All right, let’s try this again.
I’ve already written what I would do if I were Brett Veach with regards to defensive free agency here (as part of an ongoing series that you can find here). However, ol’ Brett went and signed Kendall Fuller, who looks the part of an absolute stud. That changes a lot of things. In the meantime, I’ve had a bunch of new thoughts on free agency, so it’s time to redo this (and do such a better job, of course). Because in my opinion, the entire ceiling for the defense was raised when Veach fleeced the Redskins’ best corner from them.
Before we start, keep in mind we’re trying to keep some continuity in my little, “If I were Brett Veach” universe, so for the sake of this article, we’re imagining I have...
- traded Alex Smith (done)
- cut Derrick Johnson
- cut Tamba Hali
- cut Allen Bailey
- cut Demetrius Harris
- cut Darrelle Revis
Since my last writing, I’ve decided to part ways with Ron Parker as well, given his cap number and struggles last season (still back and forth as to whether that was his fault or the rest of the secondary, but we’re going aggressive).
For the sake of creating our own little universe, we’re going to pretend we’ve also:
- tendered Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Terrance Mitchell
- re-signed Steven Terrell, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Anthony Sherman
In my world of fiction, the Chiefs didn’t offer Albert Wilson and Zach Fulton enough to keep them off the market.
One thing to keep in mind... I care a lot more about the positional aspect here rather than a particular player. However, for the purposes of saving some words, I’m going to name a player and then a potential alternative rather than going through each position group. I’m going to go in order of position group I’d like to see a piece added to. All right, let’s do this...
Sign Lemarcus Joyner, Safety: 5 years, $68 million
I know, we’re getting C-R-A-Z-Y right out of the gate, giving Joyner a similar deal to what Eric Berry got last season (given how contracts go up each year and how incredibly well Joyner played last year, this seems like a pretty likely contract).
Yes, that’s a LOT of money tied to the safety group. However, now that the corner position has been addressed with an elite player, I no longer feel the need to have the biggest “splash” signing made in that spot.
People view safeties as not very important, but history tells us otherwise with Bob Sutton’s defenses. The best DVOA defenses Sutton has coached with the Chiefs have been when his safety group is strong and versatile. He asks his safeties to play all over the field (creating confusion for quarterbacks), from single high to covering slot receivers. In short, I’m not sure there’s a coordinator in the league who asks for more from his safeties.
Because of that, I want to see what Sutton’s defense looks like with two elite safeties who can do everything. With Joyner added on and Fuller manning one of the CB spots (I’m of the belief that Fuller should play virtually every snap, playing RCB when there are two CBs and sliding inside when there are three), the Chiefs could make a legitimate claim for one of the best secondaries in the NFL without making a another move. And when Bob Sutton has had a deep and talented secondary, good things have happened for the defense.
Alternative: Eric Reid (likely cheaper, but was merely good last season as opposed to elite)
Sign Sheldon Richardson: 4 years, $40 million
The more I look at the available big bodies along the line for DE/DT spots, the more expensive I’m afraid Richardson will be. There just aren’t a lot of great options out there if you want a guy who can rush the passer and is also solid against the run. In fact, it’s hard to find a guy who can rush the passer, period.
On the flip side, Richardson didn’t dominate with Seattle like many people thought he would. In fact, Richardson has only had two total sacks over the last two seasons. He also has some issues in his rearview mirror. Because of that, I just can’t see him breaking the bank the way Malik Jackson or Calais Campbell did.
So why am I willing to spend relatively big on Richardson, with just two sacks the last two years? Because even though his sack numbers weren’t huge, a quick look at the film shows him pressuring the QB pretty consistently and playing well against the run. Again, it’s tough to find guys who can do that. I want Chris Jones to have some consistent help along the line, as last year all too often is was Jones (and Justin Houston) alone with a bunch of other guys getting stonewalled.
With a vastly improved secondary in the Fuller/Joyner additions, the Chiefs need to make sure they complement that with improvements up front. Richardson can do that.
Alternative: None (Seriously, there’s no other 3-4 DE I’d be willing to spend that kind of money on. If they can’t get Sheldon, they should try to sign a few decent guys like Daquan Jones or even bring back Bailey).
Sign Junior Galette: 2 years, $8 million
It’s well-known here that I’m not thrilled about keeping Dee Ford around for a cap hit of $8 million in 2018. Ford hasn’t been very consistent, was still very bad against the run in 2017, and back issues are among one of the most concerning things you can see for a player.
Of course, finding an edge rusher is tough. They make BIG money in free agency the vast majority of the time. However, Galette is a unique case. A guy who had back-to-back 10-plus-sack seasons for New Orleans in 2013 and 2014, Galette fell off the radar after tearing each Achilles tendon (one in 2015, the other in 2016).
Obviously, that injury history is scary. However, Galette played without any issues in 2017, and he didn’t look like he’d lost his quickness or explosion.
Been watching a little Junior Galette for the FA 2.0 article. I think he's a guy who could help the pass rush without breaking the bank. Got lost in the shuffle a bit in WAS, but has some variety of moves and solid burst/quickness. pic.twitter.com/9fMba9goUQ— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 5, 2018
I took the time to watch some of Galette’s snaps. He was a rotational guy in Washington last year, behind Smith and Kerrigan (who are both very good edge players). I liked what I saw in limited doses. He’s got a good burst at the snap, quick feet and utilizes a variety of moves.
Because of his injury history and limited snaps last season, Galette isn’t going to break the bank and could provide help rushing the passer for significantly less money in 2018 than Ford. He also has more of a history of success as a pass rusher than Ford does, despite that being several years ago. Signing Gilette leaves me quite comfortable releasing Ford, as he can rotate with Tanoh Kpassagnon and (if absolutely necessary) Frank Zombo, while seeing if Dadi Nicolas develops.
Alternatives: Eric Walden, Shaq Barrett, Conner Barwin, Ahmad Brooks
CAP SPACE UPDATE: After signing Galette and cutting Ford, the Chiefs are sitting at 23.3 million dollars in cap space. So keep calm, we’re not bankrupting our future.
Sign Justin Ellis: 2 years, $4 million
This is a necessity deal, and you can replace Ellis with a few other names without me making a big deal over it. The fact is that the Chiefs need a big body for the middle, and Ellis is a pretty stout player against the run. I’m done hoping the Chiefs find a dominant nose tackle who can help with the pass rush. I just want a big, strong man in the middle who can hold his own. Ellis supplies that.
Alternatives: Bennie Logan (if he’s willing to come cheap), Haloti Ngata, Phil Taylor, Dontari Poe.
Sign Kyle Fuller: 4 years, $37 million
The last real “splash” but a signing I think makes a bit too much sense at this point. Obviously, the Chiefs will need to think about how they will spend cap money in the next few years with Marcus Peters and Kendall Fuller, but the elder Fuller shouldn’t command the same backbreaking money as Trumaine Johnson and a few others in free agency.
Also, part of the point of having a QB on a rookie deal means you can throw large amounts of money at other spots.
In today’s NFL, you truly cannot have too many talented corners. Fuller has had an up-and-down career, but from all accounts, put it together last season in Chicago. Guys who have a career year in a contract season (the Bears declined his 5th year option, which should tell you about how he was doing prior to 2017), the opportunity to be a part of a great secondary (as well as play with his younger brother) should provide plenty of motivation for Fuller to build on his strong 2017.
By adding Fuller to the mix, the Chiefs could boast the strongest CB trio in the NFL in Peters/Fuller/Fuller. Given that there are three CBs on the field the vast majority of the game and teams often use slot WRs as a primary weapon, third CB is no longer a role player but an essential part of any defense. While I like Steven Nelson, he didn’t play at nearly the level of Kyle Fuller this last year. Additionally, given that injury issues can often arise at corner and teams are employing more spread looks, having four corners you can trust is a good thing.
- Lemarcus Joyner
- Sheldon Richardson
- Junior Galette
- Justin Ellis
- Kyle Fuller
Remaining Cap Room (projected)
2018- 18.465 million dollars
2019- 49.447 million dollars
2020- 67.840 million dollars
(keep in mind that the cap money available in 2019 and 2020 will drop somewhat as players fill out the full roster, mostly lower-level signings)
This is a wildly aggressive plan for the Chiefs. It’s a swing for the fences on a lot of different fronts and locks them into a number of players long term. How it plays out will depend entirely on how the players they bring in play in Kansas City. As with any swing for the fence, there’s always a chance for a massive whiff.
However, if you’re like me and believe the Chiefs offense will be on equal footing to what it was in 2017 without any major signings, a drastic overhaul of the defense is enough to put the Chiefs squarely into contention even as Patrick Mahomes goes through first-year growing pains. The defensive lineup would be as follows:
OLB: Houston, Galette, Kpassagnon, Zombo, Nicolas
ILB: Ragland, KPL, Eligwe
DL: Jones, Richardson, Nacho, Ellis (more depth would be needed here)
CB: Peters, Kendall Fuller, Kyle Fuller, Nelson, Mitchell
S: Berry, Joyner, Sorensen, Terrell
My goal, when I started this, was to see if I could fashion a defense that I believe could be very, very good after a dismal 2018 season. In my opinion, the above defense, led by the best secondary in the entire NFL, could round into shape as one of the better ones in the league.
Obviously, this all looks better on paper (as such things always do) than it may on the field. However, if you’re like me and believe the Chiefs are living in an open Super Bowl window with the most valuable asset in the NFL (a quarterback on a rookie contract), the time to be aggressive is now. The big contracts will mostly be complete or at their “little to no dead money” phase by the time Patrick Mahomes needs to be paid, which is one reason I believe being aggressive this year as opposed to next year is crucial: flexibility as Mahomes comes due a payday (if things go as we hope with him).
That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it this time. At least, until Veach manages to convince the Broncos to trade Von Miller for a pack of gum or something.