Kansas City Chiefs: Robert James

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Today’s look is at linebacker, where the Kansas City Chiefs are in good shape with three Pro Bowl players.

Roster (12): Tamba Hali, Alonzo Highsmith, Justin Houston, Robert James, Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson, Nico Johnson, Akeem Jordan, Josh Martin, Dezman Moses, Ridge Wilson, Frank Zombo.

Potential 2014 free agents: James, Jordan and Zombo.

The position: Hali, Houston and Derrick Johnson went to the Pro Bowl as legitimate choices. On the outside, Hali and Houston are top pass-rushers and Houston in particular has a strong all-around game. Johnson doesn’t get as much attention because he doesn’t make a lot of game-changing types of plays but from down to down he is about as good as they come on the inside. Zombo started five games as a replacement on the outside when Houston or Hali were out with injuries and did an adequate job. Age is becoming the biggest enemy here. Johnson will turn 32 in November and Hali 31 in the same month. Neither showed signs of a decline in 2013. Jordan did a nice job on running downs as a free-agent acquisition last year and was one of the Chiefs’ better special-teams players. The Chiefs drafted Nico Johnson in the fourth round last year to eventually start at the inside spot next to Johnson. He played little as a rookie but could wind up as the starter next season if the Chiefs don’t re-sign Jordan. The Chiefs liked Martin, an undrafted rookie last season, as a developmental prospect.

The Chiefs should keep: Hali, Houston, Derrick Johnson, Nico Johnson, Jordan, Martin and Zombo.

The Chiefs should dump: Highsmith, James, James-Michael Johnson, Moses and Wilson.

Free agency/draft priority: When it comes to the draft, the Chiefs need to have their eye on players who could eventually replace Johnson and Hali, though this certainly could wait another year. Depth is adequate but the Chiefs will need to be busy in free agency if they don’t re-sign Jordan and Zombo. Depending on Nico Johnson’s progress, they might need a starting inside linebacker if Jordan doesn’t return.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to have 16 free agents when the signing period begins, though some will be re-signed before then. Here is a list of the 16 listed by position group:

Quarterback: none.

Running back: none.

Wide receiver: Dexter McCluster, Kyle Williams.

Tight end: Richard Gordon.

Offensive line: Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, Ricky Henry, Geoff Schwartz.

Defensive line: Tyson Jackson, Jerrell Powe.

Linebacker: Robert James, Akeem Jordan, Frank Zombo.

Defensive back: Husain Abdullah, Quintin Demps, Kendrick Lewis.

Punter/Kicker: none.

Long-snapper: Thomas Gafford.

Gordon and Henry are scheduled to become restricted free agents. I’m not clear on whether Powe and James would be exclusive rights or restricted free agents, though neither has a contract for 2014.

Everyone else is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

I’ll be starting to dig into this with you beginning in the next few days. I’ll have some advice for Andy Reid and John Dorsey as to what they should be doing with this list as well as the players who are under contract for 2014. I’ve already started on what they should do with quarterback Alex Smith.

For now, a couple of quick thoughts on this free-agent list:
  • Ideally, the Chiefs would keep Albert, their starting left tackle. But his contract demands may be out of their price range. Asamoah and Schwartz split time as the starting right guard. The Chiefs will need to keep at least one of them and Schwartz’s versatility was valuable last season.
  • Abdullah, Demps and Lewis are among their top four safeties. But the Chiefs will have Sanders Commings, a rookie, coming back from injuries next year. The Chiefs like him a lot.

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