Red Zone

March 10, 2014

Free agency tracker: Ex-Chiefs safety Quintin Demps signs with New York

NFL free agency officially started at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Here’s a running tracker of the Chiefs-related reports that have surfaced. This list will be updated as new information emerges.

Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

NFL free agency officially started at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Here’s a running tracker of the Chiefs-related reports that have surfaced. This list will be updated as new information emerges.

11:39 p.m. Saturday

Former Chiefs safety Quintin Demps


that he will be joining the New York Giants.

What it means:

The Chiefs will now have to replace their top punt returner, Dexter McCluster, and top kick returner, Demps, from one of the best special teams units in the league. Demps did admirable work as a kickoff returner and also had his best season as a defender, getting plenty of work in the Chiefs’ subpackages and nabbing a career-high four interceptions. He had a few mental mistakes the second half of the season the cost the Chiefs, but he’s a decent player in the right situation.

His departure should free up playing time at safety for Husain Abdullah, who recently agreed to a two-year deal, and a 2013 fifth-rounder Sanders Commings, who the team remains high on despite an injury-marred rookie campaign. The Chiefs could always address the position through free agency and the draft, too.

8:49 p.m. Saturday

It appears the Chiefs have lost their chance to sign ex-Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders. According to reports by ESPN’s

Adam Schefter and Fox Sports 1’s Alex Marvez, the Broncos have agreed to a deal with Sanders, who was in Kansas City on Friday and Saturday for a visit. Aaron Wilson

of the National Football Post reported that Sanders will remain in Kansas City on Saturday night, but quickly added that he still may sign with the Broncos (a sign he probably will).

What it means:

Since three reputable national writers are saying Sanders to Denver is done — and I’m hearing the same — that tells me it probably is a done deal. That means the Chiefs will have to look elsewhere for a receiver. Sources told The Star this week that the Chiefs were interested in ex-Bear Devin Hester and ex-Eagle Jason Avant, but it appears there’s been little traction made with either. I’ve been told there is mutual interest between the Chiefs and Avant, however, so it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs bring in one of coach Andy Reid’s old players for a visit if Sanders is indeed out.

As for Denver? Well, the Broncos — who entered the offseason with nearly $27 million worth of cap space, according to — are making it rain. After spending nearly $110 million dollars, including $63 million in guarantees, on defensive stars like safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos would likely have to spend around $10 million in guaranteed money to sign Sanders, who was believed to be seeking a deal similar to what Golden Tate received from the Lions (five years, $31 million, $13 million guaranteed). By all accounts, the Chiefs have been pretty frugal with their offers this offseason, so I don’t expect Sanders to make a last-second switch. Score another one for the Broncos.

6:23 p.m. Friday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star on Friday that the Chiefs have signed former Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker to a three-year deal worth a maximum of $13 million with $3.75 guaranteed. The Chiefs, who have since confirmed the move, also announced they have re-signed outside linebacker Frank Zombo.

"We’re pleased that we were able to come to an agreement with both Frank and Vance," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. "Frank was a key member of our defense and special teams units last season, and we are looking forward to having him back. Vance is a big, physical player that we believe can come in and contribute for us up front."

What it means:

Well, the Chiefs have effectively replaced Tyson Jackson. Walker is known as a run stopper, but he has also shown some pass-rush ability and should provide more of a pass-rush than Jackson did on early downs. A source says Walker will receive a $3 million signing bonus with a base salary of $750,000, which is a good get for Walker but means the Chiefs could probably get out of the deal comfortably after a year or two. Zombo, meanwhile, is a valuable special teams player who provides insurance if Tamba Hali and Justin Houston get hurt.

1:48 p.m. Friday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star that ex-Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Kansas City around 1 p.m. and will spend the night here before leaving for San Francisco on Saturday to visit the 49ers. The news of Sanders’ San Francisco visit was first reported by several national writers, including Ian Rapoport of and the Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.

What it means:

Sanders has already visited Jacksonville and Tampa Bay and has another visit set up Saturday, but the Chiefs have a chance to keep him from leaving if they come correct with an offer. From what I’ve been told from multiple places, the Chiefs have been pretty frugal with their offers thus far, but there is a market for Sanders so if they’re bringing him in for a visit, they must at least be in the ballpark with the numbers.

Keep an eye on this situation, folks. Teams don’t bring guys in unless they’re serious, and it would be wise for the Chiefs to ante up with an offer that allows them to bring in an experienced No. 2 receiver without spending a first-round draft pick on one. He caught 67 passes for 740 yards and six touchdowns last season, which isn’t that far off from the numbers Golden Tate put up (64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns) last year in Seattle.

Tate, 25, proceeded to receive a five-year deal from Detroit reportedly worth $31 million, including $13 million guaranteed. Sanders, who turns 27 in a few days, probably won’t get that but maybe he’ll get something in the vicinity. The Chiefs don’t have a ton of cap space this year but remember, NFL teams can fit almost anyone under the cap for the first year by giving the player a low base salary and a high signing bonus.

9:43 a.m. Friday

Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette tweeted that Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker, who is visiting Kansas City,

is expected to sign with the Chiefs today. However, Walker’s agent, Tommy Sims, told The Star the deal is not done yet and he later tweeted that Walker is visiting Seattle

on Sunday.

What it means:

Considering Sims said the Packers were interested in Walker’s services on Thursday, the hunch here is that Dougherty got his info from a Packers source who is probably correct, since Sims didn’t mention any looming visit to Green Bay in his most recent tweet. However, it’s worth noting that Sims also said yesterday that a visit to Seattle wasn’t official, which means it’s something that just recently materialized. It’s safe to assume the Chiefs and Walker have talked numbers already, so if Walker leaves town today odds are he won’t be a Chief. This is a situation to keep an eye on.

5:05 a.m. Friday

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports the

Lions have re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew

to a four-year, $16 million deal. Birkett reported Thursday that the Chiefs were one of the teams in the mix for Pettigrew’s services.

What it means:

Given the dollar amount of the deal, it’s no surprise the Chiefs didn’t acquire Pettigrew, who is regarded as a solid pass blocker with athletic ability but one who has inconsistent hands and struggled to run block last season.

7:36 p.m. Thursday

Both insider

Ian Rapoport and Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cite a source who says ex-Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders will visit the Chiefs on Friday. Wilson wrote

that Sanders has also visited Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.

What it means:

Sanders isn’t a big name, but he’s a pretty decent player. The Chiefs still need a vertical threat to complement Dwayne Bowe and challenge Donnie Avery for the No. 2 receiver spot, and the 5-foot-11, 180-pound ex-SMU star would probably fit the bill. He caught 67 passes for 740 yards and six touchdowns last season and has also returned punts and kicks in his career, which could be a boon with the departure of Pro Bowl returner Dexter McCluster.

Sanders has posted Pro Football Focus grades of 1.5 (2013), 2.2 (2012), 1.8 (2011) and 6.0 (2010) since he entered the league, and his grade last season ranked 60th out of 111 receivers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps. In comparison, Bowe finished with a grade of 4.7 (48th out of 111) while Avery finished with a grade of negative-8.8 (105th out of 111). Just for kicks, youngster Junior Hemingway finished with a grade of negative-6.0 (102nd out of 111) while another youngster, A.J. Jenkins, finished with a grade of negative-2.2. That put Jenkins 177th out of the 216 receivers who played a single snap last year.

1:15 p.m. Thursday

The agent for former Oakland defensive tackle Vance Walker confirmed reports his client will be visiting Kansas City today and tomorrow, but said the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are also interested in Walker’s services. The agent said Walker and the Chiefs haven’t talked numbers yet, but the visit will gives both sides a chance to feel each other out. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

What it means:

It’s no surprise the Chiefs are trying to add a 3-4 interior lineman to replace defensive end Tyson Jackson, who received $25 million over five years from the Atlanta Falcons. This will come down to price, as always, but Walker, 26, does have some ability.

He finished 2013 with 40 tackles and three sacks and posted a Pro Football Focus of 4.0 in 791 snaps. Interestingly enough, he finished with a higher grade against the pass (1.5) than he did against the run (negative-0.6), which tells me the Chiefs could see the 6-foot-2, 304-pounder as a better pass-rushing option on first and second downs than Jackson was, despite the fact Jackson had one more sack (four) than Walker did. In many ways, Jackson’s negative-3.3 pass-rush grade last year and even Dorsey’s

recent comments

on him say it all.

If I were a Chiefs fan, I’d be encouraged by the fact Walker posted an overall grade of 8.9 in 2012 with Atlanta, which isn’t that far off from Jackson’s overall grade (14.6) this year. Walker’s run-defense grade of 4.8 that year also reinforces the fact he’s got some run-stopping ability. Now we just have to see if the two sides can come to terms. If the Chiefs let Walker leave tomorrow without signing him to a contract, I’d imagine his chances of becoming a Chief will go down significantly, particularly with the Packers and Seahawks interested.

9:49 a.m. Thursday

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Carolina receiver Steve Smith

gave the Panthers a list

of five teams as trade partners: Dallas, New England, Baltimore, San Diego and Tampa Bay.

What it means: It would be fun to imagine a a ticked-off Steve Smith tearing up secondaries across the AFC West, but if the Chiefs aren’t on his trade list, the chances of that happening go down significantly. He will still be released

Thursday, but the Chiefs are unlikely to win any bidding war for Smith’s services if he indeed hits the open market, and it’s hard to imagine a proud man like eight-nine taking some sort of discount to play in Kansas City.

Still, Smith would bring toughness and competitiveness and would be an intriguing option after catching 64 receptions for 746 yards and four touchdowns last season, if only the Chiefs could find a way to pay him.

9:16 a.m. Thursday

Tom Pelissero of USA Today

tweets that

guard Jeff Linkenbach’s deal with the Chiefs is for one year and $900,000, with only $250,000 guaranteed and up to $600,000 in incentives.

What it means:

Everybody can officially stop freaking out about Linkenbach, who now appears to be a depth signing. His Pro Football Focus numbers leave plenty to be desired, but he brings versatility and this kind of money isn’t significant at all. With only $250,000 guaranteed, it doesn’t make a dent in the Chiefs' cap space.

8:24 a.m. Thursday

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles is headed to the Eagles for a fifth-round pick, according to multiple reports.

What it means:

Whatever dream Chiefs fans had of bringing the former Olathe North star home has come to an end. The Chiefs are pretty solid with their top two backs of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, but Sproles would have provided insurance for both and also helped out on punt return with the loss of Dexter McCluster. It's unclear how interested the Chiefs were in Sproles, but it's understandable they weren't in the mix to top Philly's offer. With no second-round pick, the Chiefs aren't in position to surrender picks in a very deep draft.

3:55 p.m. Wednesday

The agent for ex-Colts offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach


his client has agreed to a deal with the Chiefs.

What it means:

The terms have not been disclosed, but Linkenbach could compete for time at right guard to replace Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah. The 26-year-old Linkenbach, who joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and is listed at 6 feet 6 and 325 pounds, played right guard and right tackle last season and posted a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-7.5 in 408 snaps. In comparison, Asamoah’s grade was 7.9 in 673 snaps while Schwartz’s grade was 18.6 in 549 snaps.

For the record, Linkenbach’s grades the previous three seasons were -16.9 in 876 snaps (2012), -18.3 in 1,007 snaps (2011) and negative -7.2 in 372 snaps (2010). Those certainly aren’t great, but he does bring plenty of versatility. Over the past four seasons, he’s played every position along the offensive line aside from center, so he could also be a depth signing. Indy Star beat writer Mike Chappell

recently tweeted

that Linkenbach’s versatility was “invaluable” for the Colts.

3:50 p.m. Wednesday

A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Star that the Chiefs have signed linebacker Joe Mays to a two-year, $6 million deal. ESPN NFL insider Adam Caplan, who

reported it

first, wrote that the deal includes a $1.5 million signing bonus with up to $4 million in incentives each year.

What it means:

Akeem Jordan was solid as the starting Chiefs’ inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson, but it appears Mays have been signed to take his place. The 28-year-old Mays, who is listed at 5 feet 11 and 246 pounds, was drafted by Chiefs coach Andy Reid in 2008, and has since played for the Eagles, Broncos and Texans. Mays’ Pro Football Focus grades the last five years (-1.8 in 2013, -2.2 in 2012, 4.6 in 2011, 0.5 in 2010, -2.4 in 2009) have been roughly league average. It remains to be seen how he’ll perform next to a Pro Bowler like Derrick Johnson, but Mays’ signing — especially for $6 million — signals the Chiefs probably aren’t ready to rely on 2013 fourth-round pick Nico Johnson in the base defense. I’ve heard he needed a big offseason to make an impact next season, and this signing probably confirms that.

3:02 p.m. Wednesday

A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed reports that ex-Saints receiver Joe Morgan is visiting the Chiefs today.

What it means:

Morgan, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 184 pounds, went undrafted in 2011 out of Walsh University and has spent the last three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Morgan missed all of 2011 and 2013 with knee injuries, but in 2012, he caught 10 passes for 379 yards — a ridiculous 37.9 yards-per-catch average — and three touchdowns. His health is obviously a concern, particularly after the ACL and meniscus injuries that derailed his 2013 campaign, but Morgan did run a 4.44 40-yard dash at the 2011 combine. If he gets back to 100 percent, he could potentially bring the deep speed the Chiefs desperately need.

2:46 p.m. Wednesday

A person with knowledge of the situation told me the Chiefs are not one of the four teams who have reached out to Browns C Alex Mack, though teams are getting creative with their proposals because the Browns, who put a transition tender on Mack, can match any offer he accepts.

What it means:

The Chiefs don't have a ton of money, but remember, teams can fit almost anybody under the cap for the first year if both sides want a deal done badly enough. This was worth checking into because Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is believed to be a fan of Mack. He'd be a clear upgrade over current center Rodney Hudson, who could shift to guard, and at 28 years old, he's still in his prime. Still, it's a longshot.

1:48 p.m. Wednesday

Geoff Schwartz’s agent, Deryk Gilmore, confirmed the terms of Schwartz’s four-year deal with the Giants. Schwartz will receive $16.8 million, with $6.2 million in guaranteed money.

What it means:

This seems like a fairly reasonable deal for a quality right guard. My understanding is the Chiefs and Schwartz were pretty far off on a deal, which either tells you a.) what they thought about Schwartz, or b.) they simply aren’t interested in spending any money. We’ll see over the next few weeks.

5:17 p.m. Tuesday

A source confirmed that the Chiefs have re-signed safety Husain Abdullah to a a two-year deal. The news

was first reported by Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports. Abdullah later tweeted that he is happy to return to Kansas City


What it means:

The Chiefs have now retained two of their own in Abdullah and linebacker Frank Zombo. This guy is a pretty good player — he had two interceptions and six tackles in the playoff loss to Indianapolis, a performance that made you wonder why he didn’t play more throughout the season. He lined up at safety, linebacker and nickel cornerback in that game and played well. He also posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 2.9 in 292 snaps over the course of the season, which is decent. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey has repeatedly praised Abdullah for his character and talent so it’s no surprise he’s back.

4:15 p.m. Tuesday

According to multiple reports,

including’s Kimberly Jones

, former Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz will sign a multiyear deal with the New York Giants.

What it means:

Schwartz was arguably the Chiefs’ best lineman last season, despite the fact he only become a full-time starter midway through the season. He’ll be missed on the field and in the locker room, where he seemed to get along well with Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson. As it stands, the Chiefs have five guards on the roster in Jeff Allen, Rishaw Johnson, Rokevious Watkins, Ricky Henry and Chandler Burden. They’ll address this glaring hole through free agency or the draft.

3:49 p.m. Tuesday

The Atlanta Falcons announced that they have signed two former Chiefs in guard Jon Asamoah and defensive end Tyson Jackson. insider Ian Rapoport reports that Jackson’s deal

is worth $25 million over five years


“We have agreed to a deal,” Joe Panos, Asamoah’s agent

told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

. “Jon took less to go to Atlanta, flat out. The reasons are because number one, he knows they are going to win. The stability of the organization and the guy he’s blocking for, Matt Ryan and the coaching staff and Mike Tice.”

What it means

: The departure of both is hardly a surprise. Former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is now the top assistant to Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta, and it’s obvious Pioli had a hand in bringing two of his former draft picks to the Falcons. Both are solid players; Jackson never lived up to No. 3 overall pick status but he’s a solid run stuffer whose 2013 Pro Football Focus grade of 14.6 suggests he’s turned into a good, if limited, football player.

Asamoah lost his job to Geoff Schwartz late last year but he was a consistent contributor when healthy. Both will likely be missed unless the Chiefs invest something (a draft pick, some money, whatever) in replacing them, but if the report on Jackson’s money is true, it’s no surprise he didn’t return to the Chiefs. That’s a ton of money to pay a two-down guy when you already have a similar guy in Mike DeVito, who (by the way) only received three years and $12.6 million from the Chiefs last offseason.

3:09 p.m. Tuesday

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson

will visit the Falcons tonight. insider Ian Rapoport tweeted earlier

that Jackson has drawn interest from the Falcons, Browns and Dolphins, though Kansas City remains in the hunt for his services.

What it means:

It means the Chiefs could be seeking another 3-4 defensive end, but we already knew that. Atlanta’s interest in Jackson shouldn’t be considered a surprise due to the presence of new assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who drafted Jackson when he was in charge of the Chiefs. There are rumors that another Pioli draftee, Jon Asamoah, will sign with the Falcons, too. Looks like he might be trying to get the band back together.

3:08 p.m. Tuesday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star on Tuesday that former Chiefs receiver Dexter McCluster has agreed to a three-year deal with Tennessee worth up to $12 million with $4.5 million in guaranteed money.

What it means:

It will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do to replace McCluster on punt return. Weston Dressler and Joe McKnight have experience and like I wrote earlier, the Chiefs indeed have interest in Devin Hester. But keep in mind, Hester is from Florida and could also choose to reunite with Bucs coach Lovie Smith. I heard the Chiefs were outbid significantly for some their own free agents, so it remains to be seen if they could reel in Hester if other teams really want him.

3:06 p.m. Tuesday

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that, per sources, former Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert’s deal with Miami is

worth $46 million over five years

, including $25 million guaranteed.

What it means:

Big No. 76 is gone. No surprise here. I expect the Chiefs to draft another tackle later in the draft or sign a bargain-type player there to bolster the position but it now officially looks like Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson are the guys.

12:39 p.m. Tuesday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star on Tuesday that the Chiefs are one of many teams interested in former Chicago Bears return star Devin Hester.

What it means: With Dexter McCluster likely headed out of town

, a Hester reunion with Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub makes a ton of sense. Hester may not be what he was, but he’s still a good returner who could perhaps rekindle his old magic with Toub, who used to coach him in Chicago. It remains to be seen if anything will come of it; from everything I’ve gathered, the Chiefs’ offers to several players haven’t been close to several other teams’, so it’s easy to see them being outbid. But keep an eye on this one.

10:40 a.m. Tuesday reporter Mike Silver wrote “that a battle is shaping up between the St. Louis Rams and New York Giants for Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz’s (non-bargain) services.”

What it means:

Multiple sources have already confirmed to The Star that Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz will not return to Kansas City. Schwartz played his tail off last season and is about to get paid. The only question now is whether he will get more per year than Asamoah, who has more starting experience and a consistent track record but lost his job to Schwartz last season.

10:39 a.m. Tuesday

Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter

acknowledged the rumors

about Atlanta offering former Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah a deal worth $4.5 million a season, though he correctly noted it is an unsourced report and it remains to be seen if it comes to fruition.

What it means:

I’ve written several times that Asamoah is gone, and the reported money being thrown at him confirms it. It’s my understanding that he is set to earn something close to $4-$6 million annually, which the Chiefs obviously can’t match given their cap situation. An Atlanta reunion with former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli would be interesting; I wonder if the former Chiefs boss also trying to woo his other former draft picks, like Dexter McCluster and Tyson Jackson. But like Ledbetter said, we’ll have to see what happens.

7:01 p.m. Monday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star that the Chiefs indeed have interest in Philadelphia receiver Jason Avant.

What it means:

Dexter McCluster is likely gone, so Jason Avant could indeed be an option. He knows coach Andy Reid’s offense, he has good hands and he will likely come at a good price. I’m not crazy about his 2013 Pro Football Focus grade of negative-2.7, which ranked 89th out of 111 receivers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, but when you don’t have a ton of money, that’s what you get. Maybe he can recapture his old form under Reid — in 2012, Avant posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 11.1, which ranked 20th out of 111, with Big Red calling the plays.

5:09 p.m. Monday

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Star that the Chiefs have not yet made a play for Carolina safety Mike Mitchell, though there was some interest.

What it means:

Mitchell had a solid coverage grade (3.5) from Pro Football Focus last year and could be a decent replacement for Kendrick Lewis, especially if Sanders Commings can’t shake the injury bug. But if the Chiefs haven’t made a run at him, it means money might be tighter than even I thought.

4:31 p.m. Monday

Former Seattle defensive end Red Bryant

said he was set to visit

the Packers on Sunday and the Chiefs on Monday before he settled on the Jaguars last Friday.


What it means:

The Chiefs are set at one defensive end with Mike DeVito, but Tyson Jackson — the other starter at defensive end — is set to hit free agency. The fact the Chiefs had a visit scheduled with Bryant probably means they were probably willing to pay him something in the ballpark of the four-year, $17 million contract he received from Jacksonville. That’s a decent financial commitment, and a sign the Chiefs — who will stand to lose a number of their own free agents — could perhaps pursue someone of note this offseason after all. At the right price, of course.

4 p.m. Monday

Chiefs linebacker Akeem Jordan has received interest from six teams this offseason, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Star. The news was first reported by Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.


What it means:

I believe the Chiefs would like to retain the 28-year-old Jordan, a hard-working and dependable player who has earned Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s trust over the years. Jordan won’t command a big deal in free agency, but he still may get more money elsewhere than he would from the Chiefs, who didn’t use him on passing downs and drafted an inside linebacker in the fourth round last year in Nico Johnson. I believe they’ll keep the lines of communication open and hope Jordan is ultimately affordable.

2:40 p.m. Monday

A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Star that wide receiver

Dexter McCluster has four or five interested teams and will not re-sign with the Chiefs


1:39 p.m. Monday

Jason La Canfora of writes that Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster is expected to be “snapped up quickly” in free agency because of his special teams prowess.


What it means:

I’ve said many times that the Chiefs are interested in bringing McCluster back. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey gushed about McCluster when I asked about him at the combine. He’s only OK as a receiver — I believe the Chiefs can do better in that area — but he’s a killer punt returner in special teams coach Dave Toub’s scheme. McCluster returned two punts for touchdowns this season and made his first Pro Bowl due to his skill.

But several teams have far more financial flexibility than the Chiefs do this offseason, and I’m not sure a punt-return specialist who isn’t a 2006 version of Devin Hester deserves a significant financial commitment, especially when you consider Toub’s well-known skill at putting together strong special teams.

If McCluster indeed leaves — and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does — there will be a few decent punt-return options on the roster, including running back Joe McKnight and former CFL all-star Weston Dressler.

McCluster is a fan favorite and great returner but his loss — if it indeed comes to pass — would be one the Chiefs could recover from, in my opinion.

1:09 p.m. Monday

Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reports the Chiefs

have re-signed

outside linebacker Frank Zombo, per a source.


What it means:

Zombo is a valuable special teams player who got a chance to show what he could do in five starts on defense last season when starters Tamba Hali and Justin Houston battled injuries. Zombo finished with 27 tackles, two sacks and a Pro Football Focus grade of minus-0.3 in 426 snaps, which is average. By comparison, Hali and Houston posted grades of 22.7 and 31.8 in twice as many snaps.

Zombo fared well against the run, however. His grade in that category was 6.3, which was higher than Hali’s (4.2) and just shy of Houston’s (7.6) in half as many snaps. But Zombo’s pass-rush grade (minus-7.1) leaves plenty to be desired, which is why the Chiefs may still seek some pass-rush help at the position. Zombo had a cap number of $640,000 last season so if the report is indeed true, it would be a minor surprise if his new deal exceeds that by a significant amount.

10:43 a.m. Monday

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert

is close to a deal with Miami and will be a Dolphin when free agency begins

Tuesday, per a source.


What it means:

Albert, 29, has been a steady contributor for the Chiefs for six seasons. But he has long been expected to command a deal in the $10 million range annually, and it stands to reason that the Chiefs — who could have franchised him for another year at a salary of about $11 million ― simply didn’t have the cash unless he was willing to take a hometown discount. But after the Chiefs franchised him last year ― and thus, kept him from cashing in on the type of long-term deal he’d been seeking — that was always a bit of a longshot.

If Albert indeed leaves, this will leave the left tackle position to either Eric Fisher or Donald Stephenson. The Chiefs haven’t committed to either (at least publicly) as their starting left tackle in 2014, but Stephenson got four starts there last season when Albert was hurt and the Chiefs are believed to be happy with his progress.

I wrote about Chiefs general manager John Dorsey’s thoughts on Stephenson and Fisher back in January.

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