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Were the Chiefs close to taking Johnny Manziel?

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Friday, May 9, 2014, at 6:52 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, May 12, 2014, at 3:34 p.m.

At approximately 9:42 p.m on Thursday night, only one team stood between Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the biggest celebrity in the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Kansas City Chiefs.

And for the next nine minutes, while the Philadelphia Eagles were on the clock, the questions continued to multiply.

If Philadelphia passed on him at No. 22 and he fell to the Chiefs, would Kansas City move down and collect more picks from a team that really needed him? Would they consider taking him? And if they did take him, what would happen to Alex Smith?

This was the debate among Chiefs fans, fleeting as it was. Cleveland, who was set to pick three spots behind the Chiefs, ultimately leapfrogged them and took Manziel.

However, those questions still loomed Thursday night, long after the Chiefs took Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford. Later on, Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey were somewhat vague about their level of interest in Manziel, but they did make it clear that they were, at the very least, engaging in meaningful trade talks with teams looking to move up.

“I would tell you the phone was ringing for the kid that went before us,” Reid said of Manziel. “They don't tell you exactly who they want, but the phones were ringing at that time. I'm sure they were working with us and Philadelphia. That's how it happened.”

Dorsey said the situation, at the very least, made for an interesting evening, and even hinted that the Chiefs may have had other offers on the table after Manziel was picked.

“You know what, our phones were so active and busy, and it was kinda fun, to be honest with you,” Dorsey said. “We had five or six teams that we were talking to as this was beginning to unfold, but at the end of the day, when you take the player and the compensation offer and you really think about which truly is the best, you go with the player in this regard because the compensation didn't outweigh what the player's value was. We felt the player's value was the best fit for us.”

However, when asked outright if the Chiefs — who have made it clear that they would prefer to sign veteran quarterback Alex Smith to an extension — were prepared to take Manziel, both men became decidedly more coy.

“That's such a hypothetical because he went before us,” Dorsey said, “so that wasn't even in the equation.”

“He's a heck of a football player,” Reid said. “He's a heck of a football player.”

When asked if that was a yes or not, Reid smirked.

“I answered it,” he said.

Make of those answers what you will, but Reid was decidely less evasive when asked if the team's interest in a quarterback can be linked to a tweet last week by NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport, who reported that negotiations with Smith, who only has one year remaining on his contract, for an extension aren't progressing well.

“That's not true,” Reid said. “When you're sitting at the 23rd pick, you look at everybody. So absolutely, we checked the quarterbacks out. But by no means was it anything to do with Alex's play or contract or anything else. It had nothing to do with it. We looked at everybody across the board.”

The rumor picked up steam leading up to the draft thanks to Rapoport's tweet and another report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who also said the Chiefs would entertain taking a first-round quarterback. To a certain degree, it wasn't implausible, considering they stood to gain millions on the cap in future years by locking a young quarterback like Manziel into a team-friendly rookie deal and letting Smith walk after the season.

But in the end, the Chiefs — who also surrendered two second-round picks for Smith last year — had the bat taken out of their hands in the Manziel sweepstakes thanks to the Cleveland-Philadelphia swap, and even they opted to pass on another first-round quarterback, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, too.

What's unclear, and may very well remain so, is whether those two were among the four players Reid and Dorsey targeted with the No. 23 pick, all of whom they said graded out close to one another.

“There were three other guys, and they kind off peeled off there,” Dorsey said, without getting more specific. “At the end of the day, we got the guy we really wanted.”

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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