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If I Were Chiefs GM Brett Veach: free agents to keep and to let go

The offseason is always interesting to me. During that time, there’s all sorts of work to be done in the form of film reviews, rookie prospect discussion, and then the fevered anticipation of trying to figure out what the next season will hold.

However, we’re still in the baby stages of the offseason, and for now we’re still in the “explain how we would fix literally every problem the Chiefs have if this were Madden” mode. Which, personally, might be my favorite mode to be in.

Last time I went over what I would do to get the Chiefs more cap room. You guys made some really compelling arguments as to why I should change my stance on Darrelle Revis, and after some serious thought, I think I’d get rid of him too (see how easy I am to manipulate?) due to the cost. So well done you! I’m standing firm on Dee Ford as of right now, though (though I wouldn’t weep if they cut him).

Anyways, this week is the next step: player retention. The Chiefs have a number of players who are free agents this year (unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights restricted, the various meanings of which can be found here. When did Wikipedia become good, by the way?), though not many of them are heavy hitters. That said, there are a few guys I’d keep around. Here is a list of the Chiefs’ FA’s, with their “designation” following:

(note: I used Spotrac for this. Any errors should be directed to their complaint department)

Bennie Logan (UFA)

Dustin Colquitt (UFA)

Anthony Sherman (UFA)

Albert Wilson (UFA)

Tyler Bray (UFA)

C.J. Spiller (UFA)

Jarvis Jenkins (UFA)

Phillip Gaines (UFA)

Steven Terrell (UFA)

Jordan Devey (UFA)

De’Anthony Thomas (UFA)

Kevin Pierre-Louis (UFA)

Terrance Mitchell (RFA)

Zach Fulton (UFA)

Kenneth Acker (UFA)

Rakeem Nunez-Roches (RFA)

Ramik Wilson (RFA)

Terrance Smith (ERFA)

Keith Baxter (ERFA)

Stefan Charles (UFA)

On the surface, that’s a daunting list (20 players!). However, in reality there isn’t that much action there outside of a half dozen or so players. The Chiefs, with a lot of cap flexibility (after my ruthless moves discussed earlier, plus Revis being cut), are in a position to make good offers to multiple players if they want to keep them.

It’s always difficult to say “I’d keep Player X,” because there’s no way of knowing how much Player X may demand and whether an extension is possible. It could be that Player X wants to be guaranteed a starting spot if he re-signs (I could easily see that for Zach Fulton), or the players has an over-inflated sense of his own worth in the open market. It’s just hard to say.

So I’ll do it this way... first, I’ll take care of the RFA and ERFA (the Chiefs can keep whoever they want out of those groups without too much cost), then I’ll address which players I’d try to keep with a “if under $_______ per year” caveat. Next article, I’ll dive into free agents I’d go after. Yay offseason!

Restricted Free Agents

Terrance Mitchell (Original Round Tender)

This one isn’t too hard for me. Mitchell had ups and downs last year, but he can be on the field and not a glaring weak spot the majority of the time. That makes him worth keeping around for a year considering the lack of depth in the secondary. He was drafted in the 7th round, but I don’t believe there’s much risk of another team trying to poach him, hence the original round tender.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches (2nd Round Tender)

Nacho was solid if unspectacular this last year, which was disappointing considering how good he looked in the preseason. However, a defensive lineman who can make plays against the run and be a solid part of the rotation is worth keeping around.

Nacho was good enough (and showed enough improvement from last year) that I do think there’s a slight chance of a team pursuing him, but not at the cost of a 2nd round pick. Given my plan to release Allen Bailey (if no extension is reasonable), keeping Nacho around is important to a defensive line that already doesn’t have much depth.

Remaining Restricted Free Agents: Let them Walk

I don’t believe Ramik Wilson, Terrance Smith, or Keith Baxter require a tag. ILB is a thin spot for the Chiefs, but Wilson hasn’t been able to catch on despite the team needing help there for years (despite flashes, and I had hopes for him). The remaining players are roster depth that should be churned unless Reid or the other coaches saw something in practice that makes them think otherwise.

Unrestricted Free Agents to Let Walk

I think it makes sense to start with the larger group here.

Tyler Bray- We’ve gone as far down this road as we need to. Bray’s brief stint against the Broncos did nothing to make me comfortable with him as a backup. I’d prefer a guy I wouldn’t completely panic if he needed to come into the game. This experiment has run its course after 4 years.

C.J. Spiller- I like Spiller, but the team doesn’t have deep needs at running back and what needs they have can be addressed in the draft of free agency.

Phillip Gaines- Once upon a time Gaines tantalized me with flashes of exceptional speed, quickness, and mirroring ability. However, he’s served as a good case study that small sample sizes and “traits” don’t always (or even often) pan out into good player.

Jordan Devey- Devey didn’t do enough in preseason or in his start against Denver to make me believe he’s competent depth along the line.

De’Anthony Thomas- This is one I wavered on a bit. But the reality is Thomas, even prior to his injury this year, didn’t distinguish himself as a returner or a receiver. I had high hopes for him once upon a time, but I don’t believe he does anything that can’t be easily replaced (this could be a “Dave Toub wants him” in reality, though).

Kenneth Acker- When Acker was pressed into action, it went poorly. Very poorly.

Stefan Charles- I have literally no analysis to offer here, which tells me a lot to be honest.

Unrestricted Free Agents to At Least Ask

This is the list of guys I’d say, “sure, but only if they agree to stay for a cheap deal.” These players can contribute, but not to the extent that I think it’ll be a big deal if they walk.

Bennie Logan- IF he agrees to 3 million or less per year

I had extremely high hopes for Bennie Logan as a run stuffer and replacement for Dontari Poe. I’d hoped that he would solidify the interior and even provide some push up the middle (though not much), and his film in Philadelphia seemed to support that hope.

However, Logan was largely... unnoticeable. Now, whether that’s due to Bob Sutton’s system (I find it odd how much worse Logan looked down the stretch with the Chiefs than he did in the Eagles system) or some other reason, that has to be factored in when deciding if he’s worth trying to keep around.

The Chiefs are shallow along the defensive line, though, and Logan is a known quantity who was decent against the run (a rarity for the Chiefs in 2017). So keeping him around isn’t a bad idea if it’s financially feasible.

Dustin Colquitt- IF he agrees to 2 million or less per year

I love Colquitt, but the Chiefs were paying WAY too much money for a punter in 2017. That needs to equalize, particularly given that Colquitt had a few too many “wow, that wasn’t a good punt” incidents for my taste. 2 million puts Colquitt in the upper half of the league, but no further. If he isn’t willing to do so, there are competent punters to be had for that amount.

Anthony Sherman- IF he agrees to 1 million or less per year

Sherman has value on special teams, but rarely plays on the offense. Given the spread/WC hybrid we saw this last season and will likely see more of moving forward, I doubt that changes (though we’ll always have the Anthony Sherman Game). That money for a fullback is solid, but there’s no need to overpay for a player in a position that doesn’t have a role in this offense.

Steven Terrell- IF he agrees to 600K or less per year

I’m not sure about Terrell, but he had a few moments when playing safety that made me think, “hey, maybe...”

That’s enough for me to take a flyer on a guy for a year or two, as long as the contract is quite cheap.

Jarvis Jenkins- IF he agrees to 1 million or less per year

Jenkins can play as a rotational guy along the line, and much like with Nacho, there’s some value in that. I’m not sure if he’s much more than “filler,” but you need filler defensive linemen you can trust to do their job. Jenkins also flashes just a bit as a pass rusher, which is nice to see. He’s been in the league a while, so the likelihood of him developing any further is slim, but he’s a guy you can put in there and get by with. Given the holes along the defense, that’s important.

Unrestricted Free Agents- See if You Can Make it Work

Kevin Pierre-Louis (3 million per year max)

That may seem like a relatively steep price for KPL, but to me he’s not a guy we want walking right now. KPL’s role in the defense was limited, but he’s a guy with speed who was able to drop into coverage (though he needs to improve on his awareness in zone) and play against the run. There’s a lot of value in that, especially since one of the moves I made in the last article was to let go of Chiefs legend Derrick Johnson.

Keeping KPL will allow the Chiefs to at least maintain some level of competency and stability at the ILB spot in a season where there is going to be some transition on defense. I liked how KPL and Reggie Ragland looked next to one another, so having him here for a longer period of time will help me breathe a bit easier.

Zach Fulton (3.5 million per year max)

This one is tough. Fulton does not fare particularly well when he plays guard, but is a competent center. Over the latter part of the season in 2017, he played center at a level that appeared (based on limited review) to be higher than merely “competent.” That changes some things.

The problem that exists with Fulton is that he shouldn’t be extended in order to play guard, but the Chiefs already have a very good center in Mitch Morse. So what do you do? I’ve long fought the idea of moving Morse to guard because of the uncertainty of how he’d handle the switch and the fact that he was a much, much better center than Fulton.

HOWEVER... with how well Fulton played at center this last year, I could maybe be talked into at least giving it a shot. The one thing I do know is that it’s tough to let go of a guy who plays solidly at one interior line position and is at least a passable backup at the others.

Albert Wilson (3.5 million per year max)

Albert Wilson had his best year as a Chief in 2017. In large part that was because the offense found something of a niche for him and stopped asking him to do things he’s not good at. He has some valuable skills after the catch, is able to get separation on short routes (he can get separation deep too, but his lack of ball skills renders that moot), and is a very good blocker.

Wilson’s value to the offense has gone, in my opinion, from a little underrated to a little overrated with his performance this last season. Some people correlate the Chiefs’ offensive futility with his absence, and I think that’s a drastic oversimplification (he was maybe 4th or 5th on the list of problems in my opinion).

When you look at the list of free agent wide receivers, there are some very intriguing names (though all of them won’t hit free agency). I think many of those receivers could well have a higher impact than Wilson in Reid’s offense, particularly if the Chiefs move forward with Mahomes and more vertical/intermediate looks. Which is why I don’t view Wilson being brought back as particularly crucial, at least enough to offer more than what I indicated above.

Overall, the Chiefs are in a good spot this offseason with regards to free agency and the cap. They have the flexibility to easily gain themselves 25-40 million without sacrificing major contributors (not guys who played snaps. Actual majory contributors), and aren’t in a position where they are forced to spend themselves to death just keeping the core intact.

We’ll deal with more in the next article (regarding free agents I’d like them to look into), but there’s no reason the Chiefs shouldn’t have an overall stronger roster in 2018, given their particular cap/FA situation. Making sure they don’t backslide is part of that, and retaining some of the guys listed above would be a good start to that.