The Chiefs have developed a credibility problem with their fans - team chairman Clark Hunt and general manager Scott Pioli say one thing, but their actions say another.
Never was the more evident than in the club's failure to re-sign cornerback Brandon Carr. Despite public assurances that they wanted Carr, a four-year starter who was coming off his best season to stay in Kansas City, they were unable to keep him from reaching free agency, and when he did they stepped back and were not a factor as Carr found a new home in Dallas after the Cowboys agreed to a five-year, $50.1 million contract.
That average payout of $10 million per season was much too rich for the taste of the Chiefs. It's not because they didn't have the cap room or cash dollars. They began the free-agency period with more than $30 million in cap space. Because they've not spent a lot of money on their payroll the past three seasons, there's no question the team has the cash stash to make things happen.
Money was the only reason that Carr was looking for a new home. The former fifth-round draft choice has grown into one of the AFC's better cover cornerbacks. The key thing is he's always available, having started all 64 games he's played since joining the Chiefs in 2008. At 26, he's just now coming into his prime seasons.
Plus, Carr wanted to stay in Kansas City. He came into the NFL with a very talented draft class for the Chiefs in '08, joining the team with defensive end Glenn Dorsey, cornerback Brandon Flowers, tackle Branden Albert and running back Jamaal Charles.
That fact was especially painful to Chiefs fans because the organization was coming off a time when they could not get free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning to even consider playing out the rest of his career for the Chiefs. Initial calls to the Manning camp were met with the return message "don't call us, we'll call you" and Kansas City was not part of the Peyton chase.
Allowing Carr to walk out the door went against everything that Hunt and Pioli have spoken about when it comes to their vision of what they are trying to build in Kansas City. Pioli has said many times that the key to free agency isn't jumping into the pool on the day all the players get their freedom and flailing about with wads of money. He's said the key is keeping your own free agents out of the water, signing them up early and making sure that your team gets the dividends from the investments made in that player from the time he was first drafted or signed.
That didn't happen with Carr, as Hunt/Pioli all but pushed Carr into the free-agency water. When the team signed free agent/Raiders salary-cap casualty cornerback Stanford Routt, Pioli said the move had nothing to do with Carr and that they wanted to have him back and they were going to continue to work hard on getting him signed.
Turned out that was nothing but false chatter. Pioli thought that by signing Routt he had the trump move against Carr and his agent, Ben Dogra. From that point in time, any real negotiations that would have moved the situation toward an agreement between Carr and the Chiefs did not happen; he did not budge off his offer.
Hunt and Pioli are not interested in diving head first into the waters of free agency and there's nothing wrong with that approach. History shows us the cautious/conservative approach to free agency is far more sensible than throwing dollars round willy-nilly like the Redskins have done for year after year after year.
That makes it all the more imperative that they sign their own free agents before they reach the open market. For a team that has a roster with so many holes that need to be filled, they could not afford to allow another one to be created at right cornerback with Carr going out the door.
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