The Kansas City Chiefs are a very young, deep team with strong starters and solid developmental players at nearly every position. It's likely going to be the most difficult round of final roster cuts since John Dorsey arrived, and many soon-to-be-former Chiefs will likely earn playing time with several other clubs around the NFL. But one assumed cut merits some re-consideration, even if the reasons for getting rid of him seem too obvious.
Specifically, I'm referring to Knile Davis. A quick note of clarification here from the outset: I'm not advocating keeping Knile Davis outright. Honestly I'm not sure what I would do, and I'm very glad that my job does not depend on making such calls. (Actually, I'd take that job in a minute, even if I'd be fired after 30 days.) But I think there's a better case to be made for keeping him than what Davis gets credit for, a fumbling shadow that looms over him and fails to express just how well-rounded he is.
In any event, here's my case for re-consideration:
1. The contract year
Let's get this out there first and foremost: Knile Davis is at the crossroads that every player longs to get to in his career: the contract year. Next offseason, Knile will hit the open market and hope that the right team has the right holes to make a move for him. We'll get to what he could bring to that team in just a bit, but it's important to notice up front that Davis will be on his best behavior (again, more on that in a second) both on and off the field.
It's sad that some players wait until their contract year to truly break out, but it's a reality nonetheless. Davis has the skills to break a game wide open — we've seen it before — and the Chiefs might want to keep him in house one more year when he's going to take advantage of every opportunity.
2. Model citizen
I also want to tip my hat to Knile Davis for being a model citizen through the entire last year. Andy Reid has given him props in camp for competing hard, and Davis has maintained a stay humble, work hard approach. Even after being passed over for Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware last season, Davis simply said, "I think those guys did a good job. They're a good duo."
Even more, as trade rumors circulated all around Davis heading into free agency, during the draft and now once again at training camp, Davis has kept his head in a healthy place, focusing only on that which he can control. "If ... they decided to trade me, and I'd be somewhere else, I'd have the same attitude there," Davis said. "It's all the same, just trying to help the team do good." The man deserves some credit for that.
3. All-around impact
A quick glimpse back to last year's playoff run shows that Davis can provide a boost in every capacity as a running back. During the Chiefs 30-0 victory over the Houston Texans in the opening round, Davis' 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was an electric play that reminded everyone just how dangerous he can be when given a chance. Davis was tasked with even more in the Patriots game and had 6 carries for 30 yards and another two catches for 13 yards. He also had two more kick returns of over 30 yards each.
Then came the fumble in the third quarter, forced by Chandler Jones. Unfortunately for Davis, it came at the worst time because he was in the midst of raising his stock in front of the entire NFL in that moment. The Chiefs were driving, and Knile was responsible for 29 yards, both on the ground and in the air, on that drive as the Chiefs were marching. C'est la vie.
[Author note: Lest you think I'm being a bit too forgiving of Davis' fumble issues, they are most definitely there. In his NFL career, Davis has eight total fumbles and a career fumble rate (regular season + playoffs) on 2.69 percent of his touches. For the sake of comparison, Jamaal Charles has a career fumble rate of 1.67 percent. Davis has most definitely fumbled more than the average running back. While you can say that he had zero during the entire 2015 regular season, he also had the least amount of touches by far in 2015.]
The bottom line is that this comes down to too many other players on the roster. The Chiefs are a very, very deep team. Charles, West and Ware are ahead of him on the depth chart at running back where Darrin Reaves has also made waves. Tyreek Hill, Frankie Hammond and De'Anthony Thomas are available to return kicks and punts. Some of these guys could easily join Davis on the roster bubble given that cuts come swiftly for a number of talented players at each position.
That said, Davis can do several things well at a time when he's going to want to showcase his talents as much as ever while bringing a professional, team-first mindset wherever he goes. Are the Chiefs too deep to keep such a player? It's at least worth (re)considering.