After every season, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sits down with his front-office staff and coaches and begins the process of crafting a game plan for the offseason.
And now, about one week after the start of the new league year — and with several free-agent signings and trades already under his belt — Dorsey said that thus far, things are going pretty well.
“What we like to do is develop a plan and see if we can execute that plan to a level that we feel is satisfactory,” Dorsey said in a conference call Wednesday. “I think we’ve done a nice job and improved as a team, and that’s all we can ask for.”
From the signing of receiver Jeremy Maclin and guard Paul Fanaika, to the trade for guard Ben Grubbs, it’s safe to say the Chiefs have aggressively attacked their two biggest holes — receiver and offensive line — thus far.
Dorsey made it clear that he knew both areas, particularly offensive line, need reinforcements.
“We had a couple cracks in the foundation last year, and we’ve long said we want to build and strengthen the foundation on both sides,” Dorsey said.
The trade for Grubbs, who was acquired from the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round pick, is the boldest step toward doing so. Grubbs, 31, is a two-time Pro Bowler who offers an impressive track record and figures to be a significant upgrade at the line’s weakest position last season.
“I think Grubbs is a true professional,” Dorsey said. “He’s proven that he can line up and play in the National Football League at a high level. He gives us a proven player, he’s a winner, and sometimes things like that unfold, and it did and I’m very happy.”
Dorsey declined to say whether the Chiefs have agreed to a restructured deal, as Pro Football Talk reported Saturday. Grubbs is in the fourth year of a five-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Saints and was set to have a cap number of $6.5 million this season — a reason he was traded from the cash-strapped Saints.
Regardless, Dorsey is thrilled to plug Grubbs in next to third-year left tackle Eric Fisher, a former No. 1 overall pick who is still growing into his position, which is arguably the most important on the entire line.
“Anytime you can add guys that have won at a high level, guys that represent the principles that you talk about on a day-in, day-out basis, that’s good for everybody,” Dorsey said.
The signing of Fanaika also signifies Dorsey’s desire to improve the interior of a line that often struggled last season. Fanaika, 28, hasn’t been promised anything, but the team did hand him a three-year, $8.1 million deal during free-agency, which means there’s a belief he could potentially be the answer at right guard, where rookie sixth-round pick Zach Fulton started all 16 games last season.
“I mean, it’s always good to bring in competition,” Dorsey said. “I think he will make the interior part of the line competitive. He’s proven that he can line up and start in the National Football League. We’re very happy to get him and see what he can do in terms of competing in training camp.”
When pushed to asked if it’s safe to say Fanaika, who played right guard for the Cardinals last year, will compete with Fulton, Dorsey stopped short of confirming even that, preferring to leave it up to the coaches.
“Who’s to say?” Dorsey said. “That’s the beauty of going into training camp. They’re going to line up and compete on a day-in, day-out basis.”
One player who could figure into the mix somewhere on the line is fourth-year pro Jeff Allen, a former second-round pick who started his first two years in the league but missed 16 games last year becuase of an elbow injury.
“I think you just put him in the mix and let that competition work itself out,” Dorsey said. “Let’s get into OTAs, let’s get into training camp and let everybody compete. We’ll have some depth there now.”
That remains the case, Dorsey said, even with the loss of the line’s top performer, center Rodney Hudson, who signed with the Raiders in free-agency.
“Rodney’s a very good player, but sometimes you can’t retain all the players you hope for and wish for,” Dorsey said. “I have full confidence in (Eric) Kush — I think he’ll do a nice job. But again, we’ll always be looking to turn those rocks up and make training camp as competitive as we possibly can.”
Speaking of competition, Dorsey said he was also comfortable with the improvements they’ve made at receiver, which is obviously highlighted by the signing of Maclin, who figures to give the Chiefs their most consistent vertical threat in years.
“I feel good,” Dorsey said of what they’ve done at the position. “I think we were lucky enough to acquire a really good football player that’s going to help us. We’re slowly building some depth that we think we can come in and compete with. We’ll be able to do some nice things that position as we go into training camp and the preseason.”
When asked if the Chiefs are done at the position, however, Dorsey stopped short of going that far.
“Our philosophy is, we’re never done,” Dorsey said. “It’s an ongoing process. We’ll do our due diligence and we’ll continue to look at every available scenario as it unfolds, and if we feel it’s right for the organization, that’s how we’ll look at it.”
Part of the offseason retooling involved the release of longtime Chief Dwayne Bowe for salary-cap purposes.
Dorsey was asked directly if the Chiefs tried to renegotiate a lower deal with Bowe, who was set to make $14 million in 2015.
“I think you always try to put your best foot forward in situations with players like that,” Dorsey said. “All along, Dwayne’s accomplished a lot, been a team guy, done everything we’ve truly asked. And to me, it’s the hard part of the business when you have to make certain decisions like this. I think you guys have seen what I’ve said in my quotes on how I feel towards him, and that’s kind of where I am.”
With Bowe out of the mix, 10-year veteran Jason Avant — who was re-signed over the weekend — figures to be the elder statesman of the group, a reality Dorsey seems very comfortable with.
“Jason, ever since he’s been here, I’ve respected his professional approach to the game,” Dorsey said. “He’s going to go out there and meticulously do his route running, and he’s going to secure the ball. It’s always good to have a veteran presence around when you have younger players, and he can still play at a level, so that’s a no-brainer in terms of re-signing.”
So was, Dorsey added, the decision to bring back free safety Ron Parker on a five-year, $30 million deal.
“I think the decision was pretty easy,” Dorsey said. “I think all along, we’ve all admired his toughness, his versatility to play corner and safety. I could envision him playing some roles within Bob Sutton’s defense.
“He plays safety at a high level, he plays corner, he’s very versatile, and we’ve always said that guys that play and are part of the fabric we talk about, we’re going to try to get something done with them.”
But when asked if Parker, newly signed veteran Tyvon Branch and returning starter Husain Abdullah have complementary skills, Dorsey again returned to his standard refrain, one that hints at the next part of the entire process — seeing how all these new pieces actually look on the field with organized team activities begin in May.
“I think they’re good football players, and you can’t have enough of the good football players when you’re a team,” said Dorsey, who will continue to try to add talent over the next several weeks. “You let that work itself out through OTAs and training camp.”
Dorsey also said he will attend Missouri’s pro day today, which will begin in the Tigers’ weight room at 9 a.m.