The Kansas City Chiefs signed 34-year old Amani Toomer yesterday. Why did Scott Pioli and Todd Haley feel the need to add Toomer when they already have 36-year old Bobby Engram on the roster? Bob Gretz looks at the Chiefs thinking behind adding so many veterans.
Is this any way to rebuild? Some would say no, but the Chiefs duo in charge obviously disagrees. What appears to be at work here are two factors: the 2000 New England Patriots and the desire to win as many games as possible in the 2009 season.
When Bill Belichick was hired to take over the New England Patriots for the 2000 season, he and Pioli assessed the roster they inherited and then went out and signed a bus load of veteran free agents. They did not commit big dollars or lengthy contracts to those guys, but they raised the level of competition and also the chance to win games. That didn’t happen with the 2000 Patriots, as they went 5-11 after finishing 8-8 the season before. But the 2001 Patriots won the Super Bowl.
Of course, in early August we don’t know what kind of contributions that Toomer et al. will make to the ‘09 Chiefs. There’s no guarantee they all make the final roster, although right now with the state of the names on that roster, it would be a surprise if all five of those veterans are not part of the final 53-man group that gets ready to play Baltimore in the regular-season opener.
Last year, no matter if you were a fan of the Herm Edwards-led youth movement or not, it was hard to argue the team was doing everything they could to win ballgames. This season, even in early August, you’d be hard pressed to make the same argument. Again, we have a long way to go, but I would be very surprised if — barring injury — all of the veterans Gretz mentioned weren’t on the team when the Chiefs break camp.
Not everyone is as optimistic that all of those veterans will make the team. Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star took to his Twitter account with who he thinks will be the odd man out.
People keep calling me crazy, but I think Toomer’s signing is bad news for Bobby Engram. Or at least a wake-up call for him. Engram has had as many drops as anyone, and Haley has called him out several times for falling during routes.
It just doesn’t add up to me that they’d add another aging possession receiver. Bradley has looked pretty good. Darling is a decent reserve. My point is, there’s no reason to keep two aging, well-paid receivers if one clearly is better.
And with Engram having some early bumps, I think it compelled the Chiefs to bring in another veteran. I’d be surprised if they keep both.
Am I a jinx? Seriously. Coming into camp I was beating the drum for Derrick Johnson and he gets hurt right off the bat. Then on the other side of the ball, Engram has been the object of my football affection and the Chiefs sign another veteran very similar to him. Though I don’t think they are as similar Babb thinks they are. Engram is 100% a possession receiver, but Toomer went deep plenty with the Giants throughout his career, even at the end. With that being said, I could see this move more being used to send a message to Engram that his spot on the team isn’t set in stone.
Meanwhile, one player that seems to have cemented his status with the team is Larry Johnson. And as John Marshall of the Associated Press notes, Johnson finally seems content.
The Chiefs are experiencing a new version: content Larry.
Well, maybe it’s not completely new. Johnson claimed to be content before last season. Turned out to be an impostor. This time, though, Johnson, through his actions and attitude, seems to be serious. And Todd Haley, for one, seems convinced.
“From the day I took the job, Larry Johnson has appeared to enjoy football and enjoy working at it, and I’m excited about it. I’ve not had an issue with Larry Johnson and what he’s done.”
Impressed by the new regime’s vision, Johnson became a model player, working hard in the weight room, setting an example on the field, doing everything asked of him without a word back. Away from the field, he stayed out of the news, kept his focus on the upcoming season, not the next nightclub.
Lean, quick and powerful, Johnson has been sharp through the start of camp, bursting through holes, punishing tacklers who dare try to stop him. In other words, he has looked more like the Pro Bowler than the guy who spent the past two seasons running up the backs of his offensive linemen.
The contentment, though, is in his countenance and disposition. The scowl has melted away, replaced by a determined glare on the field, smiles off it. He’s been almost happy-go-lucky at training camp, ribbing teammates and bantering with reporters.
Johnson has goals, too. He wants to set the Chiefs career rushing record — he’s 432 yards behind Priest Holmes — and wants to get the Chiefs back to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl. This certainly appears to be a new Larry.
“I like the organization I’m in. It just feels comfortable.”
And so far, content, Larry.
Maybe I can be a jinx in a good way (or maybe I’m just wrong a lot)? Because there was no doubt in my mind that Larry Johnson had played his last game in a Chiefs jersey. And unlike my rah-rah approach with Engram, there were plenty of people that felt the same way about LJ. But he has proved all of us wrong at every corner ever since he settled his legal troubles. Surely, no matter how much he has matured and loves the new regime, part of his new motivation has to be rooted in the massive base salary his is due this season. But no matter the reason I hope he stay on the straight and narrow (and out of the clubs)!