For armchair general managers, the NFL offseason is as intriguing as the regular season. Every time we think we know what’s going to happen, the team surprises us. This offseason will have no shortage of changes — starting with the new defensive coordinator.
Here are a few of the offseason moves that face the Kansas City Chiefs, and my own take on the best course of action.
1. Extend the contracts of Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones
I think everyone is in agreement that these are absolutely critical pieces to the success of the team going forward, and they should be re-signed for the long term. Brett Veach can show that he’s not going to repeat the mistakes of past general managers by getting deals done before their contracts expire. Players have increased leverage as they get closer to free agency, so the team would be wise to make solid-enough offers to get them paid early — before they opt to test the market. Also keep an eye on Kendall Fuller as another candidate to extend, as his contract expires after 2019.
2. Make the tough decisions on Eric Berry and Justin Houston
We’ve seen plenty of discussion on the big cap numbers for each and how the team should move on from one or both. Like it or not, these two guys are the leaders on the defense. If I’m making the decisions, I’d try to trade Houston in order to retain Dee Ford. Assuming the team is encouraged by the development of Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon, they can be part of the defensive end solution going forward — along with a draft pick.
In my opinion, it will be harder to move on from Berry. The cap savings aren’t as clear, and his intangible value is hard to quantify. So, I’ll wait and see on Berry — try to rework his contract if possible, but hope that he regains form and retires a Chief.
3. Look for other cap savings
Cut/trade: Houston (14M), Dan Sorensen (2.6M), Reggie Ragland (1.2M), Eric Murray (2M), Xavier Williams (2.55M),
Restructure (if possible): Eric Fisher, Eric Berry
4. Try to re-sign Dee Ford
Conventional wisdom says that Ford will get the franchise tag, which makes a lot of sense. But given that Ford is young, coming off his best season ever, and likely to be a good fit in the new defense, it might make some sense to lock him up. The Chiefs could retain some flexibility by lowering his initial cap figure with a longer-term deal. There are risks, of course, given Ford’s up and down career so far, but I’m sticking with the idea that the team wants to keep at least one of Ford/Houston, and Ford gets the nod based on age and potential upside.
5. Decide on remaining FAs
There are a number of guys with expiring deals in 2019 — many of which could be reasonably retained if needed.
Tender: Jordan Lucas (RFA), Marcus Kemp (ERFA), Alex Ellis (ERFA), Justin Hamilton (ERFA), Harrison Butker (ERFA)
Let walk: Orlando Scandrick, Jordan Devey, Jeff Allen, Frank Zombo, Chris Conley, Steven Nelson, Terrance Smith (RFA), Kelvin Benjamin, Spencer Ware; Demetrius Harris, Daniel Ross
Keep only at the right price: Allen Bailey, Dee Ford, Anthony Sherman, Mitch Morse, De’Anthony Thomas, Charcandrick West
6. Add 4-3 linebackers
We have yet to identify the ideal candidate for the SAM (strong-side outside) linebacker position on the Chiefs roster. We think Dorian O’Daniel is an ideal WILL (weak-side outside) linebacker, but depth behind him could be an issue. Could Ben Niemann be an option there? We think Anthony Hitchens is the MIKE (middle) linebacker, but we’re not sure who would be the backup. Ideal linebackers will have very different profiles for Spags’s defense as compared to the guys the Chiefs have targeted in the past. Linebackers will be absolutely key to the transition, more so than any other position on the defense.
7. Add cornerbacks
Spagnuolo uses three corners more often than three safeties, and the Chiefs only have two returning corners that are likely to be substantial contributors: Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward. I could see the Chiefs spending their first round pick — and at least one other — on cornerback in the draft, and get another in free agency. It’s the biggest team need, and I think they should (and will) invest heavily.
8. Add more offensive playmakers
It’s true that the Chiefs have an embarrassment of riches on offense. It’s also true that they should keep adding to it: another tight end that can make plays, a slot receiver, another third-down running back or even another speedy receiver. There’s no such thing as too many weapons, and as much as I shouldn’t say it out loud, guys like Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins can get injured. You have to prepare to keep the Patrick Mahomes offensive machine rolling.
9. Build depth
The Chiefs are thin at a few important positions, so they’ll need to keep reloading. After the starters, they don’t have significant depth at either offensive tackle spot, defensive line, and the aforementioned cornerback and offensive playmaker roles. This is where the team can get some value out of the mid/late round picks, UDFAs and bargain free agents.
What do you think of the offseason plan? Agree? Disagree? Weigh in below.