When it comes to free-agency, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have not been shy about their beliefs.
In the last two months, they have taken turns repeating the mantrabuild through the draft
, both publicly and privately. So when free-agency officially began at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and five Chiefs starters were snapped up by other teams within the first 90 minutes, it hardly qualified as a shock.
In the preceding days, tackle Branden Albert, right guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah, receiver Dexter McCluster and defensive end Tyson Jackson had all been linked to other teams. And while the Chiefs may have been interested in bringing them back — they at least had discussions with all five — it appears they weren’t even in the ballpark with any of them.
Tennessee lured McCluster, a punt returner who went to his first Pro Bowl this year, with a three-year deal worth $12 million, including $4.5 million in guaranteed money, a source told The Star on Tuesday.
Albert, meanwhile, received a five-year, $46 million deal from the Dolphins, according to the Miami Herald, while the Falcons, who recently added former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli to the front office, signed two former Pioli draftees in Jackson and Asamoah.
Terms for Asamoah and Schwartz, who reportedly signed a multiyear deal with the Giants, were not disclosed. But Jackson received a five-year deal worth $25 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a significant sum when you consider the Chiefs paid a similar, if not superior, two-down run stuffer in Mike DeVito a smaller deal last season, only $12.6 million over three years.
So by the end of the day, it couldn’t be clearer why Dorsey and Reid were trumpeting the importance of building through the draft at the NFL Combine.
“John is a believer that you don’t necessarily build your football team through free-agency, but more though the draft,” Reid said then. “free-agency can be a bit of a tease at times. You’ve got to be real careful with it.”
To that end, the Chiefs — who had only about $9.62 million to spend entering free-agency, among the lowest amount of cap space in the league — haven’t been completely silent. On Monday, they re-signed backup outside linebacker Frank Zombo, and on Tuesday, they re-signed backup safety Husain Abdullah to a two-year deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Abdullah, in particular, could make an impact in 2014. He’s a smart player who performed well in limited action last season, and he provides solid depth at a position the Chiefs are actively seeking to improve in 2014.
He hardly fits the bill of a big splash, however, so those seeking a high-profile addition can perhaps take comfort in this: according to salary-cap expert and former NFL agent Joel Corry, Tuesday’s exodus means the Chiefs probably will receive some compensatory picks in next year’s draft.
Under the rules, any team “losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires” is eligible for compensatory picks. Albert, Schwartz, Asamoah, McCluster and Jackson — all solid, productive starters — could be as labeled compensatory players, which is determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors.
So in case a team loses four compensatory free agents — the maximum each team can claim — it would receive four corresponding picks, with the round of each determined by the value of each player. Last year, all compensatory picks were positioned within rounds three through seven.
But the NFL won’t announce how many picks each team receives until next year, so the promise of future players — especially ones who wouldn’t get on the field until 2015 — might not heal the sting of Tuesday’s losses.
The conservative financial approach the Chiefs have adopted does have its defenders. Among them is former Colts general manager Bill Polian, who spoke in a conference call last week.
“Keep this in mind; free-agency is not free,” Polian said. “It costs two things that you never get back, time and money. So when you have a good team and when you have a good personnel department that drafts well, then it behooves you to be restrained in free-agency because you need the money to A), sign your own, and B), be in a position where you make very, very good judgments on a few players in free-agency.”
It remains to be seen who else the Chiefs have made judgments on, outside of Zombo and Abdullah and the five who bolted. Linebacker Akeem Jordan and safeties Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis all played significant roles last season and are free agents.
But if Tuesday is any indication, it’s safe to say the Chiefs’ efforts to be fiscally responsible this offseason and build the foundation of future teams through the draft is well under way.