Kansas City Chiefs Inside Slant 2009-03-02

Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is aggressively re-shaping the roster, and he's leaning heavily on his connections with the Patriots.

Kansas City finally has a proven young quarterback after trading the 34th overall pick in April draft to acquire Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel from New England. Considering that Detroit and Tampa Bay also inquired about Cassel, it appears the Chiefs got an excellent bargain by giving up only one second-round pick.

"I have a long history with both players," said Pioli. "Mike and Matt are men that I respect both personally and professionally. I look forward to having them as new members of the Chiefs family."

Cassel started 15 games last season, emerging after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. He won't have the same weapons initially in Kansas City, but new coach Todd Haley does run a spread offense similar to the Patriots.

In Vrabel, the Patriots get a 12-year veteran presence to help with the transformation to a 3-4 defense.

In other moves, Kansas City released three 30-something players and long-time contributors in linebacker Donnie Edwards (36 in August), quarterback Damon Huard (36 in July) and cornerback Patrick Surtain (33 in June).

All were hampered with injuries and saw little time in 2008 after having productive histories with the Chiefs or other teams.

Kansas City also released tight end Michael Merritt, a little-used seventh-round draft pick in 2008.

Edwards became a mainstay of the Chiefs defense shortly after his drafting in the fourth round in 1996.

He was a full-time starter from 1997 through 2001, and led the team in tackles for four three years. When Kansas City foolishly elected not to retain him in free agency, Edwards slipped away to championship contender San Diego for five years before rejoining KC in 2007. He fought hamstring and other injuries to start 16 games that year, but saw his streak of 153 consecutive starts snapped in the 2008 season opener. He played in only seven games last season after again battling a hamstring injury.

Huard shook off the rust of five seasons of almost complete inactivity as a backup to save Kansas City's 2006 season, a playoff campaign in coach Herm Edwards' first season with the club. Following a season-opener injury to starter Trent Green, Huard started eight of 10 games and put the Chiefs in contention to win a playoff spot with a 9-7 record.

He retained his job despite the challenges of young Brodie Croyle and started in 10 of 11 games in 2007, a disappointing 4-12 campaign. But when Croyle went down again in the 2009 season opener, Huard couldn't stay healthy, either. He played in only five games, starting three, before going on injured reserve on Oct. 26.

Surtain had been in two Pro Bowls for Miami before being traded to Kansas City in 2005. But his career never again approached with he knew with the Dolphins, possibly because Kansas City's woeful pass rush made him hold coverages longer than he ever did with the Dolphins. His best season was a four-pick one in 2005, but injuries and the drafting of two cornerbacks last year reduced Surtain to limited appearances in only eight games, a mere two of them starts.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 2, 2009