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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs

Former Eagles coach Reid poses with Chiefs owner Hunt after a news conference introducing Reid as the Chiefs new coach in Kansas City, Missouri Reuters

The instinct is to treat the Chiefs’ awful 2012 season as an aberration, and that’s probably the right call.

Even just a cursory glance at the club’s depth chart suggests that last season’s 2-14 mark won’t be repeated this year. After all, Kansas City had six Pro Bowlers in 2012, and the roster was strengthened this spring via free agency and the draft.

For new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Kansas City represents a fresh start after two sour seasons to finish a Philadelphia tenure filled with more good moments than bad. The Chiefs’ new starting quarterback, Alex Smith, also gets to the turn the page after being forced out by Colin Kaepernick’s emergence in San Francisco.

There’s little doubt Reid and Smith will help lead a turnaround of some sort relative to 2012. If nothing else, the Chiefs are likely to move out of the AFC West basement. But are the Chiefs capable of quintupling their win total from a season ago? That’s probably what it will take to contend for a playoff spot.

Strengths.

The Chiefs’ defense does not lack for talent. Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for 19 sacks in 2012 and joined inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and strong safety Eric Berry as Pro Bowlers. Cornerbacks Sean Smith, Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson are skilled and experienced.

The offense has some top-end players, too, with running back Jamaal Charles (1,509 rushing yards in 2012) a premier game-breaking threat and wideout Dwayne Bowe a legit go-to target. At quarterback, Smith should be an upgrade over Matt Cassel, and the addition of No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher at left tackle strengthens the offensive line. The Fisher-Brandon Albert tackle tandem should be a real asset for the Chiefs.

With the additions of Reid and Smith, the NFL’s worst passing offense from a season ago has new life. That, in turn, should help a running game that thrived even without defenses having to worry much about the Chiefs’ passing attack.

Finally, Reid’s presence should be a major asset both on the sidelines and in the organization. The Eagles won 10 playoff games and registered nine winning seasons in his 14-season tenure. In that same span, the Chiefs didn’t register a single playoff win and had nine losing seasons.

Weaknesses.

While the Chiefs have some very skilled performers on defense, opponents nonetheless had success attacking Kansas City with the run and pass in 2012. To wit: the Chiefs finished 30th in yards per pass and 25th in yards per rush surrendered a season ago. The secondary should be better with Smith and Robinson joining the cornerback corps, but the run defense — especially right up the heart of the front seven — needs to be monitored. Per NFL statistics, opponents gained 4.78 yards per rush up the middle vs. the Chiefs in 2012.

On offense, the concern is the next wave of players beyond the starters. Kansas City is a little thin at the skill positions, especially at running back, where there is no clear-cut backup to count upon if Charles were to exit the lineup. Swift rookie Knile Davis has the talent to be a key contributor in the backfield, but he struggled with injuries and fumbles at Arkansas.

The depth at wide receiver is somewhat shaky until proven otherwise, too. Beyond Bowe, the top options are Donnie Avery, Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster. Avery is fast but comes durability concerns. Baldwin, the Chiefs’ 2011 first-round pick, hasn’t delivered on his potential. McCluster is quick but undersized.

On defense, the primary depth concerns are at outside linebacker, safety and along the defensive line.

Changes

Reid, renowned his work with quarterbacks and a proponent of the West Coast offense, is charged with reshaping the offense. Smith, who’s still not even 30 years old, could benefit form Reid’s tutelage and not having to worry about job security. There is no real threat to replace him on the roster.

In addition to Fisher, new faces on offense include Avery, tight end Anthony Fasano and quarterback Chase Daniel. Avery and Fasano project as regulars, while Daniel, formerly Drew Brees‘ understudy, will be the top backup to Alex Smith.

Rangy Sean Smith, signed from Miami, will start opposite of Flowers at cornerback, with Robinson expected to be the third corner. Robinson should be effective in this role; his experience and physicality ought to serve him well in the latter stages of his career.

The Chiefs will continue to use the 3-4 as their base defense, but Bob Sutton has taken over at coordinator, and some new wrinkles are to be expected.

Camp battles.

For a 2-14 club with a new head coach, the Chiefs don’t figure to have much camp-competition drama. Most starting spots are ably filled.

The offensive line could be the most unsettled position on the team. At center, third-year pro Rodney Hudson would seem to have the edge at center; he began 2012 as the starter before suffering a broken leg that ended his season. However, second-year left guard Jeff Allen got some work in the middle in the offseason, per the Kansas City Star. Allen started 13 games a season ago but graded out as the second-worst run-blocker among qualifying guards in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson are other potential options at guard.

Inside linebacker is another position that could have some intrigue if rookie Nico Johnson can push ex-Eagle Akeem Jordan.

Finally, Davis will get a look at kickoff returner, a position where the club could use more playmaking ability. However, he needs to hold onto the ball.

Prospects.

If Kansas City is playoff-caliber, it will show early. The Chiefs face one 2012 playoff team (Houston) in their first nine games. Five of their first six AFC games before their Week 10 bye are against the Jaguars, Titans, Raiders, Browns and Bills — teams Kansas City should be able to beat.

The Chiefs are going to need to take care of business in the first two months. Their post-bye schedule includes two games against Denver in three weeks. Kansas City also draws Washington and Indianapolis down the stretch. The season finale at San Diego won’t be easy, either.

Overall, though, it’s a manageable schedule for the Chiefs. And it’s probably safe to assume the bottom doesn’t fall out again this year – though we wouldn’t blame Kansas City fans for knocking on wood, given how last season went.

Really, though, the Chiefs’ 2012 form was so bad it cannot be taken at face value. Clearly, they are capable of more.

How much more is the question.

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Joe Thomas says it’s a “sad end” for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland

Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas celebrates after a 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions in a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) AP

Johnny Manziel will no longer be a part of the Cleveland Browns organization. At this point it’s just a matter of time.

Even teammates understand the end is near for Manziel.

It’s a sad end to the story in Cleveland for Johnny,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “He’s a guy that personally I like. I believe he has a lot of talent. He’s got the talent to be an NFL quarterback, but it obviously hasn’t worked out so far.”

Manziel’s tenure with the Browns has been a near total disaster. Uneven play on the field and numerous incidents off of it have expedited his end in Cleveland. Manziel showed the occasional flash that would bring renewed promise over what he potentially could become. But it became clear he was incapable of getting out of his own way.

The official end is the only thing left between the Browns and Manziel.

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Seahawks sign CFL products Jeff Fuller and Cameron Marshall

Cameron Marshall AP

The Seattle Seahawks have looked to the Canadian Football League before in search of talent and are hoping to unearth some more success from north of the border.

The Seahawks signed former Calgary Stampeders receiver Jeff Fuller and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Cameron Marshall on Thursday.

Fuller is another stab at finding a receiver with size from the CFL. Seattle signed Chris Matthews in 2013 after two seasons with Winnipeg. At 6-foot-5, Matthews was a large receiver the Seahawks didn’t have at the time. Fuller is similarly large at 6-foot-4. Fuller caught 47 passes for 619 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games for Calgary.

Meanwhile, with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks only had one running back under contract for 2016 in Thomas Rawls. Marshall rushed for 614 yards and five touchdowns in 18 games for Winnipeg last season.

Both Fuller and Marshall were undrafted out of Texas A&M and Arizona State, respectively. Both players spent time with the Miami Dolphins before heading to Canada to continue their careers.

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Friday’s PFT Live has Kevin Greene, Bradley Roby, more

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The first week of the early early shift ends Friday, with another three-hour edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby will be dialing in extra early, halfway through the 6:00 a.m. ET hour.

Later in the program, new Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene joins the program, along with Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports in Denver.

All three hours can be heard on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, and on terrestrial affiliates throughout the country. The final hour of the show can be seen on NBCSN.

And here’s where I’d add some sort of a witty or snarky or glib remark, but I’ve been rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. ET to get ready for the show, and in my exhausted state I’m even more unfunny that usual. Tune in tomorrow to see just how unfunny I may be.

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Justin Tuck plans to sign one-day contract to retire with Giants

Justin Tuck AP

Defensive end Justin Tuck spent nine seasons lining up for the New York Giants. So it only seems fitting he’d retire in a Giants uniform.

According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Tuck said during an appearance on the Giants’ team website that he intends to sign a one-day contract to retire with the Giants.

“One question we didn’t get asked that I’ve seen a lot of Giants fans tweet me is ‘Am I going to do a one-day contract with the Giants?’” Tuck said. “The answer to that is ‘Yes.’ We can’t do it yet because the league (year) doesn’t open until the second week of March. So for all the Giants fans out there asking me ‘Am I going to retire a Giant?’ Absolutely I am.”

Tuck announced his plans to retire earlier this month. While he spent the last two seasons of his career with the Oakland Raiders, the majority of Tuck’s success came in the Big Apple.

Tuck posted 60.5 sacks in nine seasons with the Giants. He posted at least 10 sacks in a season four times during his tenure in New York.

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McNair wants to end Super Bowl hosting curse

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No team hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium has ever played in the game. Some think there’s actually a curse associated with hosting the game.

Regardless, with the torch now passed from San Francisco to Houston, Texans owner Bob McNair wants his team to be the first to qualify for a home game in the Super Bowl.

“It’s never happened that the host city, host team, played in the Super Bowl, so we’d like to break that record,” McNair said Thursday, at the unveiling of a Super Bowl countdown clock. “That would be wonderful and anything is possible.”

McNair likely had to grit his teeth a bit when praising coaches he had run out of Houston for winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos.

“We’re delighted to see the guys up in Denver succeed and you saw that they did it with their defense,” McNair said. “That’s what we’ve been working towards and we have a chance, so hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

But while defense clearly wins championships, an offense is at some point necessary to get there. The Texans have struggled at quarterback, and in a division with three potential franchise quarterbacks on the rosters of Houston’s primary rivals, it’s going to get harder, not easier, to win the division.

Two teams have come close to a Super Bowl home game. In Super Bowl XIV, the Rams played the Steelers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In Super Bowl XIX, the 49ers faced the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.

Amazingly, no team hosting the Super Bowl in its home stadium has even made it to the conference championship round.

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Hasselbeck is “strongly leaning” toward playing again

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A quarterback who’ll turn 40 next month apparently is leaning toward retiring. A quarterback who’ll turn 41 later this year is leaning toward not retiring.

Colts quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck, who started eight games in 2015, could be back again in 2016.

“I haven’t really I guess made up my mind completely on it,” Hasselbeck told Brock & Salk of ESPN 710 in Seattle. “You’ve kind of got to count the cost of what it would mean, what you’re saying ‘yes’ to and what you’re saying ‘no’ to. My kids are getting older. But all in all I would say I’m strongly leaning toward playing again, and we’ll see.”

By thinking about playing past his 41st birthday, Hasselbeck may be creating the impression that he plans to play as long as possible. But he said that’s not the case.

“I’m not trying to play as long as I can,” Hasselbeck said. “I decided [that] I’m gonna play for five surgeries. That was like my mindset. Like five years or five surgeries. And I’ve only had one surgery in my entire life. I think it was a bad way to set a goal. I’m not sure.”

It’s not sure that the Colts want Hasselbeck, even if he chooses to play. Hasselbeck is due to become a free agent in March. Still, without enough competent quarterbacks to go around, someone will want him, if the Colts don’t.

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Offseason rules in full force

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 04:  A general view of the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility outside Arrowhead Stadium as the NFL lockout looms while negotiations are extended on March 4, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that all 32 teams have completed the 2015 season, it makes sense to review the things that can and can’t be done until the offseason programs open in April.

The rules appear in Article 21, Section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Before the launch of the offseason program, players can’t participate in Club-supervised workouts, practices, group, or individual meetings with coaches, group or individual film study with coaches, or group or individual playbook study with coaches. This provision is the origin of periodic comments from coaches regarding their inability to communicate with players in the offseason.

Still, there’s no prohibition on phone calls or discussions that don’t amount to meetings, film study, or playbook study. If, for example, 49ers coach Chip Kelly simply wants to get to know quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kelly can call Kaepernick and talk to him. But with Kelly taking the ridiculously extreme position that he can’t even talk about Kaepernick publicly, it seems that Kelly either doesn’t understand the rules or is being deliberately obtuse, possibly to enhance trade potential for Kaepernick by not taking a clear position on whether the 49ers want him during the window when interested teams might call.

Players nevertheless are allowed to work out in the team facility, with strength and conditioning coaches prevented from supervising workouts but permitted into supervise the weight room to prevent injury and correct misuse of the equipment. And plenty of players prefer to stay in shape that way, given the fact that it’s both familiar and free.

Regardless of the rules, football coaches who want to talk to their players will surely find a way to do it. In the five years since the new rules were promulgated, no coach ever has been accused to talking to players more than he should. Players who are truly committed to winning will do whatever they have to do, exercising discretion while also planning for an opportunity to compete more effectively in the coming season.

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Colts announce two more staff moves

Chuck Pagano, Mark Hittner AP

Colts Coach Chuck Pagano is keeping two assistants from last season on in new roles for 2016.

Veteran coach Jim Hostler will be the tight ends coach, and Tim Berbenich will stay as offensive assistant/assistant quarterbacks coach after being a defensive assistant in 2015.

Hostler had been the team’s wide receivers coach. In 16 NFL seasons he’s also been an assistant with the Bills, Ravens, 49ers, Jets, Saints and Chiefs.

The team’s release on Hostler and Berbenich said the 2015 staff has been finalized. The Colts cleaned out their defensive staff, hired and shuffled some offensive coaches and lost assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer to the Jets. Former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin came on as assistant head coach and will work with the offensive line.

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Raiders announce one-year lease to remain in Oakland

Mark Davis Getty Images

For at least one more year, the Raiders will remain in Oakland.

The Raiders announced today that they have agreed to a one-year lease extension to play at O.co Coliseum for the 2016 season. The agreement includes an additional two years of team options, giving the Raiders the choice to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 as well.

Raiders owner Mark Davis called the deal a “win-win situation” and said he’s optimistic that a deal can get worked out that will keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Raiders have hired real estate executive Larry MacNeil, who helped the 49ers with their move into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, to help the Raiders negotiate a deal for a new stadium in Oakland.

“It gives us an opportunity to work on a permanent facility here in Oakland,” Davis said. “It gives us some certainty for this season as well as flexibility for the next two seasons. . . . My heart is here in Oakland.”

As they attempt to encourage more Bay Area fans to support them in Oakland, the Raiders have also announced that they will not raise season ticket prices.

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Super Bowl fans spent $151.92 each on food, drink, stuff

food-and-beer-at-the-super-bowl-are-even-more-expensive-than-we-imagined Getty Images

Going to the Super Bowl is a rare and special thing. So rare and special that the people who show up for the game happily accept the fact that everything is really expensive, forking over whatever the price may be for grossly overpriced food, beverages, and merchandise.

Via SportsBusiness Journal and ESPN.com, that mindset allowed for $6.2 million to be spent on food and beverages, an average of $87.57 per person. According to SBJ, another $4.6 million was spent on merchandise, pushing the total per person expenditure to $151.92.

That’s $151.92 for each of the 71,088 who attended. Which resulted in another $10.8 million flowing through the cash register.

When it comes to food and drink only, the record high came at MetLife Stadium two years ago, when fans spent an average of $94.60.

Meanwhile, I spent $59.64 on eight medium-sized pizzas from a national chain that needs no free advertising, feeding nine people and providing four days and counting of lunch and/or dinner for me since then. Which would explain why I’ve been spending so much time in the bathroom.

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No offset language in Brees guaranteed salary

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The Saints definitely will be keeping quarterback Drew Brees for 2016.

Wednesday’s non-news news that $10.85 million of his $19.75 million base salary had become fully guaranteed omitted a piece of new news that means Brees will not be going anywhere. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Brees deal has no offset language for 2016.

This means that, if the Saints were to cut Brees, he’d still get the full $10.85 million without reduction for any money earned elsewhere, meaning that the Saints would carry $20.85 million on the books for Brees in 2016, no matter what.

If the deal had offset language, the Saints could have moved on from Brees if the two sides failed to work out a new deal for 2016 and beyond, since someone else surely would have paid Brees that much for the coming season — and the Saints would have gotten a dollar-for-dollar credit for the guaranteed pay.

So as it now stands, Brees has maximum leverage. He can either proceed with a $19.75 million base salary and a $30 million cap number, or he can sign an extension that reduces the cap number in exchange for cash and other considerations beyond the current season.

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Nate Allen back with Raiders

Nate Allen, Nick Foles AP

Earlier this week, the Raiders parted ways with safety Nate Allen shortly before his $4.9 million salary for the year would have become guaranteed.

The move didn’t cost the Raiders any dead money under the cap and freed up space to use on other acquisitions. Or re-acquisitions in the case of Allen.

The Raiders announced Thursday that they have brought Allen back to the roster. They didn’t announce the terms, but it’s a good bet that it is for less than the guaranteed salary he was set this season to make before getting bounced and not as long as the four-year, $23 million deal they signed him to before last season.

Allen only played in five games for the Raiders last season because of a knee injury and had 14 tackles and an interception while making three starts. Allen spent his first five seasons with the Eagles.

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Announcement of new Raiders lease expected at 6:00 p.m. ET

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 12:  A general view during the Oakland Raiders game against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum on October 12, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders didn’t have a lease to play in Oakland or anywhere else for 2016. They apparently have one now.

It’s believed the Raiders and the Joint Powers Authority will announce at a press conference to be held at 6:00 p.m. ET that the Raiders have reached a deal to remain at the O.Co Coliseum for 2016.

The Raiders had no other options for the coming season. The broader question is whether the Raiders and the powers-that-be within the Joint Powers Authority will strike a deal to build a new stadium, or whether the Raiders will move elsewhere. Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf explained that her goal was to first get a lease in place with the Raiders and then to come up with a long-term stadium solution.

Potential options for the Raiders, if not in Oakland, include Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego (if the Chargers leave for L.A.), and Las Vegas. The possibility of the Raiders playing in Sacramento or sharing a stadium with the San Francisco Giants (not the 49ers, the Giants) also has been floated.

The most obvious solution — sharing a venue with the 49ers — continues to be at the bottom of the list.

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Jahri Evans refused pay cut, plans to play this year

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Before they cut him last week, the Saints offered to let veteran guard Jahri Evans hang around, as long as he took less money.

Agent Jerrold Colton told WIP Radio that the Saints offered Evans a reduced salary, after doing the same thing a year ago.

“The Saints came to us for the second year in a row about doing a little contract adjustment and pay cut this year,” Colton said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We weren’t going to do it again.

“He’s healthy and hungry and looking forward to the next chapter of his career.”

The Saints saved $3.1 million by cutting the 10-year veteran, and had to do it when they did because $2 million of his salary would have become guaranteed this week.

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Bob McNair: No reason Texans wouldn’t be able to draft a quarterback

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 17:  Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers throws a pass during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Tigers defeated the Rebels 37-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last month, Texans owner Bob McNair said that the team was working on ways to improve at quarterback this offseason and the topic was on his mind again on Thursday.

McNair was at an event for the Houston Super Bowl committee to discuss the road to Super Bowl LI next year and the discussion turned at one point to what the Texans would have to do to play the game in their home stadium. McNair pointed out that the Broncos “did it with defense” and said that he thought his team needed a reliable quarterback who “won’t take anything away from us” in order to have a shot at following in Denver’s footsteps.

That quarterback could come to town via the draft. McNair sounded like he expects to see the team use a draft pick on a signal caller later this year.

“There are a number of quarterbacks out there, college quarterbacks coming out and I think we have a good chance at getting one of them,” McNair said, via the Houston Chronicle. “There are four or five of them who look like they have enough talent and size and athletic ability. I don’t know any reason why we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

While drafting a quarterback won’t guarantee the Texans reliable play or the improvement they’d need to make it to the Super Bowl, it’s hard to argue with Houston going that route if there’s a player they think can be a starter in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Brian Hoyer isn’t going to be a long-term answer at the position and Tom Savage, a fourth-round pick in 2014, hasn’t played enough for the Texans to know what they have with him.

That leaves them without the solution they need at quarterback and, as McNair mentioned, no reason not to extend their search into this year’s draft class.

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