Key decisions await new Kansas City leadership

February, 6, 2009
2/06/09
2:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have replaced general manager Carl Peterson and head coach Herm Edwards with Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, respectively, there is much work to be done.

There are some difficult decisions that need to be made in Kansas City and it all starts with tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has made it clear that he wants to stay with the team to finish his career.

But he needs to be convinced that the Chiefs can become a contender soon, which may be difficult to do and he may ask to be traded again. The Chiefs don't have to deal him, and they could force him to live by the final two years of his contract if it gets to that point. But Gonzalez is a legend in Kansas City and dealing him will be difficult. The Chiefs need to convince Gonzalez they are going to win soon and he can be a big part of it.

Another decision will be what to do with running back Larry Johnson. That appears to be a much easier decision. The team is expected to try to trade Johnson in the coming weeks. But because of his age and his off-field baggage, the Chiefs likely won't get much for him, so it could come down to him being released. Either way, it doesn't look like Johnson will be in Kansas City next season.

Kansas City also has to decide what to do at quarterback. The Chiefs, who have the third overall pick in the draft, could go with a quarterback such as Georgia's Matt Stafford or Southern California's Mark Sanchez or the team could strike a deal for New England's Matt Cassel. That is a real possibility considering Pioli's ties to the Patriots. But then there's Tyler Thigpen, who did a decent job and who has a supporter in Gonzalez. Gonzalez thinks the Chiefs should fully concentrate on defense and give Thigpen another year to develop.

Kansas City has a load of salary-cap room and it will be able to do a lot in the offseason. Defense needs to be the clear area of concentration. But the idea of getting a quarterback to start the Pioli and Haley era could be too enticing for them to pass up.

Indeed, the Chiefs are going to have to spend the next few weeks and months deciding on several key areas as they try to begin this new era the right way.

Todd Haley speaks about taking over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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