It’s been a rough week in some regard for Chiefs fans across the country. They were forced to say goodbye to critical pieces of not only last year’s team but also stars of the last generation.
The Chiefs released Justin Houston on Sunday, traded Dee Ford on Tuesday and bid farewell to the beloved Eric Berry on Wednesday. The Chiefs ripped the band-aid off and are hitting a complete reset on defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The moves tell us a lot about the realities of this offseason and what it means for next season and beyond. Here are my takeaways after the major moves:
1. This is Patrick Mahomes’ team
The exit of key leaders in the locker room like Houston and Berry signify that this is unquestionably the reigning MVP’s team (as if it weren’t to some degree already). There are no older established voices with the credibility that Berry or Houston had in that locker room. There are veterans like Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, yes, but the prevailing voice is now Mahomes. And that’s how it should be. He has earned the opportunity to be the guy in the building. The exit of veterans makes that a smoother transition.
2. They need to sign pass rush help
Whether it’s in the interior or at EDGE, the Chiefs have to find one or two players to help make up for the lost production regarding sacks and pressure. They aren’t going to lead the league in sacks this year, but if they can get to the middle of the pack, they should be better in other areas to make up for it. The players under contract in 2019 account for 26 sacks: Chris Jones (15.5), Tyrann Mathieu (3), Xavier Williams (2.5), Breeland Speaks (1.5), Jordan Lucas (1), Armani Watts (1), Damien Wilson (1) and Reggie Ragland (.5). If these players have similar production or improve, that’s a start. Finding some help in free agency (perhaps Markus Golden) helps them get closer to the middle of the pack for the league, which is 39 team sacks.
3. Spagnuolo and company have their work cut out for them
The new defensive staff is an exciting group. Spagnuolo has compiled some quality minds to help him solve the defensive woes. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly comes from New England after helping develop a rush plan that slowed down Mahomes and company in Arrowhead. It was brilliantly done without too many impact players in their front. That experience is now with the good guys, which should go a long way in helping the Chiefs do more with less from their pass rush. Matt House was a dark-horse defensive coordinator candidate for the Chiefs and now he’s in the building as a linebackers coach. His familiarity with the college game should help Spagnuolo adapt to the ever-changing landscape of NFL offenses. The time off for Spagnuolo should serve him well as he comes in energized, with new ideas and with quality minds around him. They have the group to solve these problems, but it’s not going to be easy.
4. The Chiefs aren’t picking at 29
There is a clearly defined need to add an impact pass rusher in this upcoming draft. With the additional second-round pick in 2020 and the Rams 2019 second-round pick from the Marcus Peters trade, the Chiefs have more than enough ammunition to move up and grab an available pass rusher. One name to keep an eye on is Clelin Ferrell from Clemson. He did not do athletic testing at the NFL Combine and is not intending to do it at his pro day. Some anticipate he could fall without participating. The Chiefs could be the beneficiary. He has a round-one grade for us.
5. The Chiefs have to nail this draft
Last year felt like an overcorrection to the toughness that the Chiefs felt they lacked in their playoff loss to the Titans. The Chiefs went and got hard-working, blue-collar players with the likes of Speaks and Derrick Nnadi. They need more of an impact from this draft than they did last year. They’re well-equipped to with the additional assets, but they need to make them count. You can anticipate them to hit defense early and often. They need help at EDGE and cornerback specifically.
KC Draft Guide
We are releasing the first ever edition of the KC Draft Guide on April 8.
We’ll have over 200 prospect write-ups, specifically about how prospects fit the Chiefs. There will be big boards, more than 300 grades on players, mock drafts, positional rankings and features all specific to the Chiefs. You can learn about the players the Chiefs will potentially draft for just $6.99 by clicking here.
Today, we launch pre-orders for the KC Draft Guide! Hundreds of write-ups about how prospects fit the Chiefs, player quotes, features, big boards, mock drafts and more. Here's a link to a special launch price of $6.99, less than the cost of a burrito: https://t.co/Gd5Brmhp5P pic.twitter.com/XtWmogQTMe— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) February 20, 2019