The Chiefs are serious about improving their receiving corps this offseason, and their latest acquisition — 23-year old receiver Da’Rick Rogers — might be an indication of how far they’re willing to go to add some talent to a group that failed to score a receiving touchdown all season.
Physical talent has never been an issue for Rogers, who is not only big, at 6 feet 2 and 217 pounds, but very gifted. At the 2013 NFL Combine, he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and was among the top performers at his position in the five of the seven drills — a rarity, for sure.
However, the Chiefs were able to land Rogers — who officially joined the Chiefs on Thursday on a reserve-future contract, via the league’s daily transaction report — due to a spotty track record off the field.
Rogers is a former five-star prep prospect who enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign in Tennessee, where he caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. However, he was suspended from the program indefinitely before the season due to a violation of team rules.
Rogers then transferred to Tennessee Tech, where he caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012 before declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft.
During the combine, Rogers didn’t shy away from his issues. When asked why he was dismissed from Tennessee, he admitted he failed three drug tests for marijuana.
“It is simple — immaturity,” Rogers said at the time. “I had to take full responsibility, look in the mirror at who I was and what I was doing wrong.
“I did those things when I went to Tennessee Tech and it humbled me a lot. I was working on those things and am still working on those things. It is a work in progress.”
Rogers said he learned a lot from the experience.
“I play with an edge, and I had to learn how to control that edge off the field also,” Rogers said at the time. “I had to learn how to fix my flaws, and life got easier.”
Rogers said he was tested 10 times at Tennessee Tech, and passed each one. But he went undrafted anyway, and failed to stick with the Buffalo Bills during training camp, even though Bills scout Tom Roth was high enough on Rogers’ ability to declare that he was more talented than two of his former Vols teammates, 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and 2013 second-round pick Justin Hunter.
“He’s the most polished of those three Tennessee receivers in my opinion in terms of route running and all that,” Roth said. “He reminds me physically of Eric Moulds, that body type. That’s what I thought when I saw him. A big, physical, muscular guy. Explosive. He had a 39-inch vertical. He ran a 4.48 at the Combine. He’s got all the physical stuff.”
The Indianapolis Colts signed Rogers to their practice squad, however, and he spent the season being promoted to the active roster, released and signed to the practice squad again. In five games with the Colts in 2013 — including three starts — Rogers caught 14 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Rogers again found trouble last September, when the Colts promptly released him for conduct detrimental to the team after he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Rogers had been a healthy scratch for the Colts’ first four games of the season.
“I think the way things are set up here, it’s a pretty good culture, a pretty good environment,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano told The Indianapolis Star. “It’s a pretty easy place to thrive and to grow. ... If you can’t make it here, it’s going to be tough to make it anywhere. So, we have a pretty good thing going.”
One could argue that the Chiefs do, too. Since coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey came aboard, the Chiefs have compiled a 20-12 regular season record and made the playoffs once.
Interestingly enough, the Chiefs got a close look at Rogers in their 45-44 playoffs loss to the Colts last January. He only caught one passes, but he made it count, as he hauled in a 46-yard jump ball over 6-foot-3 cornerback Sean Smith.
“This kid has first-or-second round talent,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock — who was calling the game for NBC — promptly declared.
By signing Rogers, the Chiefs clearly see at least some of that talent, and are willing to give him a chance to compete for playing time a group that is anything but settled heading in 2015.
Dwayne Bowe’s cap number ($14 million) exceeded his 2014 performance (60 catches, 754 yards), while No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery was hampered by a core muscle injury most of the season. Rookie Albert Wilson showed promise and late-season addition Jason Avant brought some veteran savvy, but other youngsters like Junior Hemingway, A.J. Jenkins and Frankie Hammond failed to make much of an impact.
That’s why the Chiefs brought in Rogers, and why they worked out another talented young receiver with off-field issues — Duron Carter of the Montreal Alouettes, who can’t sign with an NFL team until Feb. 10 — on Wednesday.
Dorsey has not been shy about churning the bottom of the roster since his arrival, and there’s no doubt that philosophy applies more now than ever, particularly at receiver.
“Well, we’ve always said all along we’re going to do our due diligence to try to get as good of a player as we can in here,” Dorsey said, generally, of his approach to building the receiving corps after the season. “Sometimes you take a swing of the bat and miss it and you have to move on. You can’t hit a home run every time.”