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Offseason review: What do the Chiefs do at cornerback now?

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In light of recent events, we thought it made sense to skip ahead in this series to the cornerbacks.

Offseason needs: A veteran and an early draft pick

Prior to the Marcus Peters trade, the Chiefs and Brett Veach clearly made upgrading the cornerback position a priority. Adding veterans David Amerson and Kendall Fuller prior to the new league year meant that they had some flexibility in free agency and the draft.

They had an opportunity to really strengthen the talent and depth in the secondary. With Peters, Steven Nelson, Amerson and Fuller on board, we thought the Chiefs could use one more good cornerback in order to feel really confident about the upcoming season. After sending away one of the best in the NFL at the position, the Chiefs now have an even bigger need than when the offseason began.

The team now needs at least two more good corners that can contribute right away. If they invest in one of the top guys in free agency, they could still be in very good shape going into the draft. The old cliché is still true: “You can never have enough good corners.”

Adding multiple talented players is still a must, and the urgency just went way up with Peters’s departure.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Steven Nelson #20
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Returning: Steven Nelson, Keith Reaser, Devin Chappell

As of today, Steven Nelson is the lone returning contributor to the Chiefs cornerback group from 2017. That’s probably a concern, regardless of what you think of Nelson’s abilities. Nelson graded out well as a slot receiver in 2016, but 2017 was a tough year for him.

He does seem to be a guy that can tackle and will break up some passes, but the fact that he hasn’t recorded an interception yet in his NFL career is a little concerning. He can be part of the rotation, but he’s certainly not replacing Peters anytime soon.

Additions: Kendall Fuller, David Amerson, Sheldon Price, Prince Charles Iworah, Makinton Dorleant

Fuller comes in with high expectations after a stellar 2017 campaign in Washington. He’s proven to be excellent in the slot position, but the Chiefs might now rely upon him as one of the two starting corners.

We don’t know if Fuller can play on the outside because he hasn’t been asked to do it yet. He certainly can move, cover and make plays on the ball. Either way, Fuller is a bright young talent on a cheap rookie contract, and a team would have to be crazy to trade away a guy like that, right?

Amerson struggled and was injured in 2017, so he’ll be hoping to revive his once-promising career now that he’s a Chief. His team-friendly deal indicates that he’s getting an “opportunity to compete” and not necessarily being counted on in a starting role. Most of us agree that if Amerson is the third or fourth cornerback on the team, and he can be a valuable depth player and a great addition.

If the Chiefs are counting on Amerson to be a starter with Fuller on the other side, they are relying upon a lot of faith and projection at one of the most important positions on the field. Fuller and Amerson will both have an opportunity to play a lot, and each can contribute as long as they are used in such a way that highlights their strengths.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Marcus Peters #22
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Subtractions: Marcus Peters, Darrelle Revis, Phillip Gaines, Steven Terrell, Kenneth Acker, Terrance Mitchell, Keith Baxter

The big story is, of course, Marcus Peters. I won’t argue that the compensation was great or that the Chiefs won the trade, because the compensation wasn’t great, and they didn’t win the trade. I’m sure there were good reasons the team felt they had to trade him, and we’re covering those reasons extensively (here and here, for example).

Looking ahead to 2018, Peters is going to be nearly impossible to replace on the field. Whoever starts for the Chiefs next season is highly unlikely to force turnovers or make plays at key times the way Peters did.

The remaining guys from 2017’s depth chart: Gaines, Kenneth Acker and Terrance Mitchell will be free agents, and it will be interesting to see how much interest the team has in bringing any of them back. My vote would be to bring Mitchell or Acker back as depth, and let Gaines find a new home.

Unknowns: Ashton Lampkin, Will Redmond, Devin Chappell

Redmond might be the most interesting of this group, as he was thought to be an early-round talent whose career has been derailed by injuries. If he’s now healthy, he could be a guy to watch in the preseason. Lampkin and Chappell showed some promise last preseason and may get another chance to compete in St. Joe.

Comparison to 2017:

Let’s get this out of the way up front: there’s little chance this position group is better in 2018 after trading away their best player.

There’s almost NO chance the Chiefs are able to replace the turnover and big-play ability that Peters brought. I do agree with Seth here, in general. I believe that the Chiefs could still field a good, or even improved overall defense if they continue to invest at the cornerback position and use the resources obtained in the Peters trade wisely.

If the answer is Fuller/Amerson/Nelson and Gaines, Mitchell or similar, they are going to struggle to defend the pass, even when compared to 2017.