You’ve heard the expression that hindsight is 20/20. We’re always looking at roster construction, free agency and trades and thinking we could do better than NFL executives. Let’s look at some of the moves made by John Dorsey and Brett Veach for the Chiefs that contributed to the 2017 team and season. Knowing what we know now, which moves still make sense?
1) Let Jeremy Maclin go and featuring Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill emerged as an elite deep threat and No. 1 wide receiver. Maclin struggled to stay healthy, missing two games with a shoulder issue and one with a knee issue. Even when he was on the field, he had his worst season as a professional. Had the Chiefs kept Maclin, it’s likely that Hill still would have developed as a receiver, but releasing the former Mizzou star cleared the way for Hill to really be featured and become a star. Not to mention that releasing Maclin cleared up $10M in cap space. At the time, it was a frustrating decision — some even speculated that Reid was upset and it was part of the reason Dorsey was fired.
Maclin: (12 games) 40 catches, 440 yds, 3TDs
Hill: (15 games) 75 catches, 1183 yds, 7TDs
Verdict: Great move. Saved cap space, and developed a young, elite WR
2) Signed Bennie Logan and let Dontari Poe go
The Chiefs let everyone’s favorite nose tackle test free agency, and signed a comparable player to a comparable contract in his place. Each was paid about $8M to be the anchor of their respective defensive lines.
So, who got the better player? Statistically, Logan was more active, especially in the run game than Poe was this year or in 2016 when he was in KC’s defense. But, individual stats for nose tackles typically don’t tell the whole story. Atlanta was a top 10 defense in terms of rushing yardage allowed, the Chiefs were 25th. Passing yardage, Atlanta was 12th and Chiefs were 27th. Clearly, the Falcons had the better overall defense, but it’s less clear how much of that had to do with the play of the nose tackle.
Bennie Logan(15 games): 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defended, 9 stuffs
Dontari Poe (16 games): 39 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 2 stuffs
Verdict: Good move. The Chiefs got more production for the same money.
3) Released Jamaal Charles and drafted Kareem Hunt
Letting Jamaal go was the end of an era in KC. Arguably the best, most electric running back in team history was allowed to test free agency after the team believed his career was nearly over. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West were the returning backs on matching contracts. But, the Chiefs looked to the draft and traded up for one of the top prospects in the third round.
Kareem Hunt stepped in for an injured Spencer Ware and led the NFL in rushing, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, led the league in broken tackles and, made huge, game-changing plays along the way. In Denver, Charles averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but never really got the opportunity he was looking for.
Jamaal Charles: 69 carries, 296 yds rushing, 1 TD. 23 catches, 129 yds receiving, 0 TDs
Kareem Hunt: 272 carries, 1327 yds rushing, 8 TD. 53 catches, 455 yds receiving, 3 TDs
Verdict: fantastic decision. Hunt is a star, and Charles didn’t make them regret releasing him.
4) Signed Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to an extension
LDT went from one of the worst offensive linemen on the team to one of the two best. His rapid development has allowed him to use his elite physical tools and nasty demeanor to be in the conversation of the league’s top guards. When former Chiefs GM John Dorsey signed him to an extension, most people were shocked by the fact that it was top four in terms of average per year at his position. Shortly thereafter, seven other guards signed contracts bigger than LDTs. It appears the Chiefs knew the market was about to get rich, and signed their guy early.
Stats: In 688 snaps, LDT gave up 11 pressures (tied for best in NFL) and only one sack
Verdict: Solid signing. Signed before free agency at below market value, performed well when healthy.
5) Signed Daniel Sorensen to a contract extension
The Chiefs No. 3 safety signed a four-year, $16M contract with a low first year cap hit, but $4.8M for 2018 ($4.75M for 2019-2020). Most felt it was a good move at the time, but that was under the assumption that Eric Berry and Ron Parker were the starters, and Sorensen would be used in his limited role on defense and featured on special teams. When Berry got hurt, Sorensen was thrust into a starting role on defense with mixed results.
Stats: 89 tackles, 1INT, 1.5 sacks, 0FR, 0FF
Verdict: Not great. Sorensen proved in 2017 that he should be a backup, will carry starter-type salary.
6) Signed Eric Berry to a mega deal
The Chiefs were backed into a corner with a top safety in the NFL coming off of a big rookie contract in 2016. Unable to sign him long term, Berry turned in an All-Pro season playing on the franchise tag. He cemented himself as the emotional leader of the team, and an unbelievable, resilient human being coming back from an ACL tear and cancer during his NFL career. Berry reportedly would not have played 2017 under a 2nd franchise tag, so the Chiefs had little choice but to pay him. And, pay him they did. Six years, $78M later, Berry was the highest paid safety in the league. Unfortunately, he was only able to help the team on the field for one game before tearing an Achilles tendon after performing admirably in the Chiefs win over New England. He did return to the sidelines later in the season to help rally the team when they desperately needed his presence.
Verdict: So far, not good. The Chiefs might have been able to get a more reasonable deal done had they acted sooner, and losing Berry for the season really put them in a bind. Assuming he’s healthy and productive again in 2018, we’ll look back on this move fondly, but for now it’s tough to see $13M in cap space on IR and call it a great deal.
7) Traded DJ Alexander for Kevin Pierre-Louis
In August, new Chiefs GM Brett Veach quickly started making moves at the inside linebacker position. At the time this one was a bit of a head-scratcher. Alexander had just appeared in the Pro Bowl and earned the defensive MVP award for that game. Pierre-Louis was an unknown to most Chiefs fans, but on the surface appeared to have a similar resume to Alexander’s: good special teamer, couldn’t crack the defensive lineup. The Chiefs said it was all about ‘upside’ with KPL, they thought he could help at inside linebacker.
D.J. Alexander: 10 tackles on special teams, only played 20 snaps on defense, 263 on special teams
Kevin Pierre-Louis: 41 tackles, 2 passes defended, played 251 snaps (22.8%) on defense, 249 on special teams
Verdict: great trade. KPL proved to be a good special teams player who actually made the ILB rotation better, and appears to be part of the future in KC.
8) Traded a 2019 fourth round pick for Reggie Ragland
Not content with the addition of KPL, Veach negotiated a trade for a former second round pick that missed his rookie season, and fell out of favor in Buffalo. Ragland fit the profile of the thumper Chiefs fans (and bloggers) have been wanting for years. Plenty of question marks surrounded him, as he had yet to fully recover from the knee injury that delayed his NFL debut. Reggie Ragland stepped into the Chiefs inside linebacker rotation, and became a force against the run. He showed up more and more as the season went on, and he was healthier and more comfortable in his role.
Stats: 44 total tackles, 4 stuffs
Verdict: Fantastic trade. By the time the Chiefs get passed over in the 4th round of next year’s draft, they will have gotten two full seasons of production out of Ragland, and it appears he’s getting better with every start.
9) Traded a 2018 fifth round pick for Cameron Erving and released Jah Reid
Erving was an offensive lineman best known for his versatility and ability to move in space. He was drafted in the first round by the Browns, but (by most accounts) struggled mightily at center and guard. Brett Veach saw some untapped potential and traded for Erving. The Chiefs reportedly liked him as a swing tackle and soon released their incumbent, Jah Reid. Erving stepped in and played right guard for the Chiefs when they needed to replace LDT, then left tackle when the starters rested in the final week. While far from a finished product, he appeared more comfortable at tackle than guard, which could mean the Chiefs were right about him.
Stats: 275 snaps, 10 pressures, 5 QB hits, 5 hurries allowed.
Verdict: Incomplete. Erving will get another offseason to develop and build strength. He still has a lot to prove, but he’s young enough that the trade might eventually be deemed a success.
10) Added Harrison Butker from the Panthers practice squad, cut Cairo Santos
This move was done out of need, with Santos struggling to get over a groin injury. Butker, a rookie on the Panthers practice squad, was a relative unknown. He missed his first attempt as a Chief, then went on to kick the game winner in his first game. Butker then went on to hit 24 straight, and set the team record for most FG in a season, even after playing in only 13 games. Butker is signed for the minimum salary through the 2018 season, and controllable as an exclusive-rights free agent in 2019. This represents a significant cost savings over Santos, who would have made $1.8M and be a free agent in 2018.
Santos: 4/5 on Fgs 80%, 0 FG of 50+ yards, 14/14 on extra points
Butker: 38/42 on FGs 90.5%, 4 FG of 50+ yards, 28/28 on extra points.
Verdict: Unbelievable move. This couldn’t have worked out better for the Chiefs... well, unless he was able to hit the FG against the Titans.
Other moves that worked out well: Released Josh Mauga, Traded David King, Released Jaye Howard, Kept Orson Charles over Gavin Escobar, Signed Jarvis Jenkins, Signed Steven Terrell, Let Knile Davis sign elsewhere
Other moves that didn’t work out so well: Signed Roy Miller, Signed Cam Thomas, Signed Andrew Tiller
Outcome is unclear for these moves: Signed Darrelle Revis, Signed C.J. Spiller (4 times), Declined option to keep Nick Foles