KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dwayne Bowe made clear last fall that he was more than willing to continue his career in Kansas City. All along, it was going to take one thing to make it happen: public validation from the Chiefs in the form of a lucrative long-term contract that he was one of the NFL’s top wide receivers.
They provided him that with a five-year deal worth more than $11 million per season, making him at the time of the signing the third-highest-paid receiver in the league.
But if the pressure is now on Bowe to prove himself worthy, he isn’t feeling it. Bowe indicated Monday as the Chiefs began their offseason conditioning program at their Truman Sports Complex practice facility that he’s already done that.
“Personally, I feel like I’m top five, most definitely,’’ Bowe said. “My play shows it. Running (with) the ball, blocking, all the (qualities) of a wide receiver, I have. Whatever category people want to put me in, to me I’m always going to be number-one on this team, and that’s all that matters.’’
That’s exactly what motivated the Chiefs to reach a deal with Bowe. He’s been their leading pass catcher since trading Tony Gonzalez in 2009, and the Chiefs weren’t interested in finding out what life would be like without Bowe.
They were prepared to designate Bowe as their franchise player for the second straight season if they failed to reach an agreement with him. The Chiefs traded for new starting quarterback Alex Smith and signed as a free agent another starting wide receiver, Donnie Avery, but they’re still counting on a big season from Bowe to help improve their passing game.
The process began Monday, though the Chiefs didn’t practice. Bowe and Smith met for the first time.
“I like what I’ve seen,’’ Smith said. “Terrific player, makes big plays, physical receiver. He can make a lot of tough catches. I’m looking forward to working with him.’’
The Chiefs have had one of the NFL’s most feeble passing attacks in many of their seasons since drafting Bowe in the first round in 2007, but Bowe is hardly at fault. He’s dropped his share of passes, many at critical junctures, but he’s been remarkably consistent.
Bowe has caught at least 70 passes and been close to or over 1,000 receiving yards in all seasons but 2009, when he missed four games with a suspension, and last year, when he missed three games because of broken ribs.
Bowe may improve merely by playing with Smith, who could become the best passer Bowe has played with the moment Smith walks into the huddle. The list of Chiefs quarterbacks to throw to Bowe includes Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Brady Quinn.
“I can’t say that,’’ Bowe said. “I haven’t caught a pass from him yet. I’m sure as time goes down and the chemistry (unfolds), I’ll let you guys say that. Great player. After that, when the weeks go by, I’ll be able to tell you a little more. As a football player and a leader, that’s who you want at the position.
“It’s another quarterback. My job is to catch the ball no matter who’s throwing it. Now I have somebody that actually has a name for himself, has proved himself. I’m sure that will make it easier, but like I said, I haven’t caught a pass from him yet.’’
Bowe also said he was energized by playing for new coach Andy Reid, who frequently had one of the NFL’s highest-scoring teams when he was with Philadelphia.
“Having the quarterback in and a new coach, it’s refreshing,’’ Bowe said. “It’s just like coming in your rookie year or your freshman year in college, not knowing everybody but just knowing of them and what they can do and what they did. That motivated me knowing Andy worked with some big-time players and also some big-time quarterbacks and got their receivers and their quarterbacks to the next level, which is the Pro Bowl . . .
“With a new coach and a new quarterback, it’s like the first day of school. I feel like I’ve still got a lot of fire left in the tank. My body feels great.’’
Albert missing — Left tackle Branden Albert was the only member of the Chiefs’ 65-man roster who did not report to the team’s first day of voluntary off-season workouts and meetings Monday.
Albert last month signed a one-year, $9.83 million franchise tender. But there is a possibility the Chiefs could use the first overall pick of the upcoming NFL Draft to take either Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M or Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and ask Albert to switch to right tackle or guard, something he has said he does not want to do.
It’s also possible that Albert was told by the club not to report if the Chiefs are trying to trade him.
“You’ll find I don’t get caught up in that,” coach Andy Reid said when asked if he was disappointed by Albert’s absence. “The guys that are here we’ll work with, and that gives the next man the opportunity to get better and get ready to play.”