AFC West: Jeff Linkenbach

Free-agency review: Chiefs

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
Most significant signing: Defensive end Vance Walker will fill the starting spot that was left when Tyson Jackson departed for the Atlanta Falcons. Walker will be expected to be a strong run defender, as Jackson was last season. The Chiefs are also hopeful Walker can provide more punch as a pass-rusher than Jackson did. Walker had three sacks for the Oakland Raiders last season, his first in the NFL as a full-time starter.

Most significant loss: Dexter McCluster developed into one of the NFL's top threats as a punt returner last season. He had a pair of touchdowns, including one against the New York Giants that has to be seen to be believed. The Chiefs will find that kind of ability difficult to replace. McCluster had less of an impact on offense as the slot receiver but was still third on the Chiefs with 53 receptions.

Biggest surprise: Emmanuel Sanders would have gone a long way toward solving the Chiefs' shortcomings at wide receiver. They lacked a consistent threat at the position last year. They could have used him in a variety of receiving roles, including as a slot receiver. The Chiefs believed they had an agreement with Sanders on a contract, but he didn't sign. Making matters worse, the Chiefs lost Sanders to their division rival, the Denver Broncos, and will have to play against him twice next season.

What’s next? Including the signings of Walker, linebacker Joe Mays and offensive lineman Jeffrey Linkenbach, the Chiefs have taken care of their most obvious needs. The major exception is wide receiver. The passing game won't work consistently next season without an upgrade at the position. If there's a receiver the Chiefs like who's available when they make the 23rd pick of the draft, it would be a mistake for them to pass on him.
It was a hectic week for the Kansas City Chiefs this week as the free-agent signing period began. They lost five players who were regulars at some point last year (wide receiver Dexter McCluster, defensive end Tyson Jackson and offensive linemen Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz) but signed three players from other teams (linebacker Joe Mays, defensive lineman Vance Walker and offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach) and re-signed two of their own free agents, reserve linebacker Frank Zombo and backup safety Husain Abdullah.

Now, in this week's Twitter mailbag, we're looking ahead, in some cases toward 2015.
John Dorsey and Andy Reid appreciate versatility in offensive linemen maybe more than most general managers and coaches. That best explains why one of their first moves in free agency for the Kansas City Chiefs was to sign veteran Jeff Linkenbach.

Linkenbach has played everywhere on the offensive line except center. That versatility was attractive to the Chiefs as they remodel their offensive line after losing Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah in free agency.

The Chiefs have a spot open in their starting lineup at right guard. Linkenbach could eventually fill it. A better guess is the Chiefs will find that starter through the draft, free agency or even on their own roster while Linkenbach becomes the first reserve off the bench at both tackle and guard.

The Chiefs didn't have any competition this early in the free agency signing period for Linkenbach, who played the past four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. That is not to say a market wouldn't have eventually developed for him. But the fact the Chiefs were in on him alone this early suggests they wanted a lineman with the ability to play many different positions.

"I think there's always interest for a guy who has as much versatility as I have," Linkenbach said Thursday.

"It's where I get the most reps during the week that I feel the most comfortable during that week. I've played all four guard and tackle positions. I feel comfortable pretty much everywhere. In college, I was a tackle. But the past couple of years I've played more guard."

Linkenbach's signing is similar to last year's free-agent addition of Schwartz, another versatile offensive lineman. Linkenbach also signed a one-year contract, his worth $900,000. Of that, $750,000 is in base salary, $150,000 in workout bonus.

His guarantee is $250,000, which means the Chiefs could release him at little cost later.