The Kansas City Chiefs started the 2012 NFL season a bit early on Sunday by signing former Oakland Raider cornerback Stanford Routt to a 3 year $19.6 million contract. The Chiefs are trying to improve on a defense that finished sixth against the pass 2011. Not a bad finish, but with Brandon Carr set to hit free agency in 2012 the Chiefs were going to find themselves short one experienced cornerback. Signing Routt makes sense for the Chiefs. For starters, Routt gives the Chiefs the depth they need to continue defending the pass at a high level. Second, the Oakland Raiders signed Routt to a very lucrative contract before the 2011 season only to release him about a week ago. This no doubt left Routt a bit disgruntled, and there's no better way to get back at your former team than to sign with a division rival. But who really wins in this situation, the Chiefs or their division rivals? Do the Chiefs get a complementary shut-down cornerback to match with Brandon Flowers ? Or, did the rest of the AFC West win because the Chiefs signed a cornerback that they have been game planning for for the last 7 years?
Signing Routt gives the Chiefs the option to apply their franchise tag to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe . With Brandon Carr probably demanding a long term big money contract, the Chiefs are set now set to let Carr walk in free agency. The Chiefs already have a cornerback -- Brandon Flowers -- signed to a huge contract, so offering Carr a long term deal would lock up too much money at one position. Although the Chiefs are well below the salary cap limit for 2012, signing Routt to a three year deal gives them some time to figure out which version of Routt they signed. I can imagine the Chiefs are hoping they signed the 2010 version of Routt. The 2010 Routt was one of the best in the NFL. Ranking third in burn percentage rate in 2010, Routt was one of Oakland's top priority signings at the conclusion of the 2010 season. So what happened to Routt in 2011? The one glaring difference between 2010 and 2011 for Routt was the absence of Nnamdi Asomugha. Routt may be better suited in the NFL as a number two cornerback. In Kansas City, Routt will be playing opposite Brandon Flowers who is the Chiefs' current number one cornerback. The Chiefs seem to be banking on the hope that Routt will be able to return to his 2010 form in a complementary role with Brandon Flowers instead of having to shoulder the responsibility of the lead cornerback.
Signing Routt can also backfire on the Chiefs. Routt did not exactly adjust well in 2011 when he took on the role of lead cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. Drawing 17 penalties in 2011, Routt become the most penalized player in the NFL. AFC West teams should be a bit excited about Routt sticking around in the division. The Oakland Raiders are sure to have a leg up since most of the wide receivers have been practicing against Routt for the last several years. They should know his strengths, and should be able to exploit his weaknesses. The rest of the division has been game planning against Routt since he was drafted in 2005. The Chiefs did not do themselves any favors by signing a player from within the AFC West. Division teams tend to know each other better than teams outside of the division, and free agency is normally a good time to bring in some fresh talent to mix things up for the other teams. Signing Routt means the other AFC West teams don't have to spend an exorbitant amount of time learning the playing style of an "outsider". If Routt doesn't revert back to his 2010 play, the rest of the division will be at an advantage.
Whether the Chiefs won by signing Routt or the rest of the division did has yet to be seen. The result will be entirely up to Routt. If Routt goes to the Chiefs with a chip on his shoulder and plays with the heart he showed in 2010, the Chiefs are going to be a tougher team then they were in 2011 when they finished with the 6th best pass defense; however, if Routt continues the poor play he exhibited in 2011, not only will the other AFC West teams have the advantage, so will the balance of the Chiefs opponents.