Chiefs in need of veteran receiver
After four inconsistent seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, can "Fred-Ex" suddenly deliver for a Kansas City Chiefs team seeking help at wide receiver following the release of Johnnie Morton earlier this week?
Chiefs officials will attempt to answer that question about former Philadelphia wideout Freddie Mitchell, released by the Eagles on May 6, when they bring him in next week for an interview and workout. It is believed to be the first visit for Mitchell since his release, although agent Tom Condon has fielded preliminary inquires from other clubs as well.
"He's definitely going to be playing somewhere [in 2005], and we're going through the process of determining where the best situation might be," Condon said recently. "He needs to get to a place where he can get on the field and re-establish himself."
Despite maintaining one of the NFL's most explosive offenses, a unit that statistically ranked first in the league in 2004 and was second in points scored despite missing the playoffs, Kansas City might be such a place.
The release of Morton on Wednesday, after he rebuffed proposals to restructure a contract that would have paid him $3 million for 2005, was predictable, given that his compensation outdistanced his productivity the last three seasons. But the departure of the 11-year veteran left the Chiefs with a relatively inexperienced wide receiver corps.
After Eddie Kennison, whose resume includes 414 career catches, Kansas City has four veteran wideouts, but the quartet has averaged only 35 receptions, 467 yards and 3.5 touchdowns for their respective careers. There are seven other receivers on the roster who have never caught a pass in a regular-season game.
The most productive veteran after Kennison is Dante Hall, with 85 career receptions, but the Chiefs don't want to expose one of the NFL's premier return specialists to the rigors of logging too many snaps from scrimmage. The projected starter at Morton's former spot, the speedy Samie Parker, is a second-year veteran who notched only nine catches as a rookie in 2004. Two other veterans, Marc Boerigter and Chris Horn, are recovering from 2004 knee injuries.
All of which could present a golden opportunity for Mitchell, a first-round choice in the 2001 draft, to not only win a roster spot but also earn considerable playing time. One of the Chiefs' young receivers is going to have to step up in 2005 and, at just 26 years old, Mitchell still has time to fulfill his potential.
He will have to demonstrate to Chiefs coaches, though, that he is serious about football and that the skills that made him an All-American choice at UCLA have not diminished markedly during his years as the Eagles' third wideout. Almost as important, Mitchell will have to show the Chiefs that his attitude is better than it was in Philadelphia, where he was known more for his big mouth than for big plays.
Playing mostly as a slot receiver, Mitchell had 90 receptions for 1,263 yard and five touchdowns for the Eagles in four seasons. He never posted more than 35 catches in a single season. After Kennison, the only receiver on the current Kansas City roster who had more than 20 catches in a season is Hall, who posted 40 receptions in 2003.
"There has been something missing there [with Mitchell]," Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson noted earlier this week. "Can you find that and ignite it? Possibly."
It is all but a given that, sometime before training camp, the Chiefs will add a veteran receiver. Team officials will discuss Koren Robinson, released by Seattle this week, but his litany of off-field problems likely will preclude serious consideration by the Chiefs, a team that has historically made character a priority.
Peterson doesn't want to spend a lot for a veteran receiver and, since Mitchell never triggered any of the "escalators" in his original contract in Philadelphia, he was due to earn a base salary of just $540,000 for 2005. That is the league minimum for a four-year veteran and so, no matter where he signs, Mitchell won't lose any money over what he was to have earned with the Eagles this year.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .