Playbook: Chiefs need to keep (or replace) Bowe

The Chiefs might be hanging just outside of the top 10 of the 2012 NFL Draft, but unlike most teams atop the board, they are only a few pieces away from competing within their division.

And two of those pieces — Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry — will come off of last year’s injured reserve.

But if the Chiefs want to compete on a grander scale — within the upper ranks of the AFC — they are only a couple of extra moves away from having a well-rounded stock of talent.

Priority No. 1 – Retaining, or replacing, Dwayne Bowe

The passing offense ranked 25th last season because of a shaky quarterback situation. And whether or not Matt Cassel returns as the starter or Kyle Orton is given another shot, the quarterback needs a No. 1 target.

If Bowe leaves via free agency, someone needs to fill the void of the 20 touchdowns he produced over the last two seasons. The Chiefs have $38 million in cap space to use, and the list of potential replacements is almost endless (Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, etc.).

Then again, if the Chiefs keep their No. 1 target in-house, they still have to add depth at the position. The draft has a few options after the first round. Start with any receiver from Arkansas (Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and, last but not least, Greg Childs), along with DeVier Posey (Ohio State), Chris Givens (Wake Forest) and Pat Edwards (Houston), who can all be had after Round 1.

Priority No. 2 – Finding a nose tackle

Playing in the run-heavy AFC West, the Chiefs have to do a better job defending the run (ranked 26th last season).

Starting NT Kelly Gregg, 35, is a free agent, and the Chiefs could use a younger replacement. The big name, both literally and figuratively, coming out of the combine was DT Dontari Poe. At No. 11 overall, the Chiefs could be primed to bring in the 346-pound Memphis product, who ran his 40-yard dash in a jaw-dropping 4.98 seconds.

Poe has the size and agility to impact both the run and pass. Most of all, he can keep offensive linemen off of ILB Derrick Johnson, who is athletic but still has a tendency to work around blocks.

Priority No. 3 – Insurance policies

While the Chiefs have to feel good about getting Charles and Berry back, they have to be wary about putting too much on their shoulders following torn anterior cruciate ligaments for both players.

Running backs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones are set to be free agents. In an effort to limit Charles’ carries without exposing Dexter McCluster to too heavy a workload, the Chiefs might look to add a veteran with some juice in his legs. Pittsburgh’s Mewelde Moore is a well-traveled veteran with enough spunk to pick up tough yards on the ground and also provide an outlet in the pass game.

At safety, Berry could use a veteran companion as he works his way back to form. Kansas City invested in its secondary with the signing of ex-Raider Stanford Routt, but could go farther by looking into his teammate, Tyvon Branch, or Michael Griffin (Titans), Dashon Goldson (49ers) and Brodney Pool (Jets).

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — aired Thursday and Friday on NFL Network during the season. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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