Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach’s first offseason on the job proved more eventful than anyone may have imagined when he landed the job last summer. The club said goodbye to four starters from last year’s defense and provided another weapon for first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Veach’s first move largely set the wheels in motion for the entire offseason, with the GM reaching a deal during Super Bowl week sending quarterback Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for a draft pick plus cornerback Kendall Fuller. That decision cleared a path for Mahomes assuming the starting role, but the acquisition of Fuller proved just as crucial in making it palatable to deal cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams for draft picks. Veach also added free-agent cornerback David Amerson from Oakland in bolstering a suspect pass defense.
The Chiefs entered free agency with most of their holes on defense, and Veach moved quickly to fill the most critical voids. With the team parting ways with longtime inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs signed Dallas free agent Anthony Hitchens. Also gone are safety Ron Parker and defensive tackle Bennie Logan with free agents Robert Golden (Pittsburgh) and Xavier Williams (Arizona) filling those gaps.
Veach’s biggest splash on offense came with the free-agent signing of wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Last season exposed a lack of depth and experience in the team’s receiving corps, and the addition of Watkins eases concerns with Chris Conley returning from an Achilles rupture and Albert Wilson departing as a free agent for Chicago. Watkins adds another speedy deep-threat option to an offense that already features Tyreek Hill, running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs lack a first-round draft pick this year due to the 2017 draft-day trade that landed Mahomes. But Veach shuffled his deck to land eight picks in this year’s draft. That allows the Chiefs flexibility to make moves during the draft if necessary to land the player they want.
Here is a closer look at where the Chiefs are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 1st AFC West (10-6)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 375.4 (5th)
RUSHING: 118.9 (9th)
PASSING: 256.5 (7th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 365.1 (28th)
RUSHING: 118.1 (25th)
PASSING: 247.0 (29th)
- Edge rusher: The Chiefs ranked tied for 24th in the league a year ago with just 31 sacks, a paltry total for defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s normally aggressive defense. Injuries limited Dee Ford and Tamba Hali to only two sacks combined, leaving Justin Houston facing more double coverages on the left side of the defense. The Chiefs hope second-year linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon with his 6-foot-7, 280-pound frame can take the next step as a contributor this season. But with Ford entering the final year of his rookie contract and the team facing a salary-cap decision on the 29-year-old Houston after the season, the club needs edge rushing help both now and down the road.
- Offensive line depth: The line lost its security blanket with free agent Zach Fulton departing for Houston. Fulton provided the Chiefs with insurance across the offensive line, especially inside at the guard and center positions where he started 46 games over the past four seasons. The only starting position open for competition is at left guard, where incumbent Bryan Witzmann along with Parker Ehinger, returning from an ACL injury in 2016, expect to compete for the starting job but don’t rule out additional competition. Cameron Erving projects as a swing tackle, but the team remains in the market for a backup behind center Mitch Morse.
- Tight end: The Chiefs acquired Orson Charles late last season in their search for a seasoned blocking tight end, but the need for a reliable blocker in running situations remains a real need. Travis Kelce lines up as one of the most imposing tight-end threats in the league in passing situations but the club can also use a capable backup with reliable hands. That need becomes more important with flamethrower Patrick Mahomes stepping into the quarterback role. The Chiefs ranked 29th in the league in red-zone touchdown scoring percentage last season, and a running mate for Kelce at tight end could go a long way toward improving an area that plagued head coach Andy Reid’s offense in recent seasons.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–DT Stefan Charles: UFA; $790K/1 yr.
–P Dustin Colquitt: UFA; $7.5M/3 yrs, $4.015M guaranteed ($1.05M injury only at time of signing, $1.95M SB).
–G Jordan Devey: UFA; $880K/1 yr, $90K SB.
–DE Jarvis Jenkins: UFA; $880K/1 yr, $590K guaranteed/$90K SB.
–FB Anthony Sherman: UFA; terms unknown.
–WR De’Anthony Thomas: UFA; $880K/1 yr, $90K SB.
–TE Jace Amaro: FA; $630K/1 yr.
–CB David Amerson: FA Raiders; $2.25M/1 yr, $500K SB.
–CB Kendall Fuller (trade Redskins.
–S Robert Golden: FA Steelers; terms unknown.
–QB Chad Henne: UFA Jaguars; $6.7M/2 yrs, $5.115M guaranteed/$3.1M SB.
–LB Anthony Hitchens: UFA Cowboys; $45M/5 yrs, $25.09M guaranteed ($3.8M injury only at signing, $14M SB).
–QB Matt McGloin: FA; terms unknown.
–WR Sammy Watkins: UFA Rams; $48M/3 yrs, $30M fully guaranteed/$21M SB.
–RB Damien Williams: UFA Dolphins; $1.2M/1 yr, $60K SB.
–DT Xavier Williams: RFA tendered at $1.907M with no compensation by Cardinals; Chiefs executed offer sheet not matched by Cardinals; $5.057M/2 yr, $3.455M guaranteed ($1M injury only at signing, $1.75M SB.
–QB Tyler Bray: UFA Bears; $795K/1 yr, $45K SB.
–G/C Zach Fulton: UFA Texans; $28M/4 yrs, $13M fully guaranteed, $5M RB.
–CB Phillip Gaines: UFA Bills; $675K/1 yr.
–LB Tamba Hali (released).
–CB Terrance Mitchell: UFA Browns; $10M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed ($1M injury only at signing, $2M SB).
–S Ron Parker (released).
–CB Marcus Peters: (traded Rams.
–ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis: UFA Jets; $5.25M/2 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed/$1M SB.
–CB Darrelle Revis (released).
–CB Alex Smith: (traded Redskins.
–WR Albert Wilson: UFA Dolphins; $24M/3 yrs, $14.45M fully guaranteed/$4M SB/$2.685 RB.
–LB Ramik Wilson: Not tendered as RFA/Rams; $705K/1 yr.
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 54 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama. With Marcus Peters no longer on the roster, the Chiefs must find pro-ready help for the secondary.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama. A physical, press player, Averett is the type of cornerback the Chiefs want for their defense.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.