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Brett Veach roundup: Patrick Mahomes’ future contract, switch to 4-3 defense, Eric Berry and more

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Veach spoke to the media for the first time this offseason on Thursday afternoon.

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach jumped on a conference call with the local Kansas City media on Thursday afternoon. Let’s go through the items of note.

Patrick Mahomes’ future deal

ESPN’s Adam Schefter turned heads in January when he reported Mahomes is expected to sign a record deal worth $200 million in 2020.

Veach explained how the Chiefs’ planning for that is already a year in the making.

“(Director of football administration) Brandt Tilis and (football operations counsel and personnel executive) Chris Shea, I really got two good guys working for me,” Veach said. “Even last season when we were working through the free agents with Sammy (Watkins) and with Anthony (Hitchens) and Damien Williams, even at a different level there, everything we did last year, we were putting a plan together, and again this is pre-50 touchdown passes, 5,000 yards, we were prepared for Pat to have success and to be a franchise quarterback. So this process of structuring ourselves for the next [three to five] years with Pat in his current number and what the potential of his future number could be. We really started this process about a year ago, so I think we have a good plan, and I think everything we do structural-wise will allow for necessary room as we move forward with Pat and his deal down the line here.”

Veach, one of Mahomes’ biggest advocates, wasn’t all that surprised by the quarterback’s success in 2018 but more so his ease and consistency at finding success.

“Even the great players, you always anticipate maybe a wall at some point,” he said. “After seven or eight weeks, OK, they’ve figured this kid out. They know a couple different looks and coverages and combinations that give him issues.”

Veach explained the surprise was that never really happened to Mahomes.

Dee Ford, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones contract situations

Kansas City Chiefs v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford, who had the best year of his career in 2018, is a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones are eligible for extensions. Veach was asked about his plan for each on Thursday.

VEACH ON FORD: “He had an outstanding season. He was at the top of his game. When we drafted Dee a few years ago, all those things we envisioned for him, he showed that he was that player. We are running a different scheme now, and Steve (Spagnuolo)—he actually started the process on Monday to go through the roster and look at these guys. Not knowing where they were drafted or how much money they’re making, just gives you a pure feel on strengths, weaknesses and how we can get better and then we’ll throw our dialogue in there with the other information in regard to what we can do to get creative in regard to structuring this thing from a cap standpoint. Obviously, Dee’s a player that had done so much for us, in particular, last year, that we’re excited about bringing him back.”

VEACH ON HILL AND JONES: “You’re talking about two guys who are now eligible for extensions. They are guys that we drafted and guys that have just done tremendously in regard to getting better year-in and year-out and being dominant players and we’ll certainly have a lot of dialogue with their agents as we get closer to the combine. I’m sure that we want them here for a long time and I’m sure that they want to be here, which is a good thing. We have a special thing brewing here and I think everyone wants to keep this thing rolling. I look forward to getting with their agents. If we don’t hear from them in the next week or two, we’re all going to be at the combine together and I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion in regard to how we can make this work for everyone.”

Veach on the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday marked the first time Veach spoke to the media since the Chiefs hired Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator.

“We’re excited about Steve,” Veach said. “Steve is a high-energy guy. Obviously, he worked with coach (Andy Reid) in the past and has a great track record, things he did in New York were really, really impressive. [He’s] been around the league a long time, knows the game really well. He’s a great teacher. He’s a great coach, great family man. He’s going to fit right in here. It’s been fun, even the last few days of him being in the office and being able to bounce some stuff off him. Certainly, looking forward to working with him this offseason and trying to put the pieces in place.”

Spagnuolo’s arrival means the Chiefs will switch to a 4-3 defense. Veach explained how the Chiefs are already prepared for the switch, dating back to their all-defensive draft last season.

“One of the things we wanted to do was bring in guys that were versatile and could do different things,” Veach said. “And now, certainly going from a 3-4 to more of a 4-3 defense, these guys will obviously still fit in that role. I thought the young guys did a good job as the season went on. Derrick Nnadi logged a lot of starts. Breeland (Speaks) had a nice span in there when Justin (Houston) was out and played a lot of football. Dorian (O’Daniel) had a chance to do some things. Armani (Watts) was coming on too before he got hurt. And then when you factor in Charvarius Ward, really starting at the end of the season, and you factor him in with this rookie class ... between Nnadi and Ward and Breeland, who should fit nicely in a 4-3 defensive end role, we feel good.”

The media wondered if the returning players in the front seven were versatile enough to fit into the new-look 4-3.

“Chris (Jones) is the type of guy that can play in any scheme,” Veach said. “Chris can do anything—he can play all along the line. Certainly, Nnadi will have a role—such a good, stout run defender ... [Breeland’s] natural fit was more of a 4-3 D-end, but we liked his versatility back a year ago as potentially a 3-4 5-technique too, so I certainly think we have a bunch of versatility along the line there, and Justin and Dee (Ford), too.”

Veach added that he believed the Chiefs’ new defensive staff would be “nailed down” in the next few days. Veach said Spagnuolo, who arrived in Kansas City on Monday, asked for each defensive player’s cell phone number and plans to contact them once his new staff is finalized.

The latest on Eric Berry

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It is well documented that Chiefs safety Eric Berry had heel issues all season, and the team maintained he was “literally day to day” from training camp up until the AFC title game.

Veach provided an updated on Berry on Thursday.

“With Eric, it was frustrating, and he was really the most frustrated person of all, just because everyone knows how much he’s compassionate about the whole process—the practice, the games and what it means to the team,” Veach said. “It was good to see him for that New England game, to take a full week of practice and to be out there.”

Berry played 97 snaps against the Patriots in the AFC title game, and Veach was asked about his health entering the game.

“That’d be a better question for (Chiefs head athletic trainer) Rick (Burkholder),” Veach said. “I think with Eric, he’s such a competitor that I think any kind of ballpark plan you have going into the game and pitch count—all that kind of stuff, I think that competitiveness overrides everything. We knew that he was ready to roll, he practiced all week and he played. Once it gets to the game, that’s a trainer’s deal there and certainly they felt good about him playing that amount of snaps.”

Veach said that Berry and the Chiefs left on a good note when it comes to his injury.

“When the season ends, [the players are] going to get with Rick and there’s like so much medical information that they’re working through,” Veach said. “I think Eric was just in Green Bay a few days ago and is flying back. They’re going through all the postseason evaluations and exams. Once they get to sit down and talk to Eric’s people and other first, second-opinion-type people, they’ll put together a plan.”

Veach said that once Berry’s plan is definitive, Burkholder and Reid would share that with the media and fans.

“As far as expectations for me right now, my focus is on finishing up these draft meetings and preparing for the draft, getting with coach Spags and putting [together] a free agency plan. As the medical information comes in on Eric and all these guys, we’ll then adjust and proceed. Right now, that’s something we’re working through with the trainers and with Eric.”

Kareem Hunt

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt back in late November with the following statement:

CLARK HUNT: “Earlier this year, we were made aware of an incident involving running back Kareem Hunt. At that time, the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue. As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”

Veach updated the media on where the organization stands when it comes to Hunt.

“Him playing for the Chiefs is on the back burner,” he said. “Our focus and our hope for Kareem is that he’s able to take the steps necessary to get his life in order and to do the right things ... Our focus on Kareem is making sure that he’s getting the help he needs and he gets his life straight first. Everything else after that is not as important. Just making sure that he and his family are in a good place and they’re working to get better every day.”

Veach was asked whether the Chiefs would consider bringing Hunt back if all those things were in order.

“I don’t ever like to speak in definitive terms on anybody,” Veach said. “There is always scenarios down the line. Guys that have done everything asked of them through the league and through all these steps of rehabilitation. That sort of thing. Again, that’s something that hasn’t been discussed here or something that we’re not thinking about when we’re in touch with Kareem, which we have been in regard to our guys talking to his representation and our coaches talking to Kareem. It is solely about Kareem making sure he has his life on track and football and Kareem is the furthest thing from our mind right now.”

Other notes

  • When asked about cap space and potential free agents, Veach said the Chiefs have learned from their past mistakes and every year is different: “Sometimes, it’s hard to fit everybody. We got some guys that are up this year that we would love to have back and we’re going to try to get back, but it just won’t work. It goes back to our ability to bring in good players and continue to win ... I don’t think we’ll ever be a team that has $60 million in the offseason, but again, we’re always going to be able to identify talent and to continue to build depth and to be competitive year in and year out.”
  • Veach was asked whether there have been discussions with linebacker Justin Houston about restructuring his deal for 2019. Houston is due for a cap number of $21,100,000, per OverTheCap.com, in ‘19: “There hasn’t been any of those types of discussions, yet. Justin is a great player and has done a ton of things for us over the years. This goes back to having a chance to sit down with Steve and lay out a plan. Justin is a big member of that defense and is a huge part of what we do. There will be a time and place. At a certain point, we can go through different scenarios, but no, we haven’t had a discussion yet. We’re still early on in the process. Even though free agency and the league year is right around the corner, there is a lot of time to work some of these questions and work through some things. There’s a bunch of different scenarios that can happen. You have a draft coming up, trade talks will begin at the combine, so we’ve got a lot of time. Justin being how valuable as he is to our team is something that I’m excited to talk to Steve about.”
  • Veach said that second-year offensive guard Kahlil McKenzie’s transition is coming along: “A really good athlete that has a ton of ability. He’s a guy that is smart and been around football his entire life. You just like the fact that you have a kid that’s been around the game a long time, a ton of athletic ability and you combine him with a great coach (Andy Heck), a great teacher, and you feel good about his chances moving forward. Even when we first got him at OTAs, it was rough around the edges, and the first few training camps, it was not very pretty. That was just like (Laurent) Duvernay-Tardif. I remember the OTAs were not very pretty, the first preseason game was not very pretty, but by the end of it, it was like, you know what? This guy is flashing a little. We had similar discussions in our staff meetings (on McKenzie).”