The “will they or won’t they” with Eric Berry is over.
Wednesday’s announcement that the Chiefs are cutting Berry with a post-June 1 designation means the team will be without its three highest-paid defenders heading into the 2019 season — Berry, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford.
Let’s take a look at some spots they need to fill and where we could look for them to be addressed:
With Steve Nelson getting a contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chiefs cornerback group is thin — with Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward, and Tremon Smith as the returning contributors. With 70 percent of the snaps being in sub-packages, they’ll need to add a starter, and they’ll need some depth.
The free-agent pickings were slim, and Bradley Roby — a target from some Chiefs fans — was scooped up on a one-year deal with the Texans. Jason Verrett is still on the market, but their injury history leaves more questions than answers for a guy that the Chiefs will need to count on in 2019. Janoris Jenkins was reportedly on the trade block last year, and if he were to be cut, he could reunite with Steve Spagnuolo for some depth at the position. Ronald Darby is visiting with the Chiefs Wednesday night, and if he clears medicals, could be a good option on the outside if healthy.
That in mind, I would watch the trade market closely in the coming days.
Cap-hungry teams will be looking for ways to position themselves for the second wave of free agency, draft picks and for 2020.
The #Vikings have received calls from teams interested in trading for former first-round CB Trae Waynes, sources say. His fifth-year option just became fully guaranteed, so Minnesota won’t cut him. But there is interest.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2019
Minnesota is one of those such teams, with $2.3 million in current cap space and only $20M million in 2020 cap space. Cornerback Trae Waynes is making $9 million this year on his fifth-year option and could be a trade candidate. Xavier Rhodes opposite him could be in the mix for the right compensation and would help to free up future cap space as well.
AJ Bouye of the Jacksonville Jaguars is another player that makes some sense for the right compensation. With their recent acquisition of Nick Foles and a potential Jalen Ramsey extension on the horizon, Bouye’s cap savings could help them shore up other spots and keep their stud corner happy in 2020.
The draft could definitely add some depth to the position, but the Chiefs will need to bring in at least one veteran so they’re not hamstrung to a single draft strategy in April.
With Houston and Ford gone, that leaves Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon as the only two defensive ends with real experience currently on the roster. While defensive line coach Brendan Daly has gotten the most out of his talent in the past, the Chiefs still need bodies at the position.
The free-agent market at defensive end is even slimmer than it is at cornerback. Franchise tags took multiple players off the market, leaving players like Ziggy Ansah, Markus Golden and Shaquille Barrett as the top options.
Browns are now shopping former defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah after acquiring Olivier Vernon, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2019
Emmanuel Ogbah looks to be on his way out in Cleveland, and he’s a player that fits the Spagnuolo mold. He’s longer and bigger than Houston or Ford, and he has powerful hands. He’s not a speed rusher, but he utilizes his lateral agility well to perform stunts/twists. That would fit perfectly with the rush plan that Daly and Spagnuolo have exhibited in the past, and he could be a good rotational piece.
With the draft carrying some stud defensive end prospects this year, it feels like a depth rotational signing in free agency is in the works with a potential trade-up to go get the defensive end of the future.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, that’s what is on the market right now.
With Berry gone, the Chiefs now have a hole at their starting safety position opposite Mathieu. While they have several options in house — Jordan Lucas was just signed as a restricted free agent, Armani Watts was drafted last year and Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray are carryovers from the Sutton scheme — the Chiefs very well might still see themselves playing in the free-agent market.
As Spagnuolo doesn’t typically utilize three safety sets, carrying five at the position doesn’t make much sense. Murray is a likely cut candidate, and Sorensen could see his way out as well, leaving $4.6 million in cap space.
Glover Quin and Haha Clinton-Dix are available options, but the player that makes the most sense from a fit standpoint is Tre Boston. Having worked with defensive backs coach Dave Merritt last year, Boston had one of his best seasons to date. He would offer some back-end speed and playmaking ability and allow Mathieu to rob routes underneath to create a dynamic safety tandem.
If the Chiefs don’t test the market, they may find themselves attacking it with one of the quality safeties remaining in this year’s draft come April.
Which players would you like to see the Chiefs attack this offseason?