Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs weren’t exactly in shambles when John Dorsey and Andy Reid first walked through the door. After all, the team did have six Pro Bowl players on the roster.
That doesn’t mean the Chiefs weren’t in need of an extreme makeover.
So over the past couple months, that’s exactly what the Chiefs’ new general manager and new coach have done, rolling up their sleeves and going to work on a massive overhaul project.
Matt Cassel is out at quarterback. Alex Smith is in. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has a long-term deal. Tyson Jackson restructured his massive contract. Veterans such as Eric Winston and Steve Breaston who didn’t fit into the new plan have been jettisoned.
The result is a roster that has the same basic foundation as last year, when the Chiefs went 2-14, but a very different appearance from top to bottom.
“I feel we have upgraded our roster at certain positions that I thought we were weak,” said Dorsey, who took over for departed GM Scott Pioli and orchestrated the team’s renovation.
“We’ve added some depth and competition,” he said. “We’ve done that through free agency, through the college draft, and college free agency as well. I think we’ve made the roster competitive.”
He won’t know for sure until the Chiefs get on the field next month. For now, though, the team on paper looks vastly improved.
The first significant move was to swing a trade with San Francisco for Smith, upgrading the most important position on the field in a year in which the draft appeared weak at quarterback.
Along with giving Bowe a long-term deal, Dorsey and Reid signed Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt to an extension, and put the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, who despite talks with the Miami Dolphins appears as if he’ll still be with the Chiefs next season.
Then free agency hit, and the Chiefs started to fill the holes.
Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson were brought in to overhaul a secondary that needed help at cornerback opposite Brandon Flowers and depth across the board. Defensive lineman Mike DeVito should plug up the middle of the line, and linebacker Akeem Jordan will push for a starting job. Tight end Anthony Fasano and wide receiver Donnie Avery, both coveted free agents, are expected to give Smith more options in the passing game.
“You’re not going to fill whatever you consider every hole with All-Star players, but I don’t think you need to do that,” Reid explained. “We have a lot of guys here who have received a lot of accolades, with Pro Bowl appearances and the like, but you need worker bees in there, too.”
The Chiefs found a few of them in the draft.
With the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in 50 years — since the days of the old AFL — the Chiefs landed Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who is expected to start right away. He may begin at right tackle, but his long-term projection is as a stalwart left tackle.
The Chiefs found a complement to Fasano in tight end Travis Kelce, and a running back in Knile Davis who should help to take some of the burden off Pro Bowl ball carrier Jamaal Charles.
Kansas City plugged a few more holes on the final day of the draft, grabbing Nico Johnson out of Alabama to compete at middle linebacker in the fourth round. Defensive back Sanders Commings will push for playing time, center Eric Kush could turn out to be a sleeper of the draft, and defensive end Mike Catapano was highly regarded coming out of Princeton.
Among the college free agents that the Chiefs lured to camp is Tyler Bray, the former Tennessee quarterback with the big arm who left school early only to go undrafted. He should push Ricky Stanzi for the No. 3 job during summer workouts, and perhaps even push backup Chase Daniel.
Of course, the words “should” and “could” get thrown around a lot this time of year.
Reid knows there’s no way to judge success until the Chiefs get on the field.
“I think we are OK,” he said. “We’ve got to get the scheme down now, we’ve got to continue to work hard and gel as a football team and do those things. I’d addressed our team before the draft that we were going to bring an influx of new players in here for competition and to understand that it’s to make us better. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”
The rookies will be first on the field for the Chiefs, taking part in a three-day minicamp that starts May 10. The rest of the team will join them the following week for the start of organized team activities, although even that work is limited.
It won’t be until the Chiefs get to training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., in late July that they’ll put on pads and get a true sense of where they are in their rebuilding.
“I feel really good right now, but I think it’s an ongoing process,” Dorsey said. “I feel pretty good about going into camp. For the most part, I feel like the way we are going to camp, we are 95 percent there. This is kind of the way we are going to go to camp.”