Having seen what having a couple of pass-catching tight ends could do for other teams, the Chiefs decided to get in on the trend.
It wasn’t a difficult decision for the Chiefs, not after they played last season without even one competent pass receiver at the position. That’s one reason they suffered when they tried to throw the ball all year.
So they signed veteran free agent Kevin Boss and welcomed back Tony Moeaki, who missed all of last season because of torn knee ligaments.
“You see the success that the Patriots have had with a couple big tight ends,” Boss said. “I think it’s something we can do here. I’m just excited to be here and to be with Tony, I think it’s going to be fun to play with him.”
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New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 catches and 24 touchdowns last season. The Chiefs are expecting numbers like that from Boss and Moeaki this year.
But they would like far more than they received from their tight ends last season. Playing without Moeaki, the threesome of Leonard Pope, Jake O’Connell and Anthony Becht combined for 34 catches and one touchdown.
Pope and Becht became free agents and weren’t re-signed. O’Connell is still with the Chiefs but is in a fight for his roster spot.
So finding a pass-catching tight end was a priority for the Chiefs when free-agency began. They had John Carlson in Kansas City for a visit, but he instead signed with Minnesota.
Then they turned their attention to Boss, who caught 147 passes in five seasons with the Giants and Raiders.
“He’s going to bring a lot to the table: a lot of intelligence, a lot of ability,” said Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt, who played with Boss in Oakland last season. “He’s what, 6-7? Him getting over there with Moeaki and the rest of those guys, they’ll be just fine.”
Initially, the Chiefs looked at Boss as insurance in case Moeaki wasn’t sufficiently recovered from knee surgery.
“Having that flexibility, we felt was important for us to be able to do that,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “We were hoping Tony would come back full speed, but you just never know. So if we could get a guy who could complement, a blocking tight end, and another guy who could catch if something would happen to Tony or Tony doesn’t make it back to where we hope he does, we felt that was pretty good for us.”
Moeaki, who caught 47 passes for the Chiefs as a rookie in 2010, hasn’t yet resumed practicing. But the Chiefs now believe he will be ready to play when the regular season begins.
If he is, the Chiefs have plans for Boss and Moeaki, sometimes in the same lineup.
“It makes it a little bit tougher on the defense trying to figure out what you’re going to do because with that kind of flexibility you can be a two-back offense if you want to be or you can be a one-back offense if you want to be,” Crennel said. “You can be a three-wide-receiver offense. You have all of that available to you, which makes it tough for a defensive team to hone in on exactly what you’re doing.”
The Chiefs for many years had Tony Gonzalez, the all-time leader among tight ends in pass receptions. Since trading Gonzalez to Atlanta in 2009, they’ve struggled at the position except for their one season with Moeaki.
“The tight end is critical in any offense, especially ours, not only in the run game but also in the pass game,” quarterback Matt Cassel said. “We’re trying to create mismatches with those guys. We’ve got great competition going on right now and it will also be fun to get Tony back.”