Matt Cassel is smack dab in the middle of a six-year, $63-million contract with the Chiefs, but Cassel is coming off an injury-shortened season that saw him struggle when he was healthy.
As a result, Cassel probably doesn’t have a lot of job security. He has lacked consistency throughout his time in Kansas City, and he no longer has Todd Haley running the offense, which would presumably make a change under center less awkward.
Few teams are as up in the air at quarterback as the Chiefs are. Even the Dolphins, who are expected to show interest in Matt Flynn and Peyton Manning, saw Matt Moore emerge as a potential long-term starter this past season. The Colts are fully expected to put their eggs in Andrew Luck’s basket, while many expect the Browns to draft Robert Griffin III as their franchise QB of the future. The Jaguars don’t appear ready to give up on Blaine Gabbert; ditto for the Broncos and Tim Tebow.
I’d argue that only Seattle and Washington should be as confused about their quarterback situation as the Chiefs.
With Haley gone and Cassel slated to make only $5.5 million this year, there’s less pressure on Romeo Crennel and his staff to force the issue. That’s probably why they’ve admitted that he’ll have to compete with at least one other man for the right to quarterback the Chiefs in 2012.
“We’ve been saying it for three years, and I’m going to continue to say it, because it’s a core part of our philosophy: There will be increased competition at every position, including the quarterback position,” general manager Scott Pioli said earlier this month. “Who that is, I don’t know. Maybe it’s Kyle (Orton), maybe it’s another free agent, maybe it’s a draft choice, I don’t know.
Kansas City signed the capable yet unspectacular Orton during the season, but he’s about to become an unrestricted free agent and is probably not an ideal long-term answer considering how badly he struggled as Denver’s starter this past fall.
Then there’s Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round pick last year out of Iowa who might have the leadership skills and experience to make a run at the job.
In this year’s draft, the Chiefs, who will hold either the 11th or the 12th pick, might have taken a hit when both Landry Jones and Matt Barkley elected to stay in school. Now, the rookie prospect that makes the most sense is probably 28-year-old Oklahoma State product Brandon Weeden, who is expected to be a second- or third-round pick.
But I’m expecting them to look hard at free agents. Kansas City has the most cap space in the league, and as I mentioned, Cassel isn’t on the hook for big bucks this season. There aren’t a lot of sexy choices this year beyond Flynn and Manning, but Orton, Jason Campbell and David Garrard would all still be intriguing options. (Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling thinks they make a run at Campbell.)
Whether it’s Stanzi or Weeden or Orton or Campbell or Garrard or someone else, Cassel will be probably be pushed hard this summer.
In the latest ESPN poll, Chiefs fans think Orton should get the job, with “someone else” in second place, two percentage points ahead of Cassel.
But fans are dreamers, and you can be sure that a large number of those who clicked “someone else” had visions of either Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or some sort of scientific fusion of all three in their heads.