Ten years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were on one side of one of the biggest win-win trades in modern NFL history.
They shipped Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings for first- and third-round picks. Allen had run into off-field trouble, and the defensive end was nearing his payday after four seasons in Kansas City.
Already a first-team All-Pro in 2007, Allen went on to earn three additional All-Pro distinctions and become one of the best ends of this era. The Chiefs used their additional first-round pick to draft Branden Albert — a six-season starter for his first team. The 2008 third-rounder was used to select Jamaal Charles, who has a strong claim to be called the best running back in Chiefs history.
That deal worked out well for the rebuilding team and the one gunning for a championship.
It’s too early to issue a final grade, but calling the Chiefs-Rams swap a win-win looks like it will be difficult to do.
The Marcus Peters situation featured similar components: an All-Pro and a player (sort of) nearing a second contract the Chiefs were hesitant about one day authorizing.
The two main differences are where the optics get tricky.
Kansas City secured four playoff berths in the past five years and has a young core in place to compete for at least a few more. Peters was one of the centerpieces of that core, whereas Allen was playing for a team that had seen its previous contention window close and was amid a rebuild.
And the return for Peters was nowhere near what the ’08 Chiefs received for Allen, with (likely) late second- and fourth-round picks being dealt for a player with two years of rookie-contract control — a factor much more valuable now than it was in 2008 — and a best-cornerback-alive ceiling.
Unless Peters spirals out of control and is viewed as a bigger locker-room cancer than what Andy Reid dealt with in Terrell Owens circa 2005, this could be a runaway win for the Rams.
While the Chiefs appeared desperate to unload Peters and received low-ball offers or no interest at all, indicating there may have been more in-house trouble than the public was aware of, this price was still too low. It was low enough that the Chiefs should have been more willing to stick it out with Peters and hope the 25-year-old cornerback matured.
And they had plenty of time to find out.
Peters’ 2018 cap hold of barely $3 million is one of the most team-friendly figures in football, and a fifth-year option of $9M-plus is a fraction of what he’ll command on the open market. Beyond that, the franchise tag exists.
Mostly, this is a tough sell to Chiefs fans — the sect that didn’t turn on Peters for his involvement in the racial inequality-themed protests — who have seen their team take chances on character risks in the hopes of building a roster capable of winning playoff games. This team employs Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs do not receive sufficient credit for their rock-solid candidacy on the Mt. Rushmore of tortured fan bases. Sure, the Browns have given their backers far less to cheer about. The Bills and Vikings’ near-misses receive more publicity. But Kansas City’s fans have been subjected to a generation of January sorrow more consistent than any NFL-following sect has witnessed in that span.
Since Marty Schottenheimer took over, the Chiefs have enjoyed three legitimate contention windows and bungled all of them. They made the playoffs seven times in eight years from 1990-97, advanced to one AFC title game and suffered brutal divisional-round home losses that don’t need detailing at this point. Dick Vermeil’s explosive offenses only secured one postseason berth — even an average Chiefs defense would have given the Patriots trouble for AFC supremacy in the early 2000s. The Reid/Alex Smith years ventured to a similar place, giving K.C. fans three more infamous losses to add to an impressive and diverse resume of agony.
Now, the Chiefs are finally going to have some cap space to go with a viable nucleus that entered the offseason needing mainly front-seven help. Only the team will now require another starting corner, and the one they’ll get probably won’t have a Hall of Fame ceiling or the chance to become one of the best players in Chiefs history.
They have sent the conflicting message of having finally made a plan involving a homegrown young quarterback while simultaneously unloading a player who was going to be the best talent on the defenses that supplemented said passer.
They are asking fans to keep absorbing heartbreak while making it more difficult to believe they’ll be able to seriously contend this season and possibly in the near future as well.
The AFC still features Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger leading its best teams, and that figures to be the case in 2018. But those powers’ windows are also probably closing. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ actions indicate they are less interested in contention this season than they have been in recent years. And the return they received for shipping Peters to Los Angeles does not do much to ensure replacement help will be on the way.
Taking a top-three player off a roster that now needs more defensive support because of the inconsistency Patrick Mahomes is sure to exhibit doesn’t match up with what the Chiefs have been preaching.
Teams spend numerous drafts trying to land a player like Peters, who was at least the best Chiefs corner since Dale Carter and maybe since Albert Lewis in the 1980s. By not sticking with him, the Chiefs are supplying optics that they’re willing to work with talent with checkered legal pasts but not a gifted player who challenges coaching staffs.
Imagine the outrage Broncos fans would have exhibited if they’d traded Von Miller after his troublesome 2013, his third season and a point in which the future Hall of Famer had one All-Pro appearance to his credit. Instead, the Broncos worked with Miller. He matured into a leader. Peters isn’t quite as talented as Miller, but that’s not a laughable debate when comparing them three seasons in. Peters actually produced more than the Denver superstar in three initial NFL years.
Chiefs supporters, just as they are about to witness the thrill of watching a first-round quarterback take the reins, are being asked to support a move that undeniably weakens this team and deprives future rosters of a cornerstone talent.
After what’s transpired the past five years, that’s asking too much.