The Kansas City Chiefs won't even begin offseason practice for another couple of months but many of their fans have the feeling they're already playing for second place in the AFC West.
They're ready to concede another AFC West championship to the Denver Broncos after a busy first week in free agency, which saw the Broncos sign headline players such as pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Chiefs, meanwhile, lost five players who were regulars last season and added three others with far less star power than those signed by the Broncos.
A considerable gap already existed between the Broncos and Chiefs when last season ended. It's difficult to see how that gap has done anything but expand since then.
When next season begins, the Chiefs might indeed be playing for a second straight wild-card berth. But it's hard to make that declaration now, with the starting line so far off. More moves will be made in free agency and then there's the draft in May.
Let's see where the Chiefs and Broncos are in early September when the season begins. That certainly seems like something the Chiefs and general manager John Dorsey are willing to do.
"Not really,'' Dorsey said Tuesday when asked if he felt pressure to keep up with Denver's moves in free agency. “Not really at all. It's really just midway through the second week of free agency. There are still a lot of players out there. We're going to find some players to help us move forward.
“I'm going to do it the Chiefs' way and the Chiefs' way as we said all along is that we're going to be selective in free agency (and) we're going to build a foundation through the draft.''
Those words might not soothe many Chiefs fans, but over the long term that's the proper way to build a team. The Broncos, with aging quarterback Peyton Manning, are built to win now.
The Chiefs aren't as close to winning a Super Bowl title. Counting the playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Chiefs lost six of their final eight games last season. They've got some work to do, more than they could have done by opening Clark Hunt's checkbook to compete with the Broncos.
Their best course of action is to stick to the plan and not veer off course based on what a division rival might be doing.
That plan has yielded two probable starters in defensive lineman Vance Walker and linebacker Joe Mays and a possible starter in offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach. Losing Sanders to the Broncos -- the Chiefs thought they had agreed on a contract with him only to learn he would sign with Denver instead -- was a setback. Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have to figure a way to overcome that one.
If they don't, it may be a long 2014 season for the Chiefs. That determination, though, can't be made in March. It has to wait for the fall.