KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Chiefs general manager John Dorsey expects running back Jamaal Charles to be ready for next season, though he sidestepped questions Thursday about a number of pending free agents.
In his first comments since the Chiefs' season ended with a playoff loss in New England, Dorsey said that Charles is "ahead of schedule" in his return from a torn ACL. Charles hurt his right knee on Oct. 11 in a loss to the Chicago Bears, robbing the Chiefs of their biggest playmaker.
Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware shared carries in his place.
"I've always thought it was the nine- to 10-month window (for recovery), but with the surgical procedures and the way they are today, guys have come back a lot faster than they have in years past," Dorsey said. "I think it's a case-by-case basis. It's got to be."
He declined to discuss the future of All-Pro safety Eric Berry and veteran linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, saying only that "I would like to assess every situation." All three have been a major part of the Kansas City defense, and all three are free agents.
Dorsey did acknowledge having conversations with Berry's representatives.
He also declined to discuss any other free agents, including defensive tackle Jaye Howard, cornerback Sean Smith, offensive lineman Jeff Allen and safety Husain Abdullah.
"What I want to do is what's best for this organization," Dorsey said. "We have to sit down and develop our plan as move forward. I don't think right now is the time to do this, this or this."
All those free agents means Kansas City has more salary cap space than previous years. Some of that money will no doubt be earmarked to bring back key players, but it should also give Dorsey flexibility to improve depth across the board — a major shortcoming of this year's team.
Along with losing Charles, the Chiefs played the Patriots last weekend with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin slowed by an ankle injury and top pass rusher Justin Houston hobbled by a knee injury.
"When you reflect on this team, from a personnel guy, maybe there were some moves you could have made during the season that could have increased the depth of this roster," Dorsey said. "I think in hindsight you could have done that. But a team goes 11-5 — we did a pretty good job. We made progress over a three-year period. Of course, we have to build off that. I understand that."
In other news, Dorsey said wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas is still a part of the team, and that he has spoken to him several times. But he refused to shed much light on his mysterious situation.
Thomas sustained a concussion Week 11 against San Diego. He was cleared through the NFL protocol to return, but wanted to take another week to recover. He ultimately was placed on the non-football injury list with coach Andy Reid insisting that it was not related to the concussion.
On Wednesday, Thomas tweeted: "STILL TRYING TO RECOVER FROM MY CONCUSSION," followed a moment later by, "ITS NOT A GAME."
"I just want to reaffirm that I love this kid. He's a great kid. That's how we're going to stand and keep it at right now," Dorsey said. "Right now he's a Chief. Why wouldn't he be?"