The Chiefs simply can’t afford to part with Dwayne Bowe — for now, anyway

08/15/2014 9:14 PM

08/16/2014 4:33 PM

Dwayne Bowe has the dubious distinction of being the Chiefs’ best receiver. By a ways, really.

Even after a 2013 season in which he failed to justify that spiffy new and whopping five-year, $56-million contract — a contract that is under fresh scrutiny as of Friday.

The announcement of his one-game suspension by the NFL for a substance-abuse violation based on an episode last November apparently gives the Chiefs more latitude to ditch a bunch of that investment and apply it elsewhere if they’ve grown weary of Bowe.

But unless Andre Johnson is about to become a Chief, just having that latitude doesn’t mean the Chiefs are or should be thinking that way.

Not when Bowe so clearly is the best receiving option on a roster otherwise stocked with prospects or serviceable NFL itinerants. Their days may be coming, may even be here imminently, but there’s no assurance of that.

Not when the Chiefs’ offensive line is in flux and the offense can ill-afford to introduce new factors that could create hiccups.

And not when Bowe seemingly has enormous fresh incentive to perform because of what the suspension evidently does to his contract:

Salary-cap expert Joel Corry told The Star’s Terez Paylor that it voids Bowe’s base-salary guarantees of $8.75 million and $1.5 million in 2014 and 2015.

So if the Chiefs released Bowe this season, for example, they’d gain $8.75 million in salary-cap space instead of being forced to carry a $12 million cap charge.

Translation: That could go a long way to addressing other needs.

Maybe the lingering possibility of this had something to do with why Bowe hired a personal trainer and nutritionist in the offseason.

He’s slightly more svelte than he was a year ago when he came in clunky, a step slow and five pounds heavier. Either he was out of shape or had an injury that went undisclosed, but whatever was happening it was clear Bowe had to make changes.

One way or another, something wasn’t right with the team’s star receiver when the best thing people were saying about him was that he sure was blocking well.

New and improved as he’s touted, none of this promises that Bowe is due for a bounce-back after he under-produced all last season (57 catches for 673 yards in 15 games) until an eight-catch, 150-yard performance in the playoff loss at Indianapolis.

And none of that offseason work cancels out a concern that he is something between unreliable and spacey even if not malicious.

That’s all well-earned for plenty of reasons, considering he served a four-game suspension in 2009 for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing substances.

Now this — a ripple from his being charged in November with speeding and possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana days before the Chiefs’ biggest regular-season game in years.

That ultimately led to Bowe pleading guilty to charges of defective equipment and littering and paying $610 in fines.

So, you might say, the suspension is for one measly game, the Sept. 7 opener against a Tennessee team that went 7-9 last year and lost on its home field 26-17 to the Chiefs.

Trouble is, the Chiefs have a thorny early schedule, with road games next at Denver and Miami before the Patriots come to town Sept. 29 for Monday Night Football.

Every win is going to be precious in that stretch, they don’t seem to have much margin for error and Bowe’s absence only thins that more.

But if this is a reminder of the broader consequences of putting himself to in the wrong place at the wrong time last November, though, it’s also important to remember just that:

This is the result of something that happened nearly a year ago, not a fresh episode.

Whatever you thought of Bowe yesterday shouldn’t be affected by what happened Friday.

He’s no less the Chiefs’ best receiver, despite recent finger issues, and he’s done nothing to counter the goodwill of showing up in better shape.

“I am extremely sorry that I can’t be on the field for the first game of the 2014 season because I made an error in judgment,” Bowe said in a release. “I take responsibility for my mistake, and it will not happen again. I hope that my teammates, coaches, and Chiefs fans accept my sincere apology.”

We want to believe that, of course, and that there won’t be any other shenanigans with Bowe as he approaches his 30th birthday in a few weeks.

We also know that may or may not prove true.

But with the exception of something radical being done to change the Chiefs’ options, Bowe is a must for this team.

Any notion that they should seek to part ways with him just because they could do it easier now is just untenable on many levels … unless he makes another “error in judgment.”

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/vgregorian

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