Kansas City Chiefs Offseason Previewby Ethan Hewette March 1, 2021 1 comment
The Kansas City Chiefs came up a game short of becoming the second team in the 21st century to win back-to-back Super Bowls. While the big game was a disappointment for the Chiefs, the 2020 season as a whole certainly shouldn’t be. Kansas City finished the season 14-2, with their second loss in Week 17 after resting their starters against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs boasted on one of the most explosive offenses in the National Football League once again. Tight end Travis Kelce had one of the best receiving seasons for a tight end with 105 receptions, 1,416 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns.
The Chiefs made a couple of free agency signings in the middle of the season, including running back Le’Veon Bell, who was cut from the New York Jets early on in the season. However, Bell is up for free agency again this offseason. It looks like the Chiefs will have their core three back again next season regarding the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy missed out on the handfuls of head coach openings this offseason.
Pending Free Agents
According to Over the Cap, the Chiefs have 26 players hitting the free-agent market this offseason. Due to the Chiefs being one of the 13 teams currently projected to be in the red for cap space in 2021, don’t expect many of these players to find their way back to the Chiefs this upcoming season. However, there is a handful of pending free agents that the Chiefs should try to resign but making sure they are finding the right value. The idea of value will be consistent throughout this entire article and something general manager Brett Veach has already started to master.
Daniel Sorensen, Safety
Sorensen has become a household name for the Chiefs and has been a serviceable and versatile defensive back for the Chiefs defense. Sorensen has shown these past two seasons that he is a productive member of the Chiefs’ defensive backfield. Plus, Sorensen led Kansas City’s defense in tackles with 95 and forced two fumbles. While he may have to come back at a “hometown” price, Sorensen is undoubtedly a piece that the Chiefs should consider holding on to.
Kelechi Osemele, Guard
Osemele was looking to be a substantial addition to the Chiefs’ interior offensive line until he went down with two torn ACLs in Week 5. While the injury was severe and leaves a long road to recovery for the veteran guard, the Chiefs could potentially bring Osemele back for a prove-it year type of deal. Osemele brought a physical aspect to the offensive line that they lacked and was looking to be their best run blocker. Again, the price will have to be right for the Chiefs, but Osemele has been a huge team player for the Chiefs and likely wouldn’t mind taking a smaller deal to stay with the Chiefs for another season.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, Defensive End
After defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo changed the defensive philosophy in Kansas City, Kpassagnon became a legit threat off the Chiefs’ edge. While he has served as a rotational piece, pass rusher is a need for the Chiefs, and retaining the contributors from the past couple of seasons should be of priority. Kpassangon is still only 26 years old and his best season came in 2019, where he had four sacks and 29 tackles. Fellow edge rusher Alex Okafor is also up for free agency. Still, Kpassagnon won’t demand as much on the open market and could take even less to sign back with the Chiefs.
Charvarius Ward, Cornerback (RFA)
Ward should be near the top of the list in terms of players getting resigned the offseason. The undrafted free agent has been a serviceable outside corner. Plus, he likely will come with a much smaller price tag than Bashaud Breeland, a free agent this offseason. Ward allowed just a 50 percent completion rate on passes thrown his way. While he may not be the elite lockdown corner, he bounces back from and makes up for the handful of bad reps he has. Therefore, the Chiefs should consider holding on to the young corner. Luckily, Ward is a restricted free agent, so the Chiefs still have some control over Ward’s immediate future.
Anthony Sherman, Fullback
Kansas City wouldn’t be the same if Sherman wound up on another squad this offseason. Sherman, or as Chiefs fans call him, “The Sausage,” has become a hometown favorite and a key contributor on special teams. Sherman also occasionally gets his moment to shine on a loaded offense. While the price would have to be in the Chiefs’ favor, Sherman is a free agent the Chiefs should be considering bringing back.
Byron Pringle, Wide Receiver (RFA)
Pringle may not have been the most involved player in 2020 for the Chiefs. But with a wide receiver room that is likely to see a fair amount of targets leaving in free agency, bringing back a much cheaper talent would be a smart move by Veach. Sammy Watkins has struggled to stay healthy. Both he and Demarcus Robinson will likely see a fair amount of offers on the open market. Pringle, however, is a restricted free agent who has shown flashes in the Chiefs offense and could easily slide into a more prominent role in 2021.
Darrel Williams, Running Back (RFA)
There seems to be a trend here for the most part. Keep the promising youth on the roster. Williams is undoubtedly that and stepped up in a big way after Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season. Even after the Chiefs signed Bell, Williams still saw most of the second and third-string snaps behind Clyde Edwards-Heliare and Bell, respectively. Williams carried the ball 39 times and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. The undrafted LSU product has become a solid depth piece, and the Chiefs can most certainly bring him back on a team-friendly deal.
Potential Cap Casualties
Chiefs fans are likely wondering how the Chiefs will get back into the positive in terms of cap space for 2021. With the current cap expected to be around $180 million, the Chiefs are still $25 million in the red and will need to make some tough decisions this offseason. However, even with these few cap casualties, general manager Brett Veach is still likely going to either extend or restructure a couple of contracts to free up the required amount to put the Chiefs back under the cap number.
Eric Fisher, LT ($11.9 million saved)
This is a difficult paragraph to write. Fisher has given his blood, sweat, and tears to the Chiefs organization throughout his career and held down a battered offensive line in 2020. However, the NFL is sometimes a cruel business, and Fisher’s time in Kansas City is up. The former first overall pick would free up nearly $12 million in 2021 and likely wouldn’t take a single snap all season anyways due to an Achilles tear in the AFC Championship game last month. Fisher also dealt with a couple of injuries in 2019, seeing him only suit up for eight games during the Super Bowl campaign. This is a tough band-aid to pull off for the Chiefs, but it has to be done to free up a significant amount of cap space.
Anthony Hitchens, LB ($6.4 million saved)
The Chiefs brought in Hitchens back in 2018 to be an attacking, down-hill linebacker to fill the void of Derrick Johnson, who walked in free agency that year. While Hitchens has had his moments in the Chiefs defense, the seven-year veteran linebacker may be nearing his end in Kansas City. Hitchens snap count has slowly progressed in his three-year tenure, with the Chiefs seeing the field for just over half the team’s defensive snaps in 2020. To top this off with his progressively growing cap number, Chiefs fans and the front office have started to raise questions about whether or not Hitchens will be around next season.
Damien Williams, RB ($2.1 million saved)
Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, and the backfield did alright without him. Clyde Edwards-Helaire made some rookie mistakes but will get better with time. Darrel Williams was a serviceable backup and provided a change of pace in the Chiefs’ backfield. Plus, Darwin Thompson continues to be an underrated third-stringer. With a challenging cap situation, Williams may find himself out of the Chiefs’ building as one of the few players who would free up a fair amount of cap space. While Williams did earn the hearts of several Chiefs fans in the 2019 Super Bowl, Williams’s time in Kansas City could end this offseason.
Open Market Free Agent Targets
The Chiefs don’t have a lot of cap space right now. Even if they make the cuts projected above, they would still need to restructure if they want to make any splash free-agent signings. Therefore, if the cap number goes up and the Chiefs can do so, fans could expect one splash signing coupled with veteran and depth signings.
Trent Williams, LT, San Francisco 49ers
Williams was arguably the best offensive lineman for the 49ers in 2020 despite him coming off a 2019 season where he did not see the field all year. While this may result in him coming with a heftier price tag, the Chiefs should still attempt to go after the veteran tackle to fill a vacant spot at left tackle this season. Plus, if the cap number does end up getting inflated back to around $190 million, the Chiefs will find fewer cap struggles. Thus, potentially be able to land more of a splash signing like Williams.
Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals
Peterson is a veteran corner who could potentially be looking to go after a Super Bowl ring this coming season on a cheaper deal. What better place to do so right now than the Chiefs. With the significant pieces remaining for Kansas City and a hole potentially at the cornerback spot, Peterson makes a lot of sense for Veach and the Chiefs to target this offseason. Peterson was still productive in his 2020 season and could bring some veteran leadership and a little extra competition to the Chiefs’ cornerback room.
Nick Easton, G, New Orleans Saints
The Saints cut Easton to free up some desperately needed cap space for New Orleans but released a guard who has starting potential in the NFL. However, injuries this last season saw him start just nine games. Nonetheless, Easton would still be a great addition to the Chiefs’ interior offensive line’s reinvention. Easton has a starter-level upside and is a talented depth piece should the Chiefs suffer another injury-ridden season in the offensive trenches.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
As the late Terez Paylor always said, the contract year is undefeated. Davis is a perfect example of this. The former top-five pick in the draft finally had a bit of a breakout year in his contract year with the Titans bringing in 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns. One big reason, Davis was no longer a one-person show at wideout this past season and was able to fill his role nicely behind A.J. Brown. Could Davis do the same with the Chiefs behind Tyreek Hill? Especially if the Chiefs don’t bring back Watkins, Davis would be a name to keep an eye on for the Chiefs.
Nick Martin, C, Houston Texans
Martin found himself hitting the open market after the Texans released him this past week, with a year still left on his deal. While Austin Reiter has been a serviceable center, Martin could be an upgrade and potentially wouldn’t demand a considerable cap number. Martin has started the past 48 games for the Texans at the center spot and is a high IQ center whose production, unfortunately, didn’t quite match up for the Texans. If nothing else, Martin would bring some competition to the center spot should the Chiefs re-sign Reiter.
Previewing the Daft
The Chiefs should certainly have a defensive mindset going into the draft. This time around, the Chiefs only have their three picks within the top-100 picks and while the defense is a big focus, an aging offensive line could prompt Veach to pounce on a premier offensive lineman in the first round as well.
Round 1, Pick 31: Offensive Line
This pick might be relying on recency bias after an awful Super Bowl outing for the Chiefs offensive line. However, the idea of getting younger talent on their offensive line is not. Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, and Osemele are all on the wrong side of 30 and dealing with rather severe injuries. While Lucas Niang will be back to likely fill a tackle spot, there are still question marks at nearly every other place on the line. Wyatt Davis out of Ohio State or Trey Smith of Tennessee would both be solid interior additions with this pick. Or if the Chiefs want to address the tackle spot, Jalen Mayfield out of Michigan or Samuel Cosmi from Texas would be great pick-ups.
Round 2, Pick 63: Cornerback
The Chiefs will need to potentially find some more proven talent at the corner spot this offseason. However, adding more talented youth that could make an impact early is never a problem either. This draft class is top-heavy, with guys like Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, and Caleb Farley near the top. However, a handful of corners could make some noise on day two, including Aaron Robinson out of UCF, who would be a huge addition of talent and toughness to the Chiefs’ secondary. You can read our draft profile on Robinson here.
Round 3, Pick 95: Linebacker
This pick could go a couple of different ways. The Chiefs will likely either need to address some need at the edge position or, if Hitchens does wind up hitting the curb to free up cap space, the linebacker spot. Even if Hitchens stays, Ben Niemann is potentially hitting free agency. Having a backup plan by taking a linebacker here would be smart. Chiefs linebacker coach Matt House worked with linebacker Jamin Davis in Kentucky. The latter could have a similar path to that of Willie Gay Jr in the Chiefs system.
Early 2021 Expectations
If the Chiefs play their cards right and bring back the right players and find some value in free agency, they will certainly be back in the playoffs next season. As long as Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid are together, you can almost guarantee their spot. However, even with some of the cap casualties, one or two prominent players such as Tyrann Mathieu, Hill, or Frank Clark will likely have to restructure their deals to open up the remaining cap space needed. The return of COVID-19 opt-outs and injuries will rejuvenate The Chiefs offensive line, and with it, a strong chance at another Super Bowl run.