As a lead-in to the Chiefs’ training camp in St. Joseph, which begins when rookies and quarterbacks report July 20, The Star will rank the 10 most interesting position battles.
Ryan Succop has handled the Chiefs’ kicking duties for the last five seasons, and for the most part, he has been dependable. But that hasn’t kept the Chiefs from bringing in competition, as Tulane rookie Cairo Santos will get a long look in training camp. Special teams coach Dave Toub does not see Santos as just a camp body, either — in fact, Toub said during offseason training activities that he believes Santos will kick in the league one day.
One thing Santos has going for him in this battle is cost. While Succop is due cap numbers of $2.7 million in 2014, $3.5 million in 2015 and $3.25 million in 2016, Santos is only due base salaries of $420,000, $510,000 and $600,000 during those seasons. If they deem Santos a worthy successor to the 27-year-old Succop, there’s a chance for fairly significant savings down the road.
But let’s make one thing clear. To make the team, Santos — who showed off a strong leg in OTAs and made 78 percent of his field goals in college — is going to have to take the job in camp, and that could prove to be difficult.
Succop produced the ninth-most touchbacks in the league in 2013 and has made 81 percent of his field goals throughout his career. And though he had one bad miss last season — the 41-yard potential game winner in the regular-season finale against San Diego — the Chiefs know what they have in him. Handing the job to a rookie is always a scary proposition, especially for a team trying to earn a repeat trip to the playoffs.
But Santos’ presence makes it clear that the Chiefs are looking for more consistency from Succop, as his field-goal percentage of 78.6 last season ranked 28th out of 32 teams. If he doesn’t show signs of improvement, the door could be open for Santos.
Next battle up: Backup running back