JASON BROWN: Chiefs need big swings to restore my confidence
I feel like the National Football League Draft has been on the horizon for the last two months and with just over a week remaining until the offseason’s biggest event, the Kansas City Chiefs have seemingly put themselves in a position of boom or bust.
It would be a lie to say I have lost a lot of confidence in the Chiefs because they are still one of the best teams in the NFL and have Patrick Mahomes. Even after the devastating end to the season, cutting of both offensive tackles – due to injuries – and failing to replace at least one of them to this point in free agency, this team is still projected by the experts to be just as good.
So why am I so worried?
The majority of my concern is with the amount of salary cap available paired with a picked-over free-agent class. With over $12 million available – including the projected $7.5 million allotted for draft picks – the Chiefs can surely add a free agent or make a trade at the draft to use this money. Russell Okung or Alejandro Villanueva would be upgrades at offensive tackles in the current situation so the Chiefs must think their second tackle – opposite Lucas Niang – will be at No. 31 in the draft.
If that’s the case, I would expect them to wait to spend that money after the draft to add depth at positions like wide receiver, defensive end, linebacker or cornerback. Those are all positions – other than cornerback – that the Chiefs should be targeting in the draft anyway. I would prefer not to see a cornerback taken in the draft because the Chiefs could benefit more from a veteran signing – like bringing back Bashaud Breeland – than adding another unproven player into the mix.
Wide receiver is a position that I have become more interested in as the offseason has progressed. Mostly because Sammy Watkins signed with Baltimore and every single other desirable pass-catcher shunned the Chiefs, making Demarcus Robinson – who resigned with the team very quickly – the second or third option with Mecole Hardman. It’s becoming clear that Tyreek Hill – whose contract expires after this season – and Travis Kelce are the only two proven consistent players at that position, which could lead to opponents employing double teams if Hardman and Robinson don’t become threats in their own right. Under that thinking, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable for the Chiefs to take a wide receiver in the first round – meaning OT would have to be addressed elsewhere but that can be done – or at pick No. 59 in the second round. Outside of an absolutely amazing find in the later rounds, it is hard to expect the Chiefs to find a day one starter beyond the third round.
I don’t see the Chiefs taking a big swing for a linebacker in the first round but with all of the questions surrounding the group, it is hard to imagine where the help is coming from next season. Unless they are content with running Anthony Hitchens, Willie Gay Jr. and Ben Niemann out there, which I don’t think I am, then maybe they will spend a later pick on a developmental piece to take over for Hitchens down the road.
Defensive end is another position that has not inspired much confidence in the last calendar year. Frank Clark has been somewhat underwhelming after his dominant postseason performance in 2020 and Taco Charlton isn’t exactly the ideal starter opposite him. Earlier in the free agency period, the Chiefs hosted Melvin Ingram and the match appeared to be made, but he left without a deal. Coupled with the fact that General Manager Brett Veach has not done his best drafting on the defensive line – see Breeland Speaks – it’s hard to see a big upgrade coming on draft weekend.
So now the Chiefs are in a very strange position from my perspective. They have a great roster with stars in almost all of the right positions, but without quality depth at many other positions, they are susceptible to being affected by injuries more than other teams might. The pandemic had a hand in some of the Chiefs’ struggles in 2020 as two offensive linemen opted out and the ability to bring new faces in was hindered by safety protocols. Those threats won’t loom like they did last year but that doesn’t excuse the limited improvement made to this roster with the resources that were made available through restructures and cuts.
If they don’t find a way to spend their available cap and upgrade the roster for Mahomes, I will be wondering for a long time why they felt the need to save $2 million by cutting Damien Williams.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com