bring in competition at as many spots as possible because competition is the key in my opinion,” Coach Todd Haley said. “Good competition is the key to players pushing themselves to the maximum and developing our team and we’ve just got to keep doing that and we’ll keep getting better.”
Player evaluations started on Monday afternoon and will continue through the next several weeks, alongside staff scouting visits to the East/West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. The outcome of those assessments will help sculpt the base of the 2011 Chiefs.
More than 20 players are set to become free agents of some type, depending on the structure of ongoing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) talks. In previous years, this list would include unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights free agency titles. Until a labor deal is in place, qualifications for free agency tags carry plenty of unknowns.
For now, those slated for some form of market-testing include a number of starters and/or regular contributors.
During his end of season press conference, Haley specifically mentioned five such players whose in-season progress particularly stood out. Those names included CB
Hali, the AFC’s sack leader (14.5 sacks), is the name that most Chiefs fans are focusing on as free agency is scheduled to approach at the beginning of March.
“There are just so many,” Haley said of players he saw develop across the Chiefs roster. “The coaches did such a great job of turning some unknowns to knowns and I am not talking about from a marquee names standpoint, I am just talking about a roster standpoint.
“When you go into the draft and into the off-season you want to say we would like to take care of this, this and this but you just can’t do it. That is why the development of players becomes so paramount to your success as a team. I could go down the line, (but) I don’t want to offend anybody.”
At least 18 other players slated to become free agents of some type. Those include LB
“We don’t’ know what kind of team we are going to have next year, or what players we will have back,” WR
That’s partially true, but while the number of potential free agents may be up from a season ago, the amount of “knowns” on Kansas City’s roster has increased as well.
A four-win 2009 campaign was largely about identifying core players and moving forward with those “right 53” into the offseason. This past year was about further developing and adding on to that base of talent.
The apparent speed of that development is what surprised most.
“I am really proud of what they accomplished because I don’t think a lot of people outside of our building or our fan base (believed),” Haley said. “We had some believers outside of here, but I don’t think that was the general belief of what was going to happen last year and for that I am really proud that our guys did the things that they were supposed to do and because of that we were able to win double-digit wins which is a big thing. It is a good thing that allowed us to get into our first postseason together as a core group.
So now the Chiefs venture in to Todd Haley’s third offseason. Core players having been identified and most every candidate for free agency having spent at least one season in Kansas City.
From top-to-bottom, there is now familiarity with the Chiefs roster from both a coaching and playing perspective. Improving overall team speed was a priority last season, as well as heightening the play of the interior offensive line. Those needs were addressed in both the draft and free agency.
Roster needs for 2011 are being prioritized during this time of self-scouting.
“I think if there is a year three approach it will come after this evaluation,” Haley said. “That is what is so important right now is making sure that we are very thorough, that you see things for what they are and you don’t fool yourself and think you are better than you are or not understand that we went through the year from an injury standpoint and kept everybody (healthy).
Changes are coming. They always do in this league.