Chiefs fans want to believe cornerback Stanford Routt will be a positive addition to the team's ever-improving defense. They want to believe general manager Scott Pioli's decision to sign Routt — and all but close the door on the possibility of retaining cornerback Brandon Carr — was a smart and calculated risk in terms of football economics.
They want to believe the Chiefs aren't cheap, and that this was the right decision.
It's just, right now, that's merely impossible.
It may be hard to see today, but there is more to this than the on-field effect Routt's presence and Carr's absence will have on the team in 2012. For instance, Carr may have been dead-set on testing the free-agent market. Failure to take advantage of Routt's availability — which came about after his release from the Oakland Raiders due to salary-cap issues — could have resulted in the Chiefs missing out on the chance to land either player.
Now, Pioli can franchise-tag Dwayne Bowe (or sign him long-term), and set a clear plan for the team come March 13, when the free-agency period is set to begin.
Without Routt or Carr, the Chiefs' biggest need heading into free-agency would have been cornerback. As a result, most-to-all of Pioli's resources would have been absorbed in filling that void, instead of addressing other key team-needs (nose tackle, running back, right tackle, quarterback).
Pioli was essentially covering his ass here. For that, he deserves come credit.
Past that, though, what are we to think?
Both Carr and Routt have been team-first guys throughout their respective careers. They each are considered high-end number-two cornerbacks, though Carr may have the edge in consistency — a point of emphasis for Pioli since his arrival in Kansas City. Routt is three years older than Carr, and may have already reached his peak potential after underachieving in his first season as a number-one cornerback last year in Oakland.
The only discernible difference between the two? Asking price, of course. The Chiefs snagged Routt on a three-year, $19.6-million contract. Carr is asking for number-one corner type-money, or something similar to the five-year, $50-million extension Carr's (former?) counterpart, Brandon Flowers signed during the 2011 season.
And this is where things get tricky, because what on the forefront may look like a franchise more concerned with the bottom-line than the final score may eventually prove to be the type of decision that allows a team the financial flexibility to take the next step in the process.
The Chiefs would presumably save a large chunk of up-front, guaranteed money by allowing Carr to walk. In turn, Pioli would have a plethora of options, and a seemingly endless amount of resources to take full advantage of them.
Problem is, we've trusted this process before. Just last season, with a similarly club-friendly salary-cap number, Pioli chose to take a conservative approach in free-agency, and the result was an embarrassingly flawed roster that became exposed on the opening kickoff of the first game (literally).
So, on the one hand, history says we shouldn't trust Pioli, and though it's not completely fair, Monday the Chiefs made the conscious decision to get worse because of the money.
On the other, we have a general manager whom, on the day of his hiring, promised fans their patience would eventually be rewarded with championships. If nothing else, we should take note of the unorthodox risk Pioli has taken to start what will ultimately prove to be his most important off-season with the Chiefs.
It's time the general manager proved his worth. Decisions like these must be justified by acquiring real talent elsewhere.
Because, if positive change is indeed occurring within the organization, the signing of Stanford Routt should be an afterthought by the time training camp rolls around in July.
Otherwise, Routt's arrival will only be viewed as more evidence pointing toward Pioli and the Chiefs' refusal to get serious about winning.