Who's Out There? TEs & WRs

Posted Feb 18, 2010 free agency snapshot - UFA tight ends and wide receivers

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February 18th – 4:10 PM

On to the tight ends, which are an interesting position group on this Chiefs roster. Where would an upgrade fit?

Is Leonard Pope the likely starter heading into next season? How will Brad Cottam bounce back from neck surgery? Will Cottam continue to progress the way he appeared to be prior to the injury? What about O’Connell?

Without further adieu, here are some options available to the Chiefs when the market opens one-minute into March 5th. Free Agency Snapshot

Position: Tight End

Degree of Need: Moderate

Chiefs Under Contract (3): Jake O’Connell, Brad Cottam, Leonard Pope

*Chiefs Without Contracts (1): Sean Ryan (UFA)

Chiefs Who Opened Camp in 2009 (5): Cottam, Tom Crabtree, Tony Curtis, O’Connell, Ryan

*(UFA) – Unrestricted Free Agent; (RFA)—Restricted Free Agent; (ERFA) – Exclusive Rights Free Agent

Whose Out There (restricted free agents excluded)?

Benjamin Watson (6-3, 255; age: 29) – The fact that Watson is still under 30 years of age may come to the surprise of some fans. It seems like ever since we can remember, Tom Brady has been tossing Red Zone TDs to Watson in New England. After six seasons as a Patriot, over 2,100 receiving yards and 20 TDs, Watson will test the open market.

Watson obviously has Chiefs connections, playing under Scott Pioli and catching passes from Matt Cassel. Cassel hooked up with Watson for a pair of TDs in 2008. Another way to look the Watson/Cassel relationship, however, is to note that Watson may have not been as valuable of a target to Cassel as he is/was to Brady. Watson turned in his worst season of production with Cassel, outside his rookie campaign of 2004 (stat lines were 22/209/2 and 2/16/0).

Here is Eric Scalavino’s take on Watson’s status from…

“I don’t agree with your premise that both Watson and Baker won’t be back. Watson … OK, he’s almost certainly gone.”

Brandon Manumaleuna (6-2, 295; age: 30) – Manumaleuna has missed a combined two games in nine NFL seasons. If anything, the big man is both reliable and durable (of course the Chiefs signed a similar player from San Diego with virtually the same playing history a year ago).

A pass catcher Manumaleuna is not; his single-season high in receptions was 29 back in 2003 with St. Louis. He is, however, an extra tackle on the edge weight nearly 300 pounds with the threat to catch a ball every once in a while to keep the defense honest. Those traits seemed to have worked out well for LaDainian Tomlinson, could they for Jamaal Charles as well?

Manumaleuna would instantly become part of the Chiefs pronunciation guide if signed. Good thing Holthus has had a couple go-arounds saying his name already.

Alge Crumpler (6-2, 262; age: 33) – Crumpler enters unrestricted free agency after seeing his numbers cut in half over his past two seasons in Tennessee. Over his seven-year career in Atlanta, NFL fans were accustomed to seeing Crumpler haul in around 50 catches per season on a regular basis (50 catches would have led the 2009 Chiefs, FYI).

The question about Crumpler is how much he has left in the tank? As a result, there have been rumors that Crumpler may retire. Crumpler’s agent confirmed on Tuesday that the free agent plans on playing next year.

He’s obviously not the pass-catcher that he was in his prime, but he’s always been one of the better blockers at his position in addition to his pass-catching abilities.

Kris Wilson (6-2, 245; age: 28) – We’ve been there and done that, right? Chiefs fans saw Wilson try to become part of Kansas City’s offense for four seasons (2004-07) without much luck. Two different offensive systems tried to find the perfect way to use Wilson, but it seemed like he was never able to settle into a position.

At the end of 2009 the Chiefs did a lot of shifting in and out of formations pre-snap. Will Charlie Weis continue to implement that type of motion in 2010? If so, there could be a need for a tight end/fullback like Wilson.

Ernest Wilford (6-4, 235, age: 31) – The former fourth-round pick in 2004 showed loads of potential out of the gates, notching over 500 yards receiving in three of his first four professional seasons. As Wilford entered his prime years, most thought he was ready to take off.

Wilford was signed early by the Dolphins to begin free agency in 2008, but only produced three catches over seven games that year. He and his $6 million contract were subsequently released in 2009. It was back to Jacksonville he went.

In his second stint with the Jags, Wilford bulked up and moved to tight end. He only tallied 11 catches on the season, but is an athletic player who has shown the ability to play at a high level. Would he be a good addition for the Chiefs opposite a big-bodied tight end? Could year-two at a new position be a stepping stone?

Casey FitzSimmons (6-4, 258; age: 29) – Remember when Fitz ripped through the Chiefs front line to block a punt against Kansas City back in 2007? I remember that play; it was FitzSimmons’ first career block and also the first punt that Dustin Colquitt had blocked as a pro. A safety resulted on the play.

We know that Fitzsimmons can contribute on special teams, which isn’t something that all NFL squads can say of their tight ends. For the most part, he’s been a second tight end throughout his career for Detroit.

Randy McMichael (6-3, 255; age: 30) – McMichael has the second-best career numbers of any unrestricted free agent tight end outside Crumpler, if you’re into pass-catching tight ends (which naturally Chiefs fans are with our being spoiled by Tony Gonzalez for so many years). McMichael owns 367 catches for 3,996 yards and 22 TDs over his career, catching at least 34 or more balls every year outside an injury-shortened 2008 season in St. Louis.

With the Rams being awarded Buffalo’s Derek Fine off waivers, McMichael is all but guaranteed to find a new home in 2010.

Will Heller (6-6, 270; age: 28) – Heller turned in a career season for himself with 29 catches for 296 yards with three TDs during his only season in Detroit. There are two ways to look at those numbers.

Did Heller benefit from a rookie quarterback dumping the ball on short routes or did Heller overcome the challenges associated with a rookie quarterback and turn in his best season as he’s finally ready to take the next step in his career?

He’s been around the league, playing for four different teams. He’s also notched just 65 total catches since entering the league in 2003. Despite Heller’s best season as a pro in the receiving game, he’s still primarily a blocking end.

News out of Detroit has indicated that the Lions would like to retain Heller’s services in 2010. He’ll still hit the open market before that would happen.

Darnell Dinkins (6-4, 260; age: 33) – How about adding a Super Bowl champion? Dinkins fits the bill. He wasn’t the starter for the Saints last year, but he did play in 11 games (three starts) and he also has a connection to Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell from his days in Cleveland (2006-08).

Dinkins is a journey man. If he signs outside of New Orleans this year it will be his fifth NFL stop since entering the league in 2002. Then again, the Chiefs signed both Tony Curtis and Sean Ryan last offseason.

Throughout his career, Dinkins has been a reserve and has never logged double-digit receptions.

February 18th – 6:05 AM

The kickoff to NFL free agency is approaching quickly, if you haven’t already noticed. March 4th is the date to circle and 11:01 PM (CST) is the time to highlight. Over the past week we’ve covered the ins-and-outs of free agency specific to the Chiefs roster. Now, it’s time to kick the fun into full gear.

The most common question which Chiefs fans seem to be asking at the moment is simply, “Who’s available?”

With the CBA complicating things into a world of unknowns, seeing unrestricted free agents become restricted free agents and teams playing without cap rules, things can get tricky. Over the next seven days we’ll take a look at every position group, and I’ll select around 10 unrestricted free agents in each group that are available for hire.

I’ll try to present players that could possibly be a fit in Kansas City, but the discussion of whether or not they should end up at Arrowhead is up to you. This will take us up until our coverage of the NFL Combine late next week, which will then lead us up to the stroke of midnight on March 5th (er, 11:01 PM March 4th).

With Dante Stalloworth’s signing in Baltimore making NFL waves yesterday, why not start with a list of 10 unrestricted wide receivers? Free Agency Snapshot

Position: Wide Receiver

Degree of Need: Significant

Chiefs Under Contract (5): Dwayne Bowe, Quinten Lawrence, Lance Long, Chandler Williams, Devard Darling

*Chiefs Without Contracts (3): Chris Chambers (UFA), Terrence Copper (UFA), Bobby Wade (UFA)

Chiefs Who Opened Camp in 2009 (9): Bowe, Mark Bradley, Copper, Darling, Bobby Engram, Taurus Johnson, Lawrence, Jeff Webb, Rodney Wright

*(UFA) – Unrestricted Free Agent; (RFA)—Restricted Free Agent; (ERFA) – Exclusive Rights Free Agent

Whose Out There (restricted free agents excluded)?

Kevin Walter (6-3, 218; age: 28) – If you’d like to see a “possession receiver” arrive in Kansas City, Walter could be an option. He’s caught 50 or more passes each of the past three seasons with Houston, at times holding the second WR position opposite Andre Johnson.

Will former Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan make a play for Walter in Washington? If so, interested teams could face competition and Walter may not fly under the radar any longer.

“He’s always flown under the radar because he’s been an overachiever most of his career,” Shanahan once said. “He went to a small college and was a late-round pick. He’s always been overlooked — people telling him he can’t do it. I think that’s one thing that drives him.”

Marty Booker (6-0, 205; age: 33) – Looking for a Chiefs connection? Booker and Todd Haley know one another very well as the two paired together for three seasons in Chicago (2001-03). In fact, Booker’s best year as a pro came under Haley’s guidance in 2001 when Booker caught 100 footballs for 1,071 yards and eight TDs. Booker logged another 1,000-yard receiving season in 2002 to become the first player in Bears history to hit that mark in back-to-back seasons.

Those numbers, however, were seven/eight seasons ago and Booker has posted just 40 catches over the past two seasons combined. Is he worth a flier for a reunion with Haley in Kansas City?

Booker spent the 2009 season with Atlanta. The below link is a debate about Booker’s future, which appeared last month in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Antonio Bryant (6-1, 205; age: 28) – Do “bigger names” catch your fancy? Perhaps Bryant might be of interest to the Chiefs? He’s only one season removed from an 83-catch, 1,248-yard Pro Bowl season in 2008. The question becomes whether or not that season was a statistical anomaly (his only other 1,000-yard season was in 2005 with Cleveland - *Romeo Crennel connection)?

Was Bryant’s production decline in 2009 (39 catches for 600 yards playing with injuries) the norm, or just part of a struggling Bucs offense? The Bucs revealed last week that they will not use the franchise tag on Bryant.

Bryant wants teams to simply take a look at his game tape and evaluate.

“Look at my numbers, my opportunities, and my film,” Bryant said earlier this month. “Film don’t lie.”

Nate Burleson (6-0, 198; age: 28) – Burleson was productive over 12 starts in a struggling offense last year with 63 catches for 812 yards. He’s spent his past four seasons in Seattle and has publically indicated that he would like to stay a Seahawk, but who knows with a new front office led by Pete Carroll in the Pacific Northwest.

Burleson was also named the NFL’s “Best Dressed Player” in 2006 by Maxim Magazine, so he would add some style to the Chiefs charter at the very least.

Mike Furrey (6-0, 195; age: 32) – Furrey has been an excellent asset to each of the three franchises (St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland) that he’s called home over his seven-year NFL career. Not only will he perform whatever role is asked of him on the field (he played safety for Cleveland in addition to wide receiver), but he’ll excel off of the gridiron as well. Furrey was a finalist for the NFL 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which was ultimately won by Brian Waters.

Furrey is one of the few to have consistently played on both sides of the football in recent seasons, and the Chiefs have some question marks at safety as well. Two birds with one stone?

All kidding aside, Furrey should gain attention from both his 2009 club (Cleveland) and a number of other teams as well.

Josh Reed (5-10, 210; age: 30) – Reed has spent every season in Buffalo since the Bills drafted him in the second-round of the 2002 NFL Draft. That streak looks like it has a very real chance of coming to a close this offseason.

Throughout his career, Reed has generally been reliable to produce around 500 receiving yards per season. Not known as a speedster, Reed filled the role of possession receiver with the Bills. He’s generally been a solid third-down option throughout his career.

Kassim Osgood (6-5, 220;age: 29) – Osgood is a player that most Chiefs fans have heard of due to the fact that he’s spent his entire seven-year career with division rival San Diego. Osgood is a three-time Pro Bowler, yet only has 13 catches over his career and just three receptions over the past four seasons combined. He also hasn’t logged a single kickoff or punt return, but carries a league-wide reputation of being an elite special teams player. He was San Diego’s version of Terrence Copper…for seven years.

Osgood approaching free agency by looking for an opportunity to contribute as a wide receiver, in addition to his role on special teams.

“I’m just waiting for someone to say, ‘Let’s maximize our potential out of this guy rather than just get one thing,’” Osgood told the San Diego Union Tribune in last January.

Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 194; age: 28) – Born in Kansas City, MO and an alumnus of Blue Springs High School, could Lloyd be interested in returning to his hometown? Would the chiefs be interested in hosting a homecoming?

Lloyd’s best year came in 2005 when he caught 48 passes for 733 yards with five TDs with San Francisco. Since that season, however, Lloyd has bounced around, battled injuries and failed to match those numbers.

He’s been known as a favorite target, when healthy, of QB Kyle Orton in both Denver and Chicago. Lloyd was inactive for the first 14 games of with Denver last year, but played well in the final two contests of the season. He caught four passes for 94 yards in the season finale vs. Kansas City.

Sean Morey (5-11, 193; age: 33) – Never heard of Morey? That’s okay, he’s been mainly a special teams player throughout his career. Morey owns just 13 career receptions over eight NFL seasons, but he’s worth adding to the list because both Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are well aware of who Morey is.

Morey was drafted into the league by New England in 1999 (a year before Pioli arrived with the Patriots) and bounced between the Pats active roster and practice squad for the next three seasons. Most recently, he’s been in Arizona (2007-09), which crossed over two seasons with Todd Haley.

He was named the NFL Special Teams Player of the Decade by Sports Illustrated last year.

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