Dexter McCluster made quite the career debut way back in 2010, returning a kickoff for a touchdown that would prove to be the difference in the season opener. Unfortunately, the “OW” has struggled to find his niche since. He’s certainly been productive, but a slew of mediocre signal callers and a revolving door of coaches has limited McCluster’s ability to grow as a player. Does that mean the Chiefs should move on from him in 2014?
Player: Dexter McCluster
Position: Wide Receiver, Kick/Punt Returner
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Situation: McCluster was the Chiefs’ third receiver and primary punt returner last season. He earned a nod to the Pro Bowl as a return man.
Who is Dexter McCluster as a football player, exactly? That seems to be the question management has been asking themselves over the years. As I mentioned above, McCluster called himself an “OW,” or offensive weapon, when he was first drafted by the Chiefs. While that sounds exciting, what it really means is McCluster doesn’t have a true position on the field. He’s not big enough to play running back (which he played in college) and isn’t fast enough to be a truly devastating slot receiver. He’s useful in multiple areas of the game, but he isn’t spectacular at anything he does on offense.
What McCluster can do is return kicks and punts, which he did an exemplary job of in 2013. His punt return for a touchdown against New York was one of the best plays of the season, and his performance against Washington was, well, ridiculous, to name a few. In fact, McCluster was so effective in the return game that he earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl as the deep man. Unfortunately, while I love seeing Chiefs in the Pro Bowl, this will only drive up his asking price this offseason.
So what should management do with Dex? Well, if the Chiefs see McCluster as an elite return man but nothing more, they should let him go. As Quintin Demps demonstrated this season, return men can be found just about anywhere. In fact, the Chiefs could look no further than Knile Davis, who showcased exceptional ability returning kicks in limited playing time.
If the Chiefs believe McCluster can develop into more of a threat on offense, however, they should absolutely keep him in town, and I think that is exactly what they are going to do. Andy Reid loves players like McCluster. Actually, Reid loves McCluster himself. He even went as far to say he considered selecting McCluster in the draft while he was calling the shots for the Eagles. His west coast style of offensive play calling focuses on the strengths on players like Dex, and I believe another offseason in Reid’s system could do wonders for McCluster next season.
Additionally, the Chiefs are in no position to allow an already weak receiving core to get even weaker overnight. Conversely, the addition of another receiver, either via the draft or free agency, would demand coverage away from McCluster and make him that much more effective.
Ultimately, McCluster has played with a chip on his shoulder from day one, and I think he has a lot more to prove in the red and gold.