For a brief moment Monday, as the NFL's franchise-tag deadline approached, it appeared outwardly that the Kansas City Chiefs might be prepared to let both OT Branden Albert and WR Dwayne Bowe hit free agency.
Instead, both players will be back in Kansas City for the 2013 season and, at least in Bowe's case, beyond. Kansas City also reportedly re-signed punter Dustin Colquitt to a five-year deal with $8.9 million guaranteed.
Bowe agreed to a five-year deal, as first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, thus allowing the Chiefs to use the franchise tag on Albert. With that pair of moves, the Chiefs robbed the free-agent market of two elite options and also may have started a ripple effect that will last through the NFL draft -- the Chiefs, with the No. 1 overall, may not be nearly as inclined to take a tackle like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher, now that Albert will be around through next year.
The Bowe and Albert moves also come on the heels of last week's news that the Chiefs have a trade in place for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith. That trade cannot be completed until the new NFL year begins on March 12 but, once it is, the Chiefs may more or less have their 2012 offense in place.
Smith's impending arrival may have pushed the Chiefs to get a Bowe deal done. Even in an extremely disappointing year for him and the team, Bowe still led Kansas City in receptions (59), yards (801) and touchdowns (3). Plus, at just 28 years old, he should have several solid seasons ahead of him.
That said, each passing day made it increasingly likely that either Bowe or Albert would head out of town. The Chiefs had cap money to spend, but obviously just the one franchise tag and a ticking clock -- which they apparently took right down to the 11th hour before getting Bowe locked up.
Albert is a cheaper franchise tag option (a little more than $9 million for next season, compared to the almost $10.5 million Bowe would have earned in that scenario). Bowe may wind up north of $10.5 million per year -- Vincent Jackson hauled in an average of $11 million last offseason -- so we'll have to wait to see how Monday's flurry impacts the Chiefs' salary cap.
The financial situation aside, though, the early days of Andy Reid's tenure at head coach and John Dorsey's reign as general manager could not have worked out much better. Within the span of about a week, the Chiefs have secured their probable starting quarterback and kept their top receiver and lineman. Plus, with Fisher, Lane Johnson and a host of defensive end/outside linebacker prospects performing well in recent weeks, Dorsey may have some trade-down scenarios fall into his lap before the draft.
Two hurdles now remain with regard to Albert. First, the Chiefs may have to consider asking him to move to guard, if an offensive tackle is the choice at No. 1; and second, will they be able to re-sign him long-term in the coming days, lest they face a similar situation with him next offseason?
Those are minor details compared to the possibility of losing Albert in free agency, though. Even if Albert departs next offseason, the Chiefs have set themselves up much better for the 2013 season and kept the door open for just about any draft roads.