The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up their yearly mandatory minicamp last week with possibly more questions than answers heading into training camp that will begin on July 24, in St. Joseph, Missouri. While head coach Andy Reid is hopeful that the Chiefs will come off of an 11-win season (in 2013) to find success during the 2014 NFL Season, Kansas City was a cash-strapped team that saw several of their free agents go on the market leaving holes and question marks behind.
On Thursday, Reid told the media, “I was happy, happy with performance throughout the offseason program. Thought the guys came in good shape and they built off last season. We’ve got a lot of work to do. The guys understand that. They’re wired that way. They don’t shy away from work.”
In 2013, the Chiefs brought in a relatively unknown bunch of players to training camp in Reid’s second season with the franchise. It was a franchise that had seen the mid-2000s hand them disappointment – from players, from final scores and even from once-faithful fans. Reid was able to assemble the group into a competitive team with Alex Smith joining them from the San Francisco 49ers at quarterback. In one of the most-unexpected turns, Kansas City charged up and down the field to catch many NFL teams off-guard. Whether they will be able to repeat the performance in 2014 is a puzzle.
Several starters from 2013 departed and last week cornerback Brandon Flowers was waived to free up salary cap space in a system that is already strapped in the cash department. That left only 16 players, on an 88-man roster on Thursday, who had been with the team the past two seasons. The biggest questions now will be who will replace Flowers in the defensive backfield, whether quarterback Smith will garner a long-term contract to stay in KC and whether Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston will report to camp in July. Kansas City is also dreadfully thin on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Cornerback Sean Smith would have been the heir-apparent to Flowers had he not missed time due to illness. That leaves the door wide open in training camp for Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker and rookie Phillip Gaines the opportunity to find favor and step into Flowers’ position.
Houston, who completely skipped mandatory minicamp, is facing the real possibility of fines – ones that will only increase should he refuse to attend training camp. Houston is in his final year of his contract with the Chiefs, but the organization has expressed a desire to initiate a long-term deal. Negotiation details are unclear and while Houston stands to make nearly $1.4 million in 2014, his absence is speaking loud enough that many Chiefs faithfuls are wondering if they’ll see him in a Chiefs jersey this upcoming season or not.
Meanwhile, Smith has allowed his representatives to negotiate with Kansas City over a long-term contract, but while both sides are optimistic – nothing has come to fruition.
On the first day of free agency, Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and defensive tackle Tyson Jackson signed with other teams, leaving gaping holes in the two lines. While the Chiefs look to Eric Fisher to replace Albert, Fisher has been rehabbing an injured shoulder. On the offensive line, the Chiefs do not have a starting right guard and nearly every other position along the offensive front is up for grabs.
Despite the difficult situation the team faces entering training camp, Reid feels that the team will find the answers they need.
What do you think Reid and the Chiefs need to do in training camp to address all the questions they have at several positions on both offense and defense? Click HERE and get involved in the conversation!