Kansas City Chiefs Will Make Peyton Manning Regret Signing with Denver Broncos

Derek EstesCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 22:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts falls to a sack by the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on October 22, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Colts defeated the Jags 29-7.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

ESPN announced Monday morning that Peyton Manning has told his agent to begin contract talks with the Denver Broncos, selecting a rival AFC West team after jilting the Kansas City Chiefs by declining to meet with them.

And like the class geek who shows up to his reunion with millions of dollars and the trophy wife, Kansas City will make Manning regret passing up on the Chiefs when he had a chance.

Some might call this a bold prediction. Others will more likely say I'm a complete homer with delusions of grandeur. But there's plenty for Kansas City to hang its hat on so far this season and every reason to think the Chiefs can top the Broncos this season.

Yes, Denver solved what could have been their biggest shortcoming from last year. As much as I admire Tim Tebow, he regularly played miserably for about 80 percent of his games. His ability in the fourth quarter was his saving grace and what made the difference in Denver's AFC West-winning turnaround from a 1-4 start to the season.

In Manning, the Broncos have a quarterback who can (and has) duplicated those fourth-quarter heroics while delivering through the rest of the game as well. And with a defense that improved by leaps and bounds late last year, Denver is about as serious a threat as they come in the AFC.

But Kansas City hasn't been idle since Manning rebuffed the Chiefs. In fact, they've aggressively upgraded their offense in every aspect. The Chiefs bought a solid insurance policy for Tony Moeaki by signing Kevin Boss from the Oakland Raiders and replaced Tyler Palko with former first-round pick Brady Quinn.

Most importantly, the Chiefs addressed their biggest deficiencies from last year by signing Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston. Winston seals the gaping hole at right tackle, which plagued Kansas City's quarterbacks last year as Barry Richardson provided almost nothing in pass protection. The Chiefs dumped one of the worst players at the position and replaced him with one of the best.

The Chiefs' run offense will likewise look entirely different from 2011. Jamaal Charles should be fully recovered from the torn ACL which sidelined him all season, which means Kansas City returns its most dangerous weapon to the backfield.

With Hillis, Charles is now that much more dangerous. Thomas Jones is a workout beast and great locker room influence, but age caught up to him shortly after joining the Chiefs. Hillis won't have that problem. At 26 and playing for his last big contract, he should complete the ideal picture Kansas City had for their run game when they signed Jones.

And with the attention afforded Kansas City's receiver corps last year, arguably no team possesses more talented playmakers than the Chiefs. The only weak link is Matt Cassel, and with his improved protection and healthy support, he should return to his 2010 Pro Bowl numbers.

This is what Manning would have had to work with; instead, he'll face Kansas City's defense, which ranked 11th last season despite missing their star safety Eric Berry. The Chiefs only lost Brandon Carr in free agency but pre-emptively replaced him with Stanford Routt. Plus, a full offseason will only improve Kansas City's pass-rushing tandem of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

With so few holes remaining on either side of the ball, Kansas City should focus almost exclusively on depth in the coming draft. The Chiefs find themselves in prime position to take the best players available in April and prevent a collapse similar to last year's injury-plagued season.

Manning will get a solid reminder twice each season of what could have been, with Chiefs fans cheering the whole way. Come January, Manning's slight to Kansas City will be the biggest mistake of his Hall of Fame career.