Kansas City Chiefs Chris Jones

How the Kansas City Chiefs can navigate tough off-season decisions

  • Chris Jones
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Sammy Watkins
By Mike Brez February 28, 2020 0 Comment
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Following the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs have some decisions ahead of them with numerous contracts expiring before 2020.

The Kansas City Chiefs are finally Super Bowl champions after 50 years of waiting since the last time they held the Lombardi trophy. It was a season to remember with countless obstacles that the team had to overcome. Injuries on both sides of the ball seemed never-ending, but the team pushed forward. Part of that is due to players stepping up when their names called following an injury.

General manager Brett Veach earned respect from many that doubted him previously following the Super Bowl victory. His first draft class looked to be one that many would like to forget about, but his second draft class in 2019 was outstanding. Even without a first-round pick that he traded to acquire defensive end, Frank Clark. Free-agent signings from the last offseason played a crucial role in reshaping the defense under the new defensive coaching staff led by Steve Spagnuolo as well.

Throughout the season, Veach worked hard to find players to come in and contribute following injuries numerous times. Both Mike Pennel and Terrell Suggs played pivotal roles that filling in for injuries. Trading for Emmanuel Ogbah at the beginning of April giving up safety Eric Murray that likely wouldn’t make the roster in 2019 anyway. His team-building over the last year deserves credit when looking back at last season and how the Chiefs even reached the Super Bowl.

Veach and his staff will have more problems to solve this offseason as they have 20 free agents set to hit the market. Kansas City has another seven that are team options or exclusive rights free agents as well. Teams around the league will be looking to snag players from the 2019 roster following a championship.

Players the Chiefs should move on from

One of the issues surrounding the offense in 2019 was the offensive line. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was the only player of the unit that was playing at a consistently high level. Left tackle Eric Fisher was injured missing most of the first half of the season, leading to Cam Erving filling in on the left side. Chiefs fans found a new appreciation for Fisher in his absence, as Erving struggled for most of that time. According to Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports, the Chiefs are electing not to pick up Erving’s option in 2020.

Along the interior was the main culprit for the struggles upfront. Laurant Duvernay-Tardif returned from injury in 2019, but he wasn’t the same player that he once was by any means. Austin Reiter took over for Mitch Morse, who signed a lucrative deal in Buffalo last offseason. Andrew Wylie stepped in for the left guard spot after an impressive 2018 playing right guard, but his play dropped as well after the move. Whether it was protecting Patrick Mahomes in the passing game or opening holes in the run game, the unit proved it needed some upgrades this off-season.

The Chiefs could elect to blow it all up and start over along the interior by cutting LDT, Reiter, Wylie, and Erving to save $13 million in CAP space. That’s a tricky move given that offensive line play is built around familiarity and working as one. Then again, given all of the changes with injuries in 2019, it’s fair that the familiarity wasn’t ever truly built. That would still leave players like Martinez Rankin, Nick Allegretti, and Stefen Wisniewski if he were to resign on the roster as potential starters. Interior offensive line will likely be an area that Veach and company try to explore in both free agency and the draft.

Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has received some buzz over the off-season. Multiple teams are interested in the young wideout, making it easier to move on. After a miraculous performance in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders catching six passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, he was back to being somewhat of a ghost. The rest of the season, he eclipsed 50 yards in a game just one time, which came against the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. Robinson has not shown enough in his development or production for Kansas City to take part in a bidding war for his services.

On the defensive side of the ball, most of the contracts expiring are small that likely wouldn’t be significant contracts in 2020—outside of cornerback Bashaud Breeland and Chris Jones. Breeland has bet on himself in back to back seasons with one year prove it deals between the Green Bay Packers and the Chiefs. After an up and down regular season, Breeland played well in the playoffs, and teams are taking notice, making him likely out of the Chiefs’ price range.

Players the Chiefs should consider re-signing

The cornerback room has numerous vacancies with Breeland, Kendall Fuller, and Morris Claiborne all up for new contracts. Only second-year cornerback Charvarius Ward and rookie cornerback Rashad Fenton remain signed as of right now. While Breeland will likely command too much for the Chiefs and Claiborne is an easy cut, Fuller is a player the team could look to extend for the right price.

Fuller has yet to look like his 2017 season with the Washington Redskins. He struggled with injuries in 2019, along with finding a role that fits his best attributes, but his versatility down the stretch proved noteworthy. Finding a rotational part moving around between the nickel cornerback position and safety, Fuller helped not only fill holes from injuries but allow Spagnuolo to provide multiple looks for opposing offenses. His performance in the Super Bowl collecting four tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups are just flashes of what he could be in the future. With only five draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft, Veach might explore bringing back the versatile veteran on a contract that would be considered cheap for the position.

Another area that will see some turnover is the defensive line. Chris Jones has earned himself a massive contract, whether it be with Kansas City or someone else. After looking for an extension last year without any leverage, he finally has some on his side going into 2020. Will the Chiefs franchise tag and trade him as they did with Dee Ford last year? Or will he play another season in red and gold under the franchise tag or a new long term deal? It’s unclear at this time, but his presence in the middle is nearly unmatched.

Emmanuel Ogbah and Mike Pennel are two more, hitting the open market. Ogbah was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns last April, sending former Chiefs safety Eric Murray in return. Before being placed on Injured Reserve with a torn pectoral, Ogbah was having a breakout season with 5.5 sacks. Pennel signed with Kansas City following injuries mid-season but became a fan favorite with his abilities against the run. Both players will likely not command significant deals, which make them strong considerations for a new contract to keep Spagnuolo with a solid rotation of defensive linemen.

Free Agents the Chiefs could consider

Veach has to figure out what he wants to do with the big contract decisions already on the table before we can honestly know what they can do in free agency. Chris Jones would be a massive signing, and while Patrick Mahomes still has the upcoming season under his rookie contract, the team could elect to hash out a deal earlier rather than later. If it will happen this off-season, the agreement would likely get finalized in the spring following the new CBA.

Will Sammy Watkins remain on the roster another season with his massive CAP hit of $21 million? The Chiefs will likely ask for him to take a pay cut considering his lack of production and availability in the regular season over the past two years. He might have had a tremendous postseason in 2019, but with all of the contracts coming up, that might not be enough to warrant that big of a CAP hit.

Linebacker is an area that the team will need to address this off-season, but it will likely come from the draft. With a remarkable wide receiver pool in the upcoming draft, the Chiefs could elect to take advantage of that not only asking Watkins to take a pay cut but signing a veteran looking for a ring late in their career to fill a hole in the lineup. Receivers could see a small dip in what teams are willing to spend, given the number of talented wideouts that will enter the NFL in April.

We would like to see the Chiefs address cornerback early in the draft after two years in a row waiting till the sixth round to solve the problem. Considering the number of openings at the position, Veach might look to do something similar by grabbing a veteran on a prove-it deal in 2020. That is if they don’t have the money to snag a true number one cornerback.

One cornerback that could fit the bill for a one-year prove-it deal is Bradley Roby. Once upon a time a first-round selection by the Denver Broncos, Roby was inconsistent and forced to play on a one year deal with the Houston Texans in 2019. He’s got the talent which flashed in Houston, but he likely won’t be getting a massive deal this off-season. Not with guys like Byron Jones, James Bradberry, and Chris Harris Jr. hitting the market. Could the defensive coaching staff get more out of Roby as they did with the Chiefs corners last year?

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