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Tribal Warfare
02-27-2009, 12:38 AM
Chiefs flush with cash as free-agent market opens (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/1057627.html)
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star

The Chiefs, with more than $50 million of salary-cap space after this week’s roster moves, can afford just about any free agent they desire.

Just don’t expect them to be bidders for the costliest players when the signing period begins in earnest today.

That wasn’t the style of general manager Scott Pioli when he was New England’s personnel director. In the nine seasons Pioli worked with coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots signed a handful of big-name players, almost all on defense. Included were Rodney Harrison in 2003 and Adalius Thomas in 2007.

New England also traded for some offensive skills players, including wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker and running back Corey Dillon.

Those Patriots were almost always Super Bowl contenders and thought one player could make the difference for them. The Chiefs, coming off a 2-14 season that cost president/general manager Carl Peterson and coach Herm Edwards their jobs, don’t figure to be contending for a championship in Pioli’s first season.

That’s why Pioli, in his new environment, may be again thinking in terms of players who can help the Chiefs build something lasting as opposed to a superstars.

The Patriots, in their second offseason under Belichick and Pioli in 2001, signed a little-known linebacker named Mike Vrabel. A four-year reserve with the Steelers, Vrabel turned out to be a perfect fit for New England’s 3-4 defense.

Vrabel has been an eight-year starter for the Patriots and a pillar of their defense, helping them to three Super Bowl championships.

If Pioli wants to sign the bigger name, high-impact free agents, he, like his colleagues around the league, will have a difficult time finding them. Recent signings have removed from the market many of the stars.

“It seems like everybody signed their best players,” said one player agent. “There’s been a lot of that going on in the last few weeks. This might be the worst group of free agents as far as high-quality, impact players that there’s ever been.”

Six Chiefs were scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: defensive end Jason Babin, linebackers Rocky Boiman and Pat Thomas, safeties Jon McGraw and Oliver Celestin and offensive lineman Adrian Jones.

Babin, Boiman, Jones and Thomas were part-time starters last season, but McGraw could be the one whom the new Chiefs regime finds most valuable. He is a versatile safety, making him valuable as a backup. He also plays well on special teams, something the Chiefs might value more under Pioli and coach Todd Haley than they have in recent years.

Two starters, center Rudy Niswanger and safety Jarrad Page, and a reserve, wide receiver Jeff Webb, are restricted free agents. Niswanger received a one-year contract offer worth about $1.5 million, which gives the Chiefs the right to match any offer sheet Niswanger might receive.

The Chiefs would receive a second-round draft pick if they declined to match.

Details of the offers presented to Page and Webb were unknown, but the Chiefs at a minimum would have the right to match any offer sheet these players might sign. They could also be due compensation if they declined.