AFC West: Nico Johnson

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted last year for the first time with John Dorsey as their general manager and Andy Reid as their head coach. This will be a much different draft for the Chiefs, who had four of the top 99 picks last year. They have just one of the top 86 this year.

But a look back can provide some idea of what the Chiefs can expect from this year’s draft.

 

The season behind: The Chiefs didn’t get much from this group when they were rookies. In fact, their rookie of the year was a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, cornerback Marcus Cooper. Fisher started 13 games at right tackle but his season wasn’t what could reasonably be expected from the first overall pick in the draft. His play was uneven at best, particularly earlier in the season. He struggled as a pass-blocker against stronger opponents and their power moves. He proved unreliable, missing three regular-season starts plus the playoff game with injuries ranging from shoulder to concussion to groin. The Chiefs were counting on productive playing time from Kelce and Commings before injuries cost them all of their rookie seasons. Kelce in the preseason developed a knee ailment that eventually required surgery. Commings broke his collarbone during the first practice of training camp. The Chiefs were hopeful Johnson could be a starter at inside linebacker, but a preseason injury set him back and he never made a serious challenge. Kush and Catapano were drafted as developmental players and that’s the role both settled into, though injuries forced the Chiefs to use Catapano at times and he showed some pass-rush ability. Wilson was a huge disappointment, even as a sixth-round pick. He was cut during the preseason and the Chiefs didn’t think enough of him to bring him back to their practice squad.

The seasons ahead: Fisher may be the only full-time player from this group again in 2014, but it’s reasonable to believe the Chiefs could still get some production from the others -- Wilson being the exception. The Chiefs are confident that despite his rocky debut season, Fisher will eventually become the player they envisioned when they drafted him. He will move over to left tackle after playing on the right side and should benefit greatly from an offseason in the Chiefs’ weight program. Commings could wind up as the starter at free safety if the Chiefs don’t draft a player to fill that position. Otherwise, the Chiefs will look for ways to get him on the field. He was going to challenge for playing time in their nickel defense last year before his injury. The Chiefs are eager to get Kelce involved in their passing game. He was very involved before his injury. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of spots to best use his ability to get down the field and beat coverage to make catches. Davis became more involved as last season went on and should get more playing time this year, assuming the leg he broke in the playoff game allows him to and his fumbling habit doesn’t reappear. Eventually, Davis could be the replacement for Jamaal Charles. At 227 pounds, he’s bigger and more powerful than Charles and he’s fast for a player his size. He probably won’t ever give the Chiefs what Charles delivered as a pass receiver last season. It speaks to what the Chiefs think of Johnson that one of their first moves in free agency was to sign veteran Joe Mays to be a starter at inside linebacker. Johnson may be a special-teamer for whatever remains of his Chiefs career. Catapano may never develop into a full-time player but his ability as a pass-rusher gives him a shot at a lesser role. Similarly, Kush may continue to be a backup, but watch what the Chiefs do with starting center Rodney Hudson, who is scheduled to become a free agent next year. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Chiefs, Kush could inherit the spot if he develops as the Chiefs hope.

Best pick: As expected for the first overall pick, Fisher should become this draft’s best player. Despite his struggles last season, he frequently showed the athletic ability a great offensive tackle needs. But Kelce should eventually become the best pick from a value standpoint. He could become the Chiefs’ best pass receiver at tight end since the traded Tony Gonzalez.

Worst pick: Since Wilson couldn’t hang around until the end of his rookie preseason, he has to qualify, for now. The others still have a chance to be productive players. But the situation doesn’t look good for Johnson, either. As an inside linebacker, he would be a part-time player, coming out of the game on passing downs. But the Chiefs evidently believe he’s not advanced enough to handle it yet.
Inside linebacker Joe Mays signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs this week, but the details of the contract make it evident Mays will need to play very well in 2014 in order to stick around in 2015.

Mays' contract is worth $6 million. His cap number is $2 million this year, a relatively team-friendly number for a starting inside linebacker who will probably come out of the lineup on passing downs.

But his cap number doubles to $4 million in 2015. Included is a clause that will make $1 million of his 2015 salary guaranteed if he's still with the Chiefs by April 15 of next year. The Chiefs can walk away from his contract before that date and it won't cost them a nickel.

Until then Mays, who began his career playing for Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, looks to be a starting inside linebacker alongside Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs also have Nico Johnson, a fourth-round draft pick last season. But the Chiefs obviously aren't comfortable with the idea of Nico Johnson starting. If they were, they wouldn't have signed Mays.

Mays had some options, including re-signing with the Houston Texans. He spent last season with Houston after three with the Denver Broncos and two with Reid and the Eagles.

"The only thing they told me is they're going to bring me in to compete,'' Mays said today. "I'll let everythng else play out, just come in there and do what I need to do. Hopefully I'll carve out a role for myself.''

Moving day for many Chiefs?

March, 11, 2014
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The free-agent signing period begins Tuesday, and as of now the Chiefs have yet to re-sign any of their significant free agents. The parade appears to be lining up at the exit door. Left tackle Branden Albert is at the front, as he reportedly has already agreed on a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster, offensive linemen Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz and linebacker Akeem Jordan could be right behind him.

The Chiefs have attempted to re-sign defensive end Tyson Jackson, and that could still happen. But the Chiefs didn't appear confident in that happening. They had arranged a free-agent meeting with defensive end Red Bryant before he signed last week with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Free safety Kendrick Lewis has been a longtime starter and is also a potential unrestricted free agent. But the Chiefs may be ready to move on from him.

The Chiefs have some money to spend in free agency and draft picks to use on potential replacements. In some cases they've already prepared for the eventuality of losing some of these free agents. They drafted tackle Eric Fisher in the first round last year knowing this day with Albert would probably come this year. They signed Weston Dressler of the Canadian Football League hoping he could be the next McCluster. Last year they drafted linebacker Nico Johnson and defensive back Sanders Commings, and they are possible replacements for Jordan and Lewis.

That doesn't mean this isn't an meaningful day for the Chiefs. With the exception of Jordan and Schwartz, who were signed to one-year, free-agent contracts last year, these players didn't join the Chiefs as stopgap players but as those they could build around. Albert and Jackson are former first-round draft picks. McCluster was drafted in the second round, Asamoah in the third, Lewis in the fifth.

More importantly, many should be heading into their prime seasons. Albert will turn 30 in November but plays a position where he could retain his skills for the life of the new contract he will sign. Jackson is 27; McCluster, Asamoah and Lewis are 25.

If they're all out the door at a single time, that's a hefty blow to the Chiefs. They made plenty of progress in the past year, going from two wins in 2012 to 11 victories and the playoffs in 2013. Continuing on that track will be difficult enough but perhaps impossible if they lose this entire group of players.

If the Chiefs fall back to the pack in 2014, they may look back on this day as a big reason why.

Chiefs need much more from rookie class

September, 27, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There’s not a Kansas City Chiefs player listed in the top 20 of this week’s installment of Mel Kiper’s NFL rookie rankings. Insider Let’s hope you weren’t disappointed or surprised by this. Who was he supposed to throw in there?

A proper judgment on this year’s draft class can’t be made for some time yet, but it’s a fact this year’s Chiefs group is off to a very slow start. The Chiefs were missing their second-round pick, having sent it to the San Francisco 49ers in return for quarterback Alex Smith.

Still, with the Chiefs holding the first overall pick and a choice at or near the top of every round from the third on, it was reasonable to expect them to get more than what they’ve received so far from their eight draft picks.

Maybe with the Chiefs at 3-0 we shouldn’t complain. But looking into the near future, it’s easy to see where they’re going to need help from players like Travis Kelce and Knile Davis. That doesn’t look likely to happen.

Here is a look at what the Chiefs have received so far from each of their eight draft picks:

First-round OT Eric Fisher. I’ll have a more detailed look at Fisher’s play in a Friday post, but it hasn’t been pretty. Say this for Fisher: At least he’s playing. He’s their starting right tackle and played on all but one offensive snap.

Third-round TE Travis Kelce. He looked during the offseason as if he was a major part of the Chiefs’ offensive plans. He hasn’t played a snap during the regular season other than on special teams because of soreness in his knee. Kelce Thursday referred to the injury as “a microscopic stress fracture in a bone in my knee. I’ve never dealt with this before so it was kind of all new to me. It’s been frustrating. I’m getting better slowly but surely. It’s feeling a lot better than what it was but I’m not quite there yet. I’ll definitely be back out there within the next couple of weeks." But he hasn’t practiced yet this week, so it appears unlikely he will be available for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium.

Third-round RB Knile Davis. He has played on 24 of the Chiefs’ 212 offensive snaps, or about 11 percent. He has 37 rushing yards and caught one pass but the Chiefs obviously are still uneasy about using him in a lot of situations. His signature play was his fumbled kickoff in the game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Fourth-round LB Nico Johnson. A high-ankle sprain he received during the preseason has set him back. Johnson has resumed full practice but has yet to dress for a regular-season game.

Fifth-round DB Sanders Commings. He broke his collarbone during the first practice at training camp and is on the injured-reserve list. He could return later in the season, but of what value is a rookie who hasn’t practiced for months?

Sixth-round C Eric Kush. It was obvious in the preseason that Kush, from tiny California University of Pennsylvania, needed more time to develop. Sure enough, he got in for the last snap of the game in the opener in Jacksonville but has been inactive for each of the past two games.

Sixth-round FB Braden Wilson. The former Kansas State player was released during the preseason.

Seventh-round DE Mike Catapano. In terms of playing time, he’s been the most productive of this year’s draft picks other than Fisher. Catapano played 31 snaps in Jacksonville, though he has played only on special teams since.

Tuesday's Chiefs practice report

September, 17, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Left tackle Branden Albert, who has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, returned to full practice duty, increasing the likelihood that he will be able to play Thursday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Among the other starters on the injury report, tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) did not practice, cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) was listed as a limited practice participant and defensive end Mike DeVito (neck) was listed as a full participant.

Among the other players on the injury report, tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was listed as a limited particpant while linebackers Nico Johnson (ankle), Dezman Moses (toe) and James-Michael Johnson (neck) were listed as full participants.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (quad) went through a full practice session and will play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs officially listed Charles on their injury report as probable for Sunday's game.

Nickelback Dunta Robinson again missed practice after being excused for personal reasons. He was listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was also listed as questionable. He was a limited practice participant.

The five other players on the injury report were full practice participants and are listed as probable for Sunday's game: offensive linemen Jon Asamoah (calf) and Donald Stephenson (shoulder), linebackers Nico Johnson (ankle) and Dezman Moses (toe) and safety Husain Abdullah (foot).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Jamaal Charles returned to practice today, but only on a limited basis. Charles, who has a bruised thigh, is still on track to play Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Arrowhead Stadium.

Charles
But tight end Travis Kelce didn't practice because of soreness in his knee. That raises doubts about his ability to be ready for the Cowboys game.

Nickel back Dunta Robinson was again absent from practice for personal reasons.

The other players on the Chiefs' injury report were listed as full practice participants: offensive linemen Jon Asamoah (calf) and Donald Stephenson (shoulder), linebackers Nico Johnson (ankle) and Dezman Moses (toe) and safety Husain Abdullah (foot).

Today's Chiefs practice report

September, 6, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs starting right guard Jon Asamoah (calf) practiced for the first time in almost two weeks on Friday, keeping alive the possibility he could play Sunday against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Asamoah was listed on the injury report as a limited practice participant and as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Otherwise, only rookie linebacker Nico Johnson (ankle) is listed as out for Sunday’s game. Tight end Travis Kelce (knee), safety Husain Abdullah (foot) and defensive lineman Allen Bailey (absent after the death of his father) are listed as questionable.

Tackles Eric Fisher (shoulder) and Donald Stephenson (shoulder), cornerback Sean Smith (neck), safety Quintin Demps (hamstring), and linebackers Dezman Moses (toe) and James-Michael Johnson (groin) were listed as probable.

Chiefs rookie update: Defense

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Nico Johnson Peter Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Chiefs' Nico Johnson was making a hefty impact before suffering an ankle injury.
Earlier I posted some thoughts on the progress of the Chiefs offensive rookies and where I thought they fit in as the regular season begins. Here, I talk about the five defensive rookies:

  • Nico Johnson, fourth round, inside linebacker. Johnson was playing well and appeared on track to become a starter at some point this season. He showed some nice instinct and the ability to shed blocks and make tackles in the running game. Then he suffered a high ankle sprain. He hasn’t played or practiced since. His shouldn’t be an extended absence but any practice time missed by a rookie is a lot of time. At this point, it’s reasonable to count on Johnson for little more than special-teams help for the first half of the season. Longer term, he should have a spot as the starter at the inside position next to Derrick Johnson.
  • Mike Catapano, defensive end, seventh round. Catapano was moved recently back to his more natural position as a defensive end. The Chiefs had played him at linebacker since drafting him.Catapano is undersized at 270 pounds so his main contributions as a rookie should come on special teams. But the Chiefs aren’t deep on the defensive line, so an injury could force him into the playing rotation. Catapano has showed some pass-rush skills. He was with the first team early this week as a pass-rusher in the nickel defense in place of Allen Bailey, who missed practice because of the death of his father.
  • Bradley McDougald, safety, undrafted. McDougald won his roster spot, beating out veteran Tysyn Hartman, with solid all-around play. Hartman may have been better against the run but McDougald was better in pass coverage. As the fifth safety, he won’t play on defense except in case of injuries ahead of him.McDougald’s roster spot will be in jeopardy when the Chiefs activate Sanders Commings off injured reserve. A fifth-round draft pick, Commings was playing a lot in the nickel defense during offseason practice. He broke his collarbone in the first practice at training camp and hasn’t played or practiced since. He was placed on IR Tuesday.
  • Josh Martin, undrafted, linebacker. Martin came to the Chiefs as the ultimate long shot. He played in college at an Ivy League school, Columbia, and plays a position inhabited in Kansas City by three Pro Bowl players. But Martin made an impact in training camp. He displayed nice instincts in the running game and pass-rush skills, as well. He showed enough of both the Chiefs decided to keep him on their active roster as a developmental player.Martin probably won’t play as a rookie unless it’s on special teams. But he’s already pulled the ultimate upset by making it this far.
  • Marcus Cooper, cornerback, waivers from San Francisco. Cooper was drafted by the 49ers this year in the seventh round but was released over the weekend. Cooper was mostly a bystander during his only practice so far with the Chiefs after arriving on Sunday night. But he will get a look to be the fourth cornerback. The Chiefs went through several candidates unsuccessfully for that fourth cornerback spot and their failure to find one was a big reason they claimed Cooper.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid needed each other.

A year ago, as the Chiefs were toiling through their summer preparations, this pairing seemed more than unlikely. It appeared implausible.

The Chiefs were embarking on the Romeo Crennel era. The franchise was focused on salvaging the Scott Pioli leadership by having one of his former New England colleagues take over the coach's headset on a full-time basis after he had guided the team following Todd Haley's dismissal in December 2011. There were no thoughts of Crennel being a temporary caretaker for one of the biggest coaching names in the game. Reid was entering his 14th season in Philadelphia.

But 2012 ended up being an awful year for the Chiefs and for Reid. Change was necessary for both.

When Reid was let go by the Eagles, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt acted swiftly, turning from Pioli and Crennel to Reid. It was a bold move from the Heartland, where the Chiefs usually stay out of the national spotlight.

Hiring Reid was bold. And while technically neither Reid nor his new team has accomplished anything just yet, the fit seems right. Reid is resplendent in red. The Chiefs’ players are energized by the top-notch coaching and energy Reid has brought.

“I don’t look to the past and we can’t look to the future yet; all we got is right now,” Reid said. “And the 'right now' is pretty good. … I really like where we are and what these guys are doing.”

While it is just August, the Chiefs look nothing like the 2-14 team they were in 2012. Most teams that earn the No. 1 overall draft pick look like it the following training camp. Instead, the Chiefs look like a complete team with few holes, one that is ready to make a big move.

“We don’t even talk about 2-14 anymore,” said safety Eric Berry, one of six Pro Bowl players from what was, despite the record, a talented 2012 outfit. “We are all focused on getting better and getting coached by Coach Reid and his staff. … We can’t wait to get out here every day to see how we can get better. Everybody feels that way. We’re all so happy right now.”

THREE HOT TOPICS

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAlex Smith's smooth transition at quarterback is just one reason behind the Chiefs' bright outlook.
1. The quarterback: Thus far, the transition to Alex Smith has been a success in Kansas City. Of course, we won’t find out anything tangible until we see if he can make a difference in the regular season. But so far, Smith has taken to Reid’s coaching and shown he is the leader of this team. He has been good in training camp, and he was excellent in the first preseason game. If Smith can be the smart, mistake-free player he was in his best San Francisco days, the Chiefs can be a real contender. This team has been screaming for solid quarterback play, and it may be about to get it.

“He’s a smart guy,” Reid said of his quarterback. “He gets it. He makes it easy. He doesn’t run out of gigabytes.”

2. Finding a No. 2 receiver: There aren’t a lot of issues with this roster, but finding a solid No. 2 receiver behind star Dwayne Bowe is a focal point of this camp. Free-agent pickup Donnie Avery will likely be the guy, and he has shown he can be a capable NFL player. He can get open. The team would like to see 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin finally develop. He has big ability but has failed to show the consistency to be a top-of-the rotation player. The Chiefs have a varied offense, so this will not be a huge problem, but it would be beneficial if Bowe had some legitimate help opposite of him.

3. Dontari Poe: If training camp is any indication, Poe has a chance to be among the breakout players in the NFL this season. The No. 11 overall pick of the 2012 draft has been terrific. He has taken to the new coaching. The light has come on. The super-athletic Poe is getting the playbook and has been dominant at times. Nose tackle sets the tone for the defense, and it seems Poe is up to the task. To his credit, Poe made strides late in his rookie season and seems to have carried it over to his second training camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Chiefs' roster is loaded. There are not a lot of holes. Sure, the Chiefs could use a deeper group of receivers, a deeper defensive line and a few odds and ends here and there. But in today’s NFL, that is not a deep list of concerns. Add a top coach like Reid, a capable quarterback like Smith and several fine free-agent additions to a roster that featured six Pro Bowl players, and there is a lot to like about this team. This is not your average club trying to rebound from 2-14.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

There isn’t much not to like here. The worst thing Kansas City has going for it is simply rebuilding from a 2-14 season. Just how many wins can a 2-14 team expect in the first year of a new regime? The Chiefs will be much better. But what does that mean? A 7-9 season in Kansas City would signify great progress. But if the Chiefs want to make a run at the playoffs, they likely will have to go 9-7 or better. A seven-win improvement is never an easy task in the NFL.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
    AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJamaal Charles' role in the offense does not figure to be diminished considering he touched the ball eight times and scored a TD on the Chiefs' first drive of the preseason.

  • The Chiefs like their offensive line. They think they have a lot of depth. Jeff Allen, Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson give the team a lot of options.
  • The Chiefs have no remorse over using the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on right tackle Eric Fisher. He is a natural talent who works hard and fits in with his teammates. He is a hard-hat player who just happened to be the top pick in the draft.
  • The coaching staff is pleased with the way star running back Jamaal Charles has adapted to the offense. He has embraced the chance to catch more balls out of the backfield. For anyone who thought Charles’ role would be diminished because of Reid’s arrival, just look at the New Orleans game last week. Charles touched the ball on eight of the 14 plays the Chiefs’ first-team offense was on the field.
  • Players love the scheme of new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. It is aggressive and player-friendly.
  • One of the strengths of this team going into camp was the defensive backfield. It continues to be. This is a deep, talented unit.
  • One young player to keep an eye is undrafted rookie receiver Rico Richardson. He is catching everything that comes his way. He's a long shot, but there could be room for him.
  • Reid is pleased with the addition of spread game analyst Brad Childress and consultant Chris Ault. They are focusing on the pistol offense and working with both the offense and defense in installing it.
  • The Chiefs’ special teams look good. The return game was fantastic against New Orleans.
  • Berry came on strong at the end of last season after missing virtually all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL, and he looks to be in top form this camp. Expect a brilliant season from this young star.
  • The team likes the work of fullback Anthony Sherman, who was acquired in a deal with Arizona for cornerback Javier Arenas. Sherman will be a part of the offense.
  • Fourth-round pick Nico Johnson continues to push Akeem Jordan at inside linebacker. The instinctive, bright Johnson has been a camp standout.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Nico Johnson knows the opportunity that is in front of him.

He also knows no one is going to hand him a starting job in the NFL. That’s why he has adopted this mantra: “I have to earn my keep.”

The Kansas City rookie inside linebacker used the phrase four times in a 10-minute interview this week.

“That’s what I’m here for, to show the team how I can help them,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to get anything for free … I know the opportunity I have. I know a lot of guys in my position don’t get that opportunity.”

Johnson is currently running behind Akeem Jordan for a starting job. But the Alabama rookie has impressed the Chiefs’ coaching staff as soon as the offseason session began. It wouldn’t be a shock at all if Johnson becomes a starter early in his career.

Johnson said he has been taking advantage of being around players like Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. The rookie said he literally learns something new from the veterans every day. Tuesday’s lesson was a hand-work session with Hali.

“I watch every move those guys make,” Johnson said. “Before the preseason game last week, I watched how they stretched and how they warmed up. Any detail I can get from them, I can.”

Johnson was known as a selfless leader at Alabama and his instincts and intelligence have impressed coaches and teammates. The game is clearly not too big for the back-to-back national champion.

Johnson isn’t looking just to contribute as a rookie. He wants to become a complete player.

“At Alabama, I was known just as a run-stopper,” Johnson said. “I want to show I can play in pass coverage as well. I’m learning that from [Derrick Johnson]. … I’m just doing everything I can to earn my keep.”
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One move each AFC West team needed to make but might regret:

Denver: Letting Elvis Dumervil leave. The Dumervil fiasco was the only real bummer for Denver in the offseason. The Broncos had a tremendous free agency and appear to have added some nice pieces in the draft, but the Dumervil departure looms as a potential issue. We all know the backstory. Denver and Dumervil agreed to a restructured contract, but there was a missed deadline. He ended up in Baltimore. Dumervil was a key complement to star pass-rusher Von Miller. Denver thinks it can give Miller the necessary pass-rush help by committee, led by former Charger Shaun Phillips. But if Phillips and crew can’t replicate Dumervil’s impact, it will hurt the Broncos.

Kansas City: Not signing Desmond Bishop. The Chiefs are another team that did well in the offseason. They added a strong coach in Andy Reid and a strong general manager in John Dorsey and upgraded at quarterback with the addition of Alex Smith. But there is potential for the team to regret the Bishop miss. He chose Minnesota over Kansas City last month after being cut by the Packers. Bishop had a relationship with Dorsey from their Green Bay days, and the Chiefs could have used Bishop’s veteran presence as a 3-4 inside linebacker. The Chiefs are preparing to use fourth-round pick Nico Johnson as a starter. He looked good in the offseason, but he simply can’t match Bishop’s experience. I don’t foresee Johnson being a problem for the Chiefs, but if he is not ready, Kansas City may wish it made a bigger push for Bishop.

Oakland: Not adding a reliable pass-rusher. Oakland was challenged this offseason. It was strapped by salary-cap issues again. It had to cut several players and saw a lot of talented free agents leave. General manager Reggie McKenzie did his best to replenish the roster. Still, there are holes, starting at pass-rusher. The Raiders were badly lacking in that area last year, and no reliable help was added. Oakland hopes an improved secondary and creative schemes will generate a pass-rush burst. Again, Oakland had restrictions in free agency, but it might regret not taking a pass-rusher in the first round of the draft.

San Diego: Not adding a top left tackle. Like Oakland at pass-rusher, San Diego didn’t have a lot of options. It didn’t have a lot of cap room to play with, and the rookie pool at left tackle dried up quickly in the draft. The top three left tackle prospects went in the first four picks of the draft. So San Diego didn’t really have a lot of chances to grab a left tackle. However, it is a premium position, and sometimes you have to do what it takes to fill a problem at a premium position. San Diego finally settled on Max Starks at left tackle. He is decent but not great. He is a short-term answer. The Chargers still have no idea whom their left tackle of the future will be. If Starks fails or gets hurt, it will have a major effect on quarterback Philip Rivers. If that happens, we will all be pointing to San Diego’s inability to get a clear-cut answer at left tackle.
Desmond Bishop will not be a Kansas City Chief. That is not crippling news for the Chiefs.

The fact that Bishop chose the Minnesota Vikings (on a one-year deal) over Kansas City is basically a no harm, no foul result in Kansas City. He visited the Chiefs late last week.

Kansas City’s interest in the former Packers inside linebacker made sense. New Kansas City general manager John Dorsey was in Green Bay with Bishop. One of the few spots where the Chiefs don’t have a reliable veteran starter is at an inside linebacker spot. So, Bishop was worth considering.

But the Chiefs should be fine. The team took Alabama’s Nico Johnson in the fourth round and he had a strong offseason. He is expected to beat out veteran Akeem Jordan. Johnson is a natural leader, who is instinctive and who has a chance to quickly become a productive NFL starter.

Again, the Chiefs had to consider Bishop, but the fact that he will not come to Kansas City is not a major blow, either.
Our AFC West positional rankings continue with a look at a strong group of linebackers:

1. Von Miller, Denver: A complete player. One of the top defensive players in the NFL.

2. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: Still a strong pass-rush presence.

3. Justin Houston, Kansas City: A dynamic player. His star is rising.

4. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: Steady, underrated tackles machine.

5. Donald Butler, San Diego: He is flashing big-time skills. The Chargers need to re-sign him.

6. Dwight Freeney, San Diego: The Chargers hope he can still be a sack master.

7. Wesley Woodyard, Denver: He had a tremendous 2012 season. Good overall player.

8. Jarret Johnson, San Diego: Hard-nosed player who fits the defense well.

9. Nick Roach, Oakland: Raiders are thrilled about this free-agent acquisition. Defense could begin with him.

10. Manti Te'o, San Diego: Chargers expect instant production from this instinctive rookie.

11. Shaun Phillips, Denver: The Broncos think he can still help as a pass-rusher.

12. Kevin Burnett, Oakland: Smart player who helps the Raiders.

13. Kaluka Maiava, Oakland: He might not start, but will help.

14. D.J. Smith, San Diego: Former Green Bay player could be a steal for the Chargers.

15. Miles Burris, Oakland: Even if he doesn’t start, he will find a way to help.

16. Danny Trevathan, Denver: This kid looks like he could be a starter for years to come.

17. Sio Moore, Oakland: I could see the 2013 third-round pick in the top 10 next year.

18. Nate Irving, Denver: He gets first crack in the middle for the Broncos.

19. Nico Johnson, Kansas City: The Chiefs like the fourth-rounder -- and he could start.

20. Stewart Bradley, Denver: He’s there if Irving fails.

21. Larry English, San Diego: Clock is ticking for the 2009 first-round pick.

22. Akeem Jordan, Kansas City: Could be insurance if Nico Johnson isn’t ready.

23. Steve Johnson, Denver: At the very least, he’s a solid special-teamer.

Second-year San Diego outside linebacker Melvin Ingram would have been ranked in the top eight to 10 had he not suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in May.
Monday on the blog, we asked whether Green Bay connections within the division could drum up interest in linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Tuesday, we received a quick answer. The NFL Network is reporting Bishop, who was cut by the Packers on Monday, will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday and Thursday. He is visiting Minnesota on Tuesday.

Bishop
Bishop
Bishop was in Green Bay with new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey. Clearly, Dorsey thinks Bishop can help his team, which has been busy reloading all offseason. Many NFL observers think the Chiefs have had one of the very best offseasons in the NFL. Adding Bishop would only make it stronger.

He is the best linebacker available. He is coming off a major hamstring injury, but he is expected to be ready for the season.

Bishop, a 3-4 inside linebacker, is a strong fit for the Chiefs. One of the few question marks on Kansas City's defense is at inside linebacker.

The Chiefs think they have their answer in fourth-round pick Nico Johnson. He looked good this offseason. But you can’t blame the Chiefs if they would rather have an established player such as Bishop start instead of a fourth-round pick. If Bishop is signed, it doesn't affect Johnson’s long-term potential.

If Bishop goes elsewhere, Johnson will simply slide in and start.

Investigating a situation like this is what good front offices do. In a short time, Dorsey has shown he is running a strong front office.

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