The Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason, which has mostly been defined by the investigation into All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, has been quietly productive. Perhaps it hasn’t been all that quiet, just more-so drowned out by the tumultuous and harrowing audio tape of Hill, which seem to implicate the wide receiver’s involvement in the injury to his son.
That’s not really what this is about, though it would be irresponsible to talk about Kansas City’s offseason without acknowledging the situation. Much of what the Chiefs have done since the release of the tapes have been telling about the direction of the offseason and the team’s current mindset: the Chiefs fully intend to win now — with or without Hill.
They’ve cut aging, expensive players, made marquee trades and gambled on draft picks. The Chiefs know they’ll be the heir to the Patriots in the AFC if they play their cards right, and that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.
The rundown: Let’s take a look at what the Chiefs have done and what they should do next.
- We’re going to take a broad look at Kansas City’s transactions as a whole, as well as breaking down important individual transactions like the trade for former Seattle defensive end Frank Clark.
- Despite their rather busy offseason, the Chiefs still have work to do. We’ll look at what needs to happen for the Chiefs to solidify themselves as Super Bowl favorites.
- When it’s all said and done, the Chiefs will get a grade for what they have and haven’t done, rating where they stand today versus where they stood a few months ago.
Fitting farewells: The Chiefs said goodbye to a few players that needed to go.
- Cutting Eric Berry was probably one of the toughest choices the Chiefs had to make this offseason, him being a cancer survivor, fan favorite and all-around good guy. The good, of course, came with too much bad. Berry had played just three regular season games since signing a 6 year, $78 million dollar deal in 2017. It was time to move on.
- The Chiefs also saved some money while saying goodbye to Justin Houston, the veteran outside linebacker who recorded a franchise-record 21 sacks in the 2014 season, nearly catching Michael Strahan’s all-time record. Like Berry, Houston’s next contract was an overpay and injuries ultimately derailed his career in K.C.
- Cornerback Steven Nelson departed Kansas City via free agency after four seasons with the team. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, Nelson’s time with the Chiefs was productive, though the defensive issues were often blamed on players, and it led to Nelson being rubbed the wrong way. “You’re a target to other teams, referees, fans. It’s just not a good thing,” Nelson told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler after singing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Holes to fill: Some key departures that need to be addressed.
- Center Mitch Morse signing with the Buffalo Bills went somewhat unnoticed this offseason, but will be all too evident once the season starts. The Bills made him the highest paid center in the league for a reason.
- Chris Conley signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t seem like a huge loss at the time, but with the aforementioned uncertainty surrounding Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s receiving corps is suddenly an area of weakness, or at the very least, not near as strong as it was a few months ago.
- Backup tight ends aren’t something that will generally make or break a team’s offense, but replacing Demetrius Harris, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, could be easier said than done. The Chiefs did sign tight end Blake Bell, though he just 30 career receptions and zero touchdowns in four NFL seasons.
Reinforcements: A bolstered, new-look defense has arrived.
- Trading for Frank Clark could help make the Chiefs the favorites in the AFC, and makes Kansas City’s front seven scary. After trading away Dee Ford, the Chiefs essentially replaced him with a more reliable playmaker.
- The Chiefs also helped shore-up the front seven by signing former Saints defensive end Alex Okafor. He fits the scheme that new defensive cooridnator Steve Spagnuolo is expected to implement. Grouped with Clark and Chris Jones, the newly-joined trio should wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
- Tyrann Mathieu, whom the Chiefs signed to a 3 year, 42 million dollar deal, has been the franchise’s most notable addition to a secondary that struggled mightily last season. He’ll ultimately serve as the replacement to Eric Berry, and his motivated attitude should excite Chiefs fans before they’ve even watched him take a snap. Last month, he tweeted, “Lotta work to put in, but we will play with energy, attitude & we won’t accept being the lil brother to a high powered offense.”
Other acquisitions: A few other notable moves that could put the Chiefs on top.
- The low-key signing of Baushaud Breeland could pay dividends for the Chiefs. The cornerback missed much of last year before signing with the Green Bay Packers in late September. In Weeks 10-17, Breeland allowed the second-lowest passer rating among NFL corners. If he can replicate that performance over the course of the 2019 season, his one-year deal will be a steal for Kansas City.
- Signing running back Carlos Hyde to a one-year deal also looks like a savvy, under-the-radar signing for the Chiefs. Hyde had back-to-back 900-yard seasons for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and ‘17. Producing numbers anywhere close to that would make Hyde a solid secondary option in Kansas City’s backfield.
- Trading up and taking wide receiver Mecole Hardman with the 56th overall pick in this year’s draft seems like an insurance policy for the Tyreek Hill situation. Even if Hill remains with the Chiefs, it seems more than likely that he’ll serve a suspension. Hardman, who ran a 4.33 second 40-yard dash, could serve as a return man and deep-threat in Hill’s absence.
Shopping list: What Kansas City could still use heading into the season.
- Realistically, the Chiefs probably still need a cornerback. They’ve got Kendall Fuller, who was solid in his first season in Kansas City, and they’ve got Breeland, who’s more of a gamble than a sure-thing. Charvarius Ward seems to be up-and-coming, but the Chiefs would be better suited with an established corner. Someone like Marcus Peters would fit really well, if only the Chiefs hadn’t traded him for relatively nothing.
- Staying in the secondary, the Chiefs could use another safety to work opposite Mathieu.
- A trade for Patrick Peterson, as suggested by John Breech of CBS Sports, would be costly but would secure the Chiefs as the best team in the AFC.
- As pointed out earlier, the back-up tight end spot could use improvement, perhaps through a trade for Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph, who is reportedly available.
- Additionally, the Chiefs could use another established linebacker.
Final grades: Assessing the Chiefs on their offseason so far and expectations going forward.
- Of course, the offseason isn’t quite finished, but it seems likely that most notable acquisitions that could happen have already happened, barring an unforeseen trade. The Chiefs have done well.
- Cutting ties with franchise greats was a tough choice, but a necessary one, and grabbing Mathieu and Clark was a breath of fresh air for Chiefs fans. The team that won 12 games a season ago looks like it has improved — Hill’s status notwithstanding.
- And, of course, they still employ the reigning MVP at quarterback.
We’ll give the Chiefs’ front office an A- for its work this offseason.
- Failing to sign add an established corner or trading up to draft one early was the only thing keeping Kansas City from an A+. Anything short of another AFC title game appearance would be a disappointment for the Kansas City Chiefs.