This is the fifth installment of the If I Were Brett Veach series. You may read the first four at the links below:
CAP SPACE | FREE AGENTS TO KEEP/LET GO | DEFENSIVE FREE AGENCY | DEFENSIVE FREE AGENCY PART 2
Offensive free agency
There are very few things more fun than playing NFL general manager.
I have no idea why this is. Perhaps it has to do with our self-importance (things should really revolve around what I think, you know), or maybe our pride (I could fix all of this if someone would just listen to me!). Maybe it’s soothing for our favorite team to just do what we want them to do, rather than... well, often the opposite.
Whatever the reason, franchise mode in Madden has always been my favorite part, and I know I’m not alone in that. And this offseason, I’ve been having a ball pretending to be Brett Veach and turning the Chiefs into a Super Bowl contender. I’ve hacked and slashed the payroll in a brutal culling of players eating up cap space (to be fair, Veach has begun doing this himself). I’ve discussed what free agents I’d retain. I’ve also gone on an ultra-aggressive spending spree for defensive free agents.
The last article (here) sums up the moves I’ve made so far, then details what I’d do with the defense. As I said, it’s a wildly aggressive plan, one that I believe instantly transforms the defense from one with some stars but lacking overall talent to one that has the potential to be one of the best in the league.
Of course, there’s a price to be paid for that kind of aggression. In this case, that price comes in the form of being a bit tight against the cap. If you check the last article, in my fictional, If I Were Brett Veach universe, the cap currently looks like this:
2018- 18.465 million dollars
2019- 49.447 million dollars
2020- 67.840 million dollars
Now, there’s still some room to play, but we spent a TON on defensive free agents in the last article. My reasoning is simple: I think the Chiefs’ Super Bowl window is open now, with Patrick Mahomes on a rookie deal, and I want to build around the cornerstones of Justin Houston, Chris Jones, Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. In my opinion, the time to strike is now, and the offense was already good last year. So for me, upgrading the defensive talent was key.
So we’re left with some room to play around, but not enough to get crazy. Which is fine by me. As I stated in the last article, I’m pretty comfortable with the Chiefs offense. They’ve got an elite playmaking trio in Travis Kelce/Tyreek Hill/Kareem Hunt. They’ve got a reliable role-playing wide receiver in Chris Conley, and running back Spencer Ware is set to return to add more punch (a bigger deal than many think, in my opinion). The offensive line is decent, though some improvement at left guard would definitely be nice.
In short, I’m not that worried about the offense, which means we can be more surgical in our approach here. What follows are a few players I’d target to improve the offense, with a few alternatives suggested as well.
Note: I’m certain there will be some surprise WR cuts that the Chiefs could jump on. However, without knowing them, we need to proceed with the group currently available.
Kendall Wright, Slot WR: 2 years, $7 million
Wright is an interesting player. He hasn’t lived up to the hype he had coming out of college (or his 1000-yard second season), but he certainly hasn’t been a bad NFL player either. He played on a one-year “prove it” deal with the Bears last season after a few quiet years with the Titans, and he had a decent statistical performance: 59 catches on 91 targets, 614 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away, and I doubt there is a bidding war for Wright’s services. However, he’s got some useful skills as a slot receiver.
I wonder why more Chiefs fans aren't talking about Kendall Wright as a cost-effective replacement for Albert Wilson. Watched a bit of him now, Seems to be able to create space for himself from the slot. pic.twitter.com/5bZyKGAr3G— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 16, 2018
I watched some of Wright’s snaps while considering whether he’d be a fit, and I generally liked what I saw. Wright has some quickness, runs his routes pretty well, and is able to achieve separation from the slot. His hands looked solid as well, though he’s a bit of a body catcher when the ball isn’t thrown away from him.
Another skill Wright demonstrated pretty consistently was finding the open spots in zones. That’s a big deal, and something that the Chiefs receiving group (outside of Travis Kelce) didn’t always do successfully last season. A veteran like Wright, who has been in the league for six years, would definitely provide a little bit of a safety valve for Mahomes. He was also used in motion a great deal with the Bears offense and looked comfortable doing it, an important thing in Reid’s offense.
Overall Wright is an unspectacular option, but a solid one. He also can do a few things that Albert Wilson generally couldn’t, like adjust for poorly thrown passes.
I could live with this guy as a secondary option out of the slot. Generally finds the holes in zones, pretty quick, decent route runner, decent hands. Doesn't blow you away, but he can help from what I'm seeing. pic.twitter.com/mHgpiLBwgL— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 16, 2018
I had someone mention injury concerns with Wright, and I’m not seeing it. Wright played every game last season and only missed three games his first three years in the league. In 2015 and 2016 his luck wasn’t as good, missing six games and then five. But considering he played every game last year, along with his first three years in the league, I don’t think he screams “injury prone” by any stretch.
Wright is a solid veteran receiver at a position of need, and I think he’d make a nice, cost-effective addition that would keep the offense from losing a step with Wilson leaving. In fact, I think there’s a chance he’d be an improvement in pure receiving ability, though he doesn’t have Wilson’s ability after the catch.
Alternatives: Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Bruce Ellington (are we sensing a pattern here? If Wilson walks, I think they’re going to need a slot WR).
Virgil Green, TE: 2 years, $4.5 million
It was harder than I thought it would be to find a tight end who would be a fit in Kansas City.
For starters, anyone you sign is going to be primarily a blocker (even though Demetrius Harris played almost half the snaps last season, he only saw 35 targets). That rules out many of the big names or even the lesser-known names. A guy like Cameron Brate, while a solid receiver and blocker, is very unlikely to come to a team to play half the snaps and mostly be a trench warrior. Same with guys like Zach Miller, or Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, or any of the other names Chiefs fans are floating.
I thought long and hard about the idea of Andy Reid running more two-tight end sets featuring the second tight end (which is the only way you’re going to justify signing Brate, my favorite free agent, or keep him happy in your offense). However, given the direction the Chiefs were moving last year, I doubt that’s the route things go on offense.
So for me, it’s about finding a reliable blocker who can occasionally catch the ball. Green fits that bill. He’s a very good blocker who would help the running game. He can also catch a pass or two when called upon. Not splashy, but it fills a need.
I know this move may worry some people from a “What if Travis Kelce gets hurt?” standpoint, but the reality is you’re not replacing Kelce from a receiver standpoint if he gets hurt unless you’ve got Greg Olsen or Rob Gronkowski coming off the bench. Green is a veteran who can play quite a few snaps if necessary in the event of an emergency, so I wouldn’t completely panic if Kelce went down (the load would need to shift to the running game, in part, which is where Green helps you in that scenario).
Alternatives: Ben Watson, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Anthony Fasano (kidding... kind of)
I know a lot of people are looking for the Chiefs to snag a guard in free agency. However, the reality is that a starting-caliber guard is expensive, and the Chiefs have already invested a great deal in their offensive line (right or wrong in one case, but I digress).
I don’t view left guard as a dire need at this point, with Parker Ehinger and Bryan Witzmann both having starting experience without having been completely terrible. While the Chiefs could stand to upgrade there, I’ve got some faith in continuity aiding those two while they fight for the starting position.
As I stated in the defensive free agency article and earlier here, the offense just doesn’t worry me that much. Despite the midseason swoon by the offense, it finished the year second in the league in yards per play, as well as fifth in the league in points per play. The pieces are there to be highly successful.
I believe Wright and Green would more than adequately replace Wilson and Harris, the only two components of a good offense that are leaving this season.
In fact, it would not surprise me if both were small upgrades over the guys departing. When you’ve got a good offense, you don’t tinker too much (well, uh, other than the whole “changing-the-quarterback” thing that’s happening). By being surgical with offensive free agency, the Chiefs can afford the scorched earth aggression I laid out with defensive free agency.
We’ll talk about the draft next time, though that could be a while as I go through various players. In the meantime, I think the moves we’ve made in free agency would allow the Chiefs to have just as talented an offense as last season, while fielding a significantly better defense.