Chiefs mailbag: Focus on potential long-term deals

The weekend mailbag features discussions on contract extensions, injury updates and more with training camp kicking off in less than a week.

Indeed, this is the literal million-dollar question following the release of cornerback Brandon Flowers on June 13. More than a month later, the Chiefs currently have $9.46 million in salary cap space, according to NFLPA records.

The obvious targets for extensions are quarterback Alex Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston, both of whom enter the final year of their respective contracts.

When it comes to the latter, Houston is expected for training camp despite being unhappy over his contract situation. The two-time Pro Bowl selection previously didn’t report for voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Meanwhile in a perfect world, the Chiefs lock up two deals, perhaps even during training camp before the start of the regular season.

Utopia, however, doesn’t exist when it comes to business in the NFL.

Still, the Chiefs clearly have incentive to secure Smith or Houston with a new deal in order to have flexibility with the franchise tag.

Interviewed recently by telephone on a separate matter, NFL contracts and salary cap expert Joel Corry of CBS Sports and The National Football Post compared that scenario to what the Chiefs experienced during the 2013 offseason.

“They got to get somebody done before the franchise designation ends next year,” Corry told me. “They want to be in the same situation that they were with (left tackle Branden) Albert and (wide receiver Dwayne) Bowe. They got Bowe done, so they didn’t have to make a choice on the franchise tag. His was done right before the franchise tag designation period was over, so they franchised Albert.”

Economics could prove a factor in the team’s decision should it come down to designating a franchise player. The value of the franchise tag in 2014 for quarterbacks cost $16.9 million, while linebackers cost $11.4 million.

There are arguments for both players. ChiefsSpin.com’s own Matt Derrick gave his analysis on Smith, while contributing writer Stephen Brown offered a take on Houston.

Of course, “patience” isn’t what most want to hear during any negotiation process. But that word applies as it did in March 2013 leading to the last-minute movements on Bowe and Albert. Also keep in mind the Chiefs capped off that busy day by signing punter Dustin Colquitt to an extension.

Barring extensions before the start of the regular season, the scenario of a last-minute deal could repeat with Smith and Houston.

The players suffering ailments during the three-day minicamp on June 17-19 are:

• Cornerback Sean Smith missed the entire minicamp with an illness.
• Tight end Sean McGrath dealt with a knee injury on Day Two and didn’t finish practice. He returned to the practice field for the final day of minicamp, so there’s no concern.
• Right tackle Donald Stephenson suffered a calf injury on Day Two and wasn’t present on the practice field for the final day of minicamp.
• Rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines left Day Two’s practice with an ankle injury.
• Rookie linebacker Ben Johnson, who dealt with a hamstring injury during OTAs, wasn’t present on the practice field on the final day of minicamp.
• Running back Joe McKnight was held out of the final day of minicamp with a swollen knee.

The more than a month break from the end of minicamp to training camp allowed the above players to heal.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Weston Dressler suffered a hamstring injury on Day Nine of OTAs. He missed the final day of OTAs and first day of minicamp, but returned on a limited basis for the last two days of minicamp.

Dressler’s hamstring is healed and he’s “feeling great” heading into training camp, according to a source.

Being limited during minicamp also applied to rookie cornerback David Van Dyke, who missed seven days of OTAs with a hamstring injury.

Tight end Travis Kelce (knee) and wide receiver Kyle Williams (knee) are on track for training camp. The players didn’t participate in OTA practices, but returned to the field on a limited basis for individual position drills.

Left tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) should be ready for training camp after being limited to individual position drills throughout OTAs and minicamp.

This subject was addressed in a roundtable training camp primer. The area of interest for me via a block quote from that article:

How the Chiefs ultimately list running back De’Anthony Thomas remains to be seen. Still, that scenario fascinates because he affects four battle fronts: No. 3 running back, slot wide receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner.

Thomas’ presence immediately put players hoping to carve a niche at those positions before the draft on notice. The list includes running back Joe McKnight and wide receiver Weston Dressler, both of whom can return punts or kickoffs.

It’s not often a single player can impact so many areas on the roster, but Thomas clearly does.

The decision to not address the position during May’s NFL Draft likely surrounded the coaching staff’s comfort level with the progression of the wide receiving corps.

Some of coach Andy Reid’s former players in Philadelphia, including one of Reid’s former scouts, have told me in interviews that Reid’s version of the West Coast is complex.

Given that characterization, it’s reasonable to say the 2013 season was part of the learning process, a point reinforced by former Eagles wide receiver Todd Pinkston in a pre-draft article.

“It took me a year and a half to process the whole terminology of the West Coast offense,” Pinkston said. “Once they get that down pat, going into their second season I think everything will improve from there because you want to learn a little bit each year.”

The Chiefs added pieces to last season’s group and enter training camp with 13 wide receivers: Deon Anthony, Donnie Avery, Dwayne Bowe, Weston Dressler, Frankie Hammond, Mark Harrison, Junior Hemingway, Jerrell Jackson, A.J. Jenkins, Darryl Surgent, Fred Williams, Kyle Williams and Albert Wilson

Toss in fourth-round pick De’Anthony Thomas, who is currently listed as a running back, and there are options, including newcomers Dressler, Wilson and Surgent, with the latter two being undrafted free agents.

In the meantime, keep in mind Reid’s passing offense isn’t designed for a dominant wide receiver.

The passes are spread around and only three wide receivers since Reid became a head coach in 1999 have produced 1,000-yard receiving seasons: Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and DeSean Jackson (2009-10).

The kicker competition between veteran Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos is real, no doubt.

But I’ll stick to my guns with an earlier reply to virtually the identical question from another follower; put me down at 50-50 for this battle.

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Have a Chiefs-related question? Tweet them to @HerbieTeope. But note only my Twitter followers will get questions featured here.

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