NFL Nation: 2014 NFL MVP Replacements

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

McCoy
McCoy
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two legitimate candidates as their MVP.

You can’t go wrong with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy or linebacker Lavonte David. Both are among the best players in the league at their positions.

But I can only pick one MVP here, and I’m going with McCoy. My logic is simple. Losing David to injury, or for any other reason, wouldn’t be good -- but the Bucs could plug in another linebacker and at least get by.

The same can’t be said about McCoy. If the Bucs were to lose him, it would be devastating. The drop-off from McCoy to his backups is so great that the Bucs opted not to rotate McCoy last season. He played about 90 percent of the defensive snaps, and turned in a Pro Bowl season.

McCoy is a do-it-all defensive tackle. He plays the run well and he rushes the passer, leading the Bucs with nine sacks last season. After dealing with injuries in the first two years of his career, McCoy has been healthy the past two seasons.

When healthy, McCoy has shown he can be a dominant player. David also is dominant. But good defensive play starts up front, and that’s why McCoy is the cornerstone of Tampa Bay’s defense.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Dansby
The clear-cut MVP this season was linebacker Karlos Dansby, and the possibility of him leaving the Cardinals this offseason is quite good. He is a free agent, and Dansby wants more than the $2.25 million he made in 2013, but at 32, whether he’s worth that to Arizona will determine if he returns.

If Dansby is not back next season, how Arizona fills that inside linebacker position next to Daryl Washington will be telling. The Cardinals drafted inside backer Kevin Minter, in 2013 but with the rejuvenation of Dansby, Minter spent the season watching the defense and playing special teams. After a year learning defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ system, one would expect Minter to be ready. He’s a “thumper” according to coach Bruce Arians, and would be a powerful complement to Washington’s speed.

But it’s not that easy. Minter would have to compete with Jasper Brinkley, who’s under contract for through 2014. Brinkley got the nod at starting inside linebacker when Washington was suspended for four games to start the season. But he’s not the future for Arizona. And if a weird twist of fate occurs this offseason and Arizona chooses not to pay Washington his $10 million roster bonus -- and Dansby doesn’t return -- the Cardinals would be without their starting inside backers. Then Arizona's priorities could shift in free agency and the draft.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Henne
He doesn’t put up big numbers and has his limitations, but quarterback Chad Henne is the MVP of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Henne started 13 games this past season and threw for 3,421 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, although he had nine TD passes and five interceptions in the final five games. Henne obviously didn’t tear it up, but he did bring stability to the offense and rarely put the team in a bad position.

He also wasn’t exactly working with elite weapons, either. He lost his best receiver (Justin Blackmon) to an indefinite suspension, didn’t get much from tight end Marcedes Lewis until the last month, and then lost his second-best receiver (Cecil Shorts) for the final three weeks because of an injury.

Henne’s contract expires in March, but the Jaguars want him back and Henne said he’d like to return. It’s critical that he does, because Blaine Gabbert has not developed into the franchise quarterback the team hoped he would be after they traded up to select him with the No. 10 overall pick in 2011. Gabbert won the starting job in training camp, but was miserable in his three starts, throwing seven interceptions and just one touchdown pass.

The Jaguars are almost certainly going to draft a quarterback in May, and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley would like to have someone experienced with the offense to mentor the young QB and be the starter if needed. Ideally, that would be Henne, who is a better fit for that role than Gabbert.

That depends on whether the Jaguars can work out an extension for Henne before he becomes a free agent, or convince him to return after he has tested the market. If not, then the Jaguars will start Gabbert, a free agent, or a rookie in 2014. That is not the kind of continuity the franchise needs.

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MVP replacements: Denver Broncos 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
PM ET
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Decker
No question the Denver Broncos' MVP is quarterback Peyton Manning, who has said he has every intention of playing in 2014. He will have a physical in the coming weeks, and if the doctors give Manning the thumbs up -- and the team expects them to -- Manning will play in ’14 with the possibility of 2015 on the table.

They Broncos have taken quarterbacks in the past two drafts -- Brock Osweiler in 2012 and Zac Dysert in 2013. They like Osweiler’s progress at Manning’s side. He has shown confidence when he’s been asked to run the offense, and has upper-tier arm strength. The Broncos believe he is a starter in waiting, but John Elway is also from the Ron Wolf school when it comes to quarterbacks and the draft -- he always believes you should think about taking one, no matter what your depth chart looks like.

But the Broncos do have some major questions to answer in free agency this year. Wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno are two of their regulars set for unrestricted free agency. Moreno tore an ACL in 2011 and had stem cell treatment on the knee before the 2013 season, so there is some concern there, and Decker might not find the payday he wants in Denver given Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas will both be scheduled as unrestricted free agents. So, with limited salary cap space, the Broncos will have to look at Decker and decide how much of a commitment they want to make at the position with the Thomases on deck.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Brees
Quarterback Drew Brees is the clear MVP of the New Orleans Saints -- and they would clearly be in a world of hurt if he went down with an injury. But the Saints have never invested heavily in a backup for Brees. And it’s still a tad early to use a high draft pick on a potential future replacement since Brees, 35, should have at least three or four good years left -- if not more.

Last season, the Saints’ backup was veteran journeyman Luke McCown, who is now a free agent. The Saints could certainly choose to re-sign McCown or someone like him. But they also have second-year backup Ryan Griffin, whom they signed as an undrafted free agent from nearby Tulane last year. The Saints are high on Griffin’s potential -- enough that they promoted him to the active roster last season to keep him from signing with another team.

It’s too early to predict whether Griffin has the potential to be Brees’ eventual successor. But the 6-foot-5, 206-pounder could certainly follow the career path of former Saints developmental project Chase Daniel, who earned the backup job in New Orleans for three years before leaving for the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

There is always a chance the Saints could fall in love with a late-round draft prospect to compete with Griffin for that developmental role. But it’s hard to imagine them using a significant pick on one.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Wilson
The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl because of several MVP candidates that include running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, and free safety Earl Thomas.

But if we’re talking about the real MVP, the player they can least afford to lose, the landslide winner is quarterback Russell Wilson.

You can make a valid argument that Seattle would have made in to the Super Bowl without either Sherman or Thomas, simply because of the extraordinary depth in the secondary.

Lynch also is a major component to the team’s success, rushing for more than 1,200 yards for the third consecutive season. This team’s offense is built around his power running.

Robert Turbin, however, is a quality backup and Christine Michael, the team’s top draft pick last April, is a talented player the Seahawks see as their long-range future in the backfield.

But this team would not be in the Super Bowl without Wilson. Not even close.

Tarvaris Jackson, who was the starter two years ago, is an experienced backup quarterback who knows the system well. But he can’t match Wilson’s ability to scramble and make positive plays with his legs. More importantly, Jackson doesn’t possess the intangible qualities Wilson brings as a team leader.

Truthfully, few teams in the NFL could lose the starting quarterback and continue to play at the same level. And the Seahawks’ top draft needs aren’t at quarterback. The offensive line and possibly a big wide receiver are what the team needs now.

But Seattle is not a Super Bowl team without a healthy Russell Wilson.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Antonio Brown's teammates voted him Steelers MVP for the second time since 2013 after he authored the greatest season by a wide receiver in franchise history.

But let’s be honest here: Ben Roethlisberger is the player the Steelers can least afford to lose, and it’s not even close.

Roethlisberger
That’s not a knock on Brown as much as it a nod to how important the quarterback position is in the pass-centric NFL.

Roethlisberger is locked up for two more seasons, and team president Art Rooney II has said the Steelers will sign their franchise quarterback to a new contract at some point -- one that will allow him to play his entire career in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers won’t look toward the NFL draft or free agency to add Roethlisberger injury insurance, and it’s not because the 10th-year veteran played every snap in 2013.

They took care of Big Ben fallback plans last year when they signed Bruce Gradkowski, a veteran but one who is younger than previous backups Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, and selected Oklahoma’s Landry Jones in the fourth round of the draft.

Drafting a wide receiver early, perhaps even with the 15th overall pick, makes sense for myriad reasons.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Luck
You would think the quarterback with the first name Peyton and last name Manning was still taking snaps under center for the Indianapolis Colts the past two seasons.

Just as Manning did at different times during his 14 seasons with the Colts, Andrew Luck has made them winners despite obvious holes on the offensive line and a flawed defense.

That’s why Luck is the clear-cut team MVP.

Luck isn’t a product of the system. Green Bay was able to plug Matt Flynn in at quarterback in Aaron Rodgers' absence. Colts coach Chuck Pagano is a defensive-minded coach. Luck has been able to mask a number of their problems with his natural abilities. The Colts found out what it’s like not to have a backup plan when Manning missed the 2011 season. That is why Luck is wearing an Indianapolis’ jersey today.

Luck’s backup, Matt Hasselbeck, will be 39 years old next season and plans to retire at the end of the 2014 season.

Chandler Harnish has spent the past two seasons on the practice squad, but he’s done little in that span to prove he’s ready to take the necessary step to be Luck’s backup. Harnish only completed 47 percent of his pass attempts in the preseason last year.

The Colts can draft a quarterback in the middle or late rounds to be third on the depth chart in an attempt to make him Luck’s backup once Hasselbeck retires.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

McCoy
You could make a case that Nick Foles, not LeSean McCoy, was really the Eagles’ most valuable player in 2013. Through eight games, McCoy led the NFL with 733 rushing yards, while the Eagles’ record was just 3-5. In the second half, with Foles starting all eight games, the Eagles’ record was 7-1.

It would be a reasonable argument, but that’s all it would be. Foles might prove to be the more important player over the long term – he’s a quarterback, after all – but McCoy was the Eagles’ MVP in 2013.

Fortunately for the Eagles, they have the 25-year-old McCoy under contract through 2017. So unless he is injured or abducted by aliens, he figures to have four more prime seasons in an Eagles uniform.

If something were to happen to McCoy, the Eagles would need to be in better position to replace him than they were in 2013.

Going into the season, Bryce Brown was considered a promising backup running back. Brown had two remarkable games in relief of McCoy in 2012, rushing for 178 and 169 yards. Based on that, it was expected that Chip Kelly would use him to change pace and to keep McCoy from being overworked.

But Brown never did emerge as that kind of weapon. He broke a 65-yard touchdown run late in a blowout win over Chicago in December, but was otherwise pretty quiet all season.

Chris Polk, meanwhile, had only 11 carries all season.

So it wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles drafted a running back in the second or third round this May. That has been their pattern, drafting Duce Staley while Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner were still going strong, Brian Westbrook during Staley’s prime and McCoy while Westbrook was still productive.

Kelly’s offense and the Eagles’ excellent offensive line could make a back like Brown or Polk serviceable for a game or two. But a true replacement for McCoy is not on the Eagles’ roster right now.

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MVP replacements: New York Jets 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
PM ET
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Wilkerson
Barring injury, the Jets don't have to worry about losing Muhammad Wilkerson anytime soon. He has one year remaining on his rookie contract, plus a fifth-year option the team is likely to exercise. In other words, they can control him through 2015. Good thing for the Jets, because Wilkerson is the best defensive player on a defensive-oriented team.

The Jets have picked a first-round defensive lineman in each of the last three drafts, so there's virtually no chance they will do it again. Still, you have to wonder how they'd replace Wilkerson in the event of a serious injury. That would be a problem because of his talent (obviously) and versatility. He can line up in any position on the line -- 3-4 end, 4-3 end and 4-3 tackle. There are packages in which he plays over the center.

Wilkerson's backup in 2013 was Leger Douzable, a career backup eligible for unrestricted free agency. He played well in a limited role and there's a chance he could move on, which would be a blow depth-wise. Sheldon Richardson, coming off a terrific rookie season, is another versatile lineman, but he's best suited to the interior. They're set at nose tackle with Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis.

So, basically, they don't have another Wilkerson or even a reasonable facsimile, especially if Douzable departs. Wilkerson wore down late in the season because he played so many snaps, so having a reliable backup is critical. But they will have to find that guy in free agency or the later rounds of the draft, because after taking Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Richardson in consecutive first rounds, they've already invested plenty in one position. At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Coples has the Wilkerson body type (shy 25 pounds), but he just spent a year learning to play "rush" linebacker, so it would be a waste to make him learn another position.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Bowman
Wondering how they might have to replace perhaps their best player is a literal exercise for the San Francisco 49ers.

In a crushing side story to a last-second loss against NFC West rival Seattle in the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco saw star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman go down with a devastating knee injury in the fourth quarter.

Bowman suffered a major ACL and a MCL injury in his left knee. He is expected to have surgery in the coming weeks. Bowman and the 49ers are confident he will be able to play next season. However, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said, at this point, there is no way to be sure he will be ready for Week 1.

In the worst-case scenario, Bowman -- a dominant playmaker who is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate -- will miss a few games. Also, it is fair to wonder how long it will take him to get back into form.

There is little doubt Bowman will become a dominant player again, but the 49ers might have to live without him for a while. He is such a special player and such a great fit for this stout, aggressive defense, the 49ers would have a hole without Bowman in the lineup.

If the 49ers would have beaten Seattle, Michael Wilhoite would have taken Bowman’s spot. Wilhoite, a special teams ace, spelled fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense for a short time this season when Willis was dealing with a hamstring injury. Wilhoite did well, and many scouts think he can be a starter.

But he’s not at Bowman’s level. Few players are.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Rodgers
Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers don’t have to wonder what would happen if they lost their best players; it happened to them in 2013.

They were forced to play without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for nearly eight full games after he fractured his collarbone on Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears and without outside linebacker Clay Matthews for six games (including the playoffs) after breaking his right thumb on two different occasions.

It not only reiterated Rodgers’ value but also exposed their inability to develop a capable backup. The Packers don’t have to worry about a long-term replacement for Rodgers yet. He only recently turned 30 and is signed through the 2019 season after agreeing to a $110 million contract extension last April. Rodgers has said he intends to play through the end of that contract and possibly even a few more years.

The only other quarterback currently under contract is Scott Tolzien, who played in three games (including two starts) during Rodgers’ absence. Tolzien, the former University of Wisconsin starter who spent two years as a backup with the 49ers, showed some impressive arm strength but either didn’t have a good enough command of the offense or made too many mistakes. He was unable to lead the Packers to a victory.

The Packers would like to see what Tolzien can do with an offseason in coach Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school, but there’s no more clarity to the backup situation now than there was a year ago, when the Packers were hopeful Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman would excel in that role. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, they brought veteran Vince Young to training camp and that didn’t work, either.

There’s also the possibility that free agent Matt Flynn, who went 2-2-1 in place of Rodgers last season, will be re-signed. Flynn, who began his career with the Packers in 2008, was signed to only a one-year deal when he returned last season.

As for Matthews, that he still led the Packers with 7.5 sacks despite playing in a career-low 11 regular-season games says plenty about what they have -- or don’t have -- behind him at outside linebacker.

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MVP replacements: New York Giants 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
PM ET
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Manning
You think the New York Giants had a rough year with Eli Manning struggling and leading the league in interceptions? Bah. Just imagine what it would be like if Manning weren’t even on the team.

Manning is far and away the Giants’ most valuable player, even coming off his worst NFL season. He has not missed a game since becoming the team’s starting quarterback during his 2004 rookie season, and the plain fact is that the Giants are completely without a fallback plan if they were to lose him to injury or for any other reason.

Curtis Painter filled the backup quarterback role in 2013, taking over for longtime backup David Carr as the guy who runs the scout team and only plays if the Giants are down by 30 in the fourth quarter in Carolina or if Manning sprains his ankle in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Redskins. Ryan Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick, was drafted as a developmental flyer -- a player they think has a chance to be good down the road but is not, in their estimation, even close to being ready to see actual NFL game action.

No, Manning is really all the Giants have at quarterback. Their offense -- nay, their entire team -- is built on the assurance that he will take every meaningful snap. He is 33 years old, still in his prime, and not only is he not going anywhere with two years left on his deal, he’s a strong candidate for a contract extension this offseason as the team works to sign free agents and stay under the salary cap.

You might be upset with Manning over the season he just had, but the fact remains that if the Giants were to lose him, there would be no reason for them even to show up on Sundays.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

In leading his team in rushing, receiving and touchdowns, Jamaal Charles was the engine for the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. It’s scary for the Chiefs to think of what they might be without Charles, except they scored 44 points in their playoff loss to Indianapolis mostly without him. He left the game for good on Kansas City’s first possession with a concussion.

That ignores two important points. One, perhaps the Chiefs with a healthy Charles for an entire game would have scored enough points to beat the Colts. Second, that was one game. What if they needed to replace Charles for a longer period?

Charles
The Chiefs drafted Knile Davis from Arkansas in the third round last year for just that scenario. At 227 pounds, Davis is more powerful and also might be just as fast. He doesn’t have Charles’ vision and cutting ability, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be effective for the Chiefs over the longer term as their featured back.

Davis brings some risks to the lineup as well. He was a notorious fumbler in college and had trouble holding on to the ball at times as a rookie. He is far less polished than Charles as a receiver and pass-protector, so the Chiefs might have to look elsewhere for a back they could trust on passing downs.

Davis has an injury history from college and ended his season by breaking his leg against the Colts. The Chiefs believe Davis will be ready to play when next season begins, but he’s still a raw player who would benefit from the offseason practice he might not get.

It wouldn’t hurt the Chiefs to find some insurance for Davis, their insurance for Charles.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Burfict
Based on how his first two seasons have gone, linebacker Vontaze Burfict is the Cincinnati Bengals’ obvious MVP. A case also could be made for receiver A.J. Green, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the three years in his career.

Burfict has ranked among the team’s tackle leaders the last two seasons. This year, he was the top tackler in the league, en route to setting a single-season franchise record with 171 total stops.

Signed through the 2014 season, Burfict likely will be looking at a big pay raise when his next contract is negotiated. Because of his undrafted status, he made the league minimum when he was signed following the 2012 draft. His anticipated pay increase should be exponentially bigger since he started so low on the pay scale.

Regardless of how high Burfict’s price tag will be after next season, he should be well within range for the Bengals to re-sign him. He’s beginning to turn into the type of young player around which a team structures other parts of its defense.

But for the sake of conversation, assume he doesn’t get re-signed. Since he wasn’t commanding much of the team’s payroll, it would be easy to replace him, financially speaking, either in the next two drafts or in free agency. Would his production be replaceable, though? That’s highly doubtful and it’s why the Bengals hope he stays healthy and keeps playing at his high level.

While Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey could play Burfict’s spot, neither has proven he can replicate quite the same level of intensity.

As for Green, odds might be better – not significantly, though – that the Bengals could navigate life without him if they had to. While he has put up first-round pick numbers since arriving in 2011, the former No. 4 overall selection still has struggled to consistently dominate games. Some of that stems from his occasional ad-libbing on routes, thereby throwing off quarterback Andy Dalton.

If by some strange twist of fate Cincinnati doesn’t re-sign Green this offseason or next year when his first contract expires, it has a solid enough receiver in Marvin Jones. The No. 2 wideout emerged as a real pass-catching threat in 2013. The pool of young receivers in this draft class also is so deep that the Bengals could draft one and groom him along the next two seasons.

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