Since free-agency began Tuesday, teams all across the league — read: Denver — have been signing high-priced talent to fortify their starting lineups.
But in Kansas City, if you believe Joe Mays and Jeff Linkenbach — the first players the Chiefs signed during the free-agent frenzy in which they lost five starters — neither has been promised anything more than an opportunity to earn playing time in 2014.
“The only thing they’ve told me is they’re going to bring me to compete,” said Mays, a 28-year-old inside linebacker. “I’ll just come in there and do what I need to do and hopefully I’ll carve out a role for myself.”
When asked what role the Chiefs had in mind for him, Linkenbach, a 26-year-old guard/tackle, gave a similar answer,
“I’m not here to replace anybody, necessarily — I’m just here to compete,” Linkenbach said. “I’ve been around a while. I still feel I’m young enough to play for a long time and I’m old enough to help school younger guys.”
The money for which each player signed assures each will indeed have to earn his way. While Mays got an incentive-laden two-year deal, USA Today reported Linkenbach’s contract with the Chiefs is for one year and $900,000, with only $250,000 guaranteed and up to $600,000 in incentives.
While Linkenbach touted his versatility, Mays seems like a surer bet to get on the field. His reputation as a run-stopper signals the likely departure of Akeem Jordan, last year’s starter at inside linebacker. But while Jordan was used primarily as a two-down linebacker, Mays says he actually earned some work in Houston’s nickel package last season.
“Towards the end of the season, they wanted to keep two linebackers out there and I was one of them,” Mays said. “That was something that was great because they were already a two-package team for the most part, but I felt like I could go in there and play some third down.
“If (the Chiefs) put me in a nickel package, I can pick it up and do fairly well with it.”
The Chiefs, who entered free-agency with about $9.62 million to spend, may not be done shopping for bargains. Tommy Sims, the agent for former Oakland defensive tackle Vance Walker, said his client was visiting with the Chiefs on Thursday and Friday, though Seattle and Green Bay are also interested in his services.
If the two sides can agree to a deal, Walker, 26, could help plug the hole on the defensive line left by the departure of 2009 No. 3 overall pick Tyson Jackson, who signed with Atlanta on Tuesday.