The trade for quarterback Alex Smith, it now appears, was only the start for the Chiefs in their plans to rebuild their roster.
They took care of some other key moves in one dramatic day on Monday. They retained three players, first by agreeing to contract terms with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt and then protecting left tackle Branden Albert by designating him as their franchise player.
The Chiefs are required to make Albert a one-year contract offer worth $9.83 million, but by doing so they effectively keep him off the free-agent market.
Retaining Bowe, their leading receiver in each of the past four seasons, was the key maneuver to general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs were prepared to make Bowe their franchise player for the second straight season until the sides reached an agreement shortly before the NFL’s 4 p.m. Monday deadline.
Either way, the Chiefs weren’t going to let Bowe leave. Terms of his contract were were not released.USA Today and Pro Football Talk
reported Tuesday that the contract is for $56 million for five years with $26 million guaranteed, making Bowe the third highest-paid receiver in the NFL, trailing Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.
“When we first arrived, one of the first items on our agenda was signing Dwayne,” Dorsey said. “He’s been a key player on our offense and is one of the premier players at his position. We are pleased that Dwayne will be a member of this team for years to come.”
Bowe will be 29 in October. The Chiefs have little depth at wide receiver even with Bowe now under contract for the long term, so losing him could have been disastrous.
“We’re excited to have Dwayne on the roster for the long term,” Reid said. “Dwayne’s a big, physical receiver who has had success in this league. He is part of the Chiefs family and it was important to him to remain in Kansas City. I’m looking forward to working with Dwayne.”
Bowe told The Kansas City Star in an interview last fall that he wanted to sign another long-term contract and finish his career with the Chiefs. He was their first-round draft pick in 2007.
Bowe, who couldn’t be reached for comment, posted a message on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with a photo of himself at a tropical location, that read: “On vacation till I got the call that changed my life. I wanna thank the Hunt Family the Chiefs organization.”
He also released this statement through the Chiefs: “I’m very blessed to be a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Hunt family and the fan base have been very supportive over the years and I am looking forward to working with John and coach Reid in the near future. I’m excited to continue my career with the Chiefs and hopefully help this team reach our goals.”
Albert, a first-round pick by the Chiefs in 2008, has developed into one of the NFL’s better left tackles. His 2012 season was a strong one while he was in the lineup, but he was able to start only one of the final six games because he was bothered with back spasms.
The Chiefs evidently don’t believe Albert’s back will present a problem next season.
“We felt it was in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs to place the (franchise) tag on Branden,” Dorsey said. “We will continue to negotiate with Branden and his agent to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial. We are looking forward to working with Branden in the near future.”
Albert indicated that while his agent and the Chiefs had talked about a long-term contract, they were nowhere close to an agreement.
“I’m happy for Dustin and Bowe and I’m happy for the organization,” Albert told The Star. “That’s all I’ve got to say about it. Bowe deserves it. Colquitt deserves it. The organization locked up three players that are going to help them win.”
Albert wouldn’t say whether he would sign the one-year contract offer any time soon. Even if he does, the contract would expire at the end of the season, leaving some uncertainty about the future of the position for the Chiefs.
For that reason, the possibility of selecting a left tackle like Luke Joeckel of Texas A or Eric Fisher of Central Michigan with the first pick in the draft would seem to be still in play. Albert said he has had no discussions about the possibility of changing positions with Reid or offensive line coach Andy Heck but indicated the point was moot.
“I’ll be playing left tackle,” he said.
Colquitt’s contract is for five years and $18.75 million, making him the highest-paid punter in the league. Colquitt had a solid 2012 season and made the AFC’s Pro Bowl team for the first time in his eight-year NFL career, but was convinced at season’s end he would never receive an offer like that from the Chiefs.
So convinced, Colquitt said, that he and his family were prepared to leave Kansas City.
“I had everything packed up and we actually did leave for a little while to try to get away from it all,” Colquitt said.
But long discussions with Dorsey and Reid turned the tide for Colquitt.
“They just said if you’re willing to come back, they would love to have me back,” Colquitt said. “I just tried not to get emotionally tied in but I definitely crossed my fingers and said my prayers hoping I could stick around in Kansas City for a long time.
“I’ve been here eight years now. My kids were born here. My wife and I have made so many great memories here. It’s hard to even imagine wanting to go anywhere else.”
That’s what Reid said he and Dorsey decided shortly after joining the Chiefs in January
“John and I knew right away that we’d like to keep Dustin in a Chiefs uniform,” Reid said. “He’s worked hard at his craft and has become one of the best punters in the NFL. He’s got a strong leg and the ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory. We are happy we were able to come to an agreement.”