Red Zone

May 10, 2014

What the addition of Phillip Gaines means for the Chiefs’ other cornerbacks

Perhaps the most interesting thing to take away from the Chiefs’ drafting of Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines is what it means for the rest of the cornerbacks on the Chiefs' roster, particularly veteran Brandon Flowers, provided Gaines actually stays at his natural position.

Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

The Chiefs' decision to take Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday was interesting for many reasons. He's athletic and has ball skills but he also has some question marks, including his durability and intangibles. You can read all about him here

and decide for yourself whether you like the pick.

But perhaps the most interesting thing to take away from Gaines' selection is what it means for the rest of the cornerbacks on the Chiefs' roster, particularly veteran Brandon Flowers, provided Gaines — who general manager John Dorsey said


play safety, though corner is probably ideal for now — actually stays at his natural position.

Of the eight corners on the roster, only Flowers and newly-signed nickel corner Chris Owens are shorter than 6-feet. That is not a coincidence. Dorsey prefers tall corners with long arms, and Flowers is neither tall nor long. He also was not a great fit in new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme last season, which relied a great deal on press-man coverage, and he struggled both outside and inside on the way to posting a Pro Football Focus grade of -5.9, which was his worst since 2008.

Now to be fair, Flowers, 28, battled knee issues throughout the course of the season and still made the first Pro Bowl of his career. He also performed well as a nickel corner in the Chiefs' playoff loss to Indianapolis, at least before he went down with a concussion. He is not washed up.

Yet the selection of Gaines means the Chiefs now have at least five corners they would like to see get playing time this year. That's Gaines, Flowers, Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker. Add in Owens, a cost-effective free-agent signing they probably aren't married to, and that's a lot of cornerbacks folks, even if you do play in the same division as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

Now, let's do the math. Sean Smith has the size (6 feet 3, 215 pounds) Dorsey likes and he just received a nice roster bonus. He stays. Gaines is a third-round pick and by virtue of being taken by the front office, he is now one of their "guys." He needs to play. Owens, Cooper and Parker are all young-ish players with upside who are due cheap contracts. At least two of them should stay.

That leaves Flowers, and the Chiefs have a few options if they wanted to part ways. I doubt he gets cut before next year, so another option for Dorsey would be to trade him for a pick or two as rounds four through seven commence today.

To be clear, I believe there's a pretty good chance Flowers be a Chief in 2014. All indicators are pointing that way for Flowers and Tamba Hali, to be honest. But for the sake of argument, let's entertain the possibility.

Flowers, who has three years remaining on his contract, has a cap number of $10.5 million this season, but any team that deals for him will only have to absorb his base salary of $5.25 million. That's not chump change, but according to NFL Players' Association records, there are 16 teams that still have at least $10 million or more in cap space. That's probably more than enough for a team to sign their entire rookie class and add Flowers' deal, and I tried to pick a number that would be on the safe side.

On the Chiefs' end, they are about $4.4 million under the cap and would actually save about $3.5 million more on the cap with such a move. With two key players with expiring deals eyeing extensions in quarterback Alex Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston, every little bit helps. And remember, dealing Flowers now would create a whopping $11.5 million in cap room in 2015.

Again, let me repeat, there's a good chance Flowers is a Chief this season, considering a mid-round pick or two is hardly a bounty for a good player like him.

And you know what? When you consider the fact he's still in his prime, not to mention his proven track record, perhaps that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Even if Gaines and other big, lanky corners on the Chiefs’ roster will soon be coming for his job.

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