Two notable moves happened in the Kansas City Chiefs cornerback room in the matter of one week’s time. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed away unrestricted free agent Steve Nelson to a three-year deal worth $25.5 million, and the Chiefs signed Bashaud Breeland to a one-year deal with a maximum value of $5 million.
To flesh this out a little, Nelson's deal also includes base salaries of $1.5 million this year, $5.25 million next year, and $8.25 million in 2021. Structurally, it's similar to Maurkice Pouncey's new contract. Cap hits will be $4M in 2019, then $10.75M in each of 2020 and 2021. https://t.co/AsH1lzQGIX— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 13, 2019
In contrast, Breeland’s contract is a one-year, prove-it deal worth a no more than $5 million.
Nelson’s departure from Kansas City opened up one of their starting cornerback positions, with the only capable options currently on the roster being second-year players Charvarius Ward and Tremon Smith.
Bringing on Breeland, who is still looking to find his way back to that once-on-the-books three-year, $24 million contract, is a low-risk move that in 2019, could prove to give the Chiefs a better starting cornerback than they would have had in Nelson had they retained him.
Football analytics website Pro Football Focus provided some numbers comparing the two cornerbacks on Monday.
Bashaud Breeland vs Steven Nelson Stat Breakdown (been requested by several, 2018 stats)— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) March 18, 2019
Picture 1 is Breeland, Picture 2 is Nelson pic.twitter.com/p7OTUzlN9b
The first thing that jumps out upon looking at the numbers is sample size. Whereas Nelson was healthy all last year (16 starts), Breeland didn’t sign with the Packers until Week 4, and his lack of conditioning led to a hamstring injury that sidelined him until Week 9. A groin injury later in the season limited Breeland to just five starts and 330 snaps in 2018.
Because of the stark difference in sample size, let’s focus only the numbers based upon averages. When doing that, Breeland and Nelson aren’t all that different.
- Breeland: 8.21 yards allowed per target | Nelson: 7.51 yards allowed per target
- Breeland: 6.47 yards after the catch allowed per reception | Nelson: 2.84 yards after the catch allowed per reception
- Breeland: 1 pass breakup per 11 targets | Nelson: 1 pass breakup per 11 targets
- Breeland: 1 missed tackle per 5.5 attempts | Nelson: 1 missed tackle per 8.9 attempts
It is worth noting that Breeland’s averages, which are indeed worse than Nelson, came after an offseason in which Breeland participated in no OTAs, training camp or preseason games. It seems Breeland has learned from his mistake as that won’t be the case in 2019.
The Packers featured Breeland in the slot more than any other year of his career, PFF also noted.
A snap breakdown of Bashaud Breeland:— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) March 18, 2019
2018: Slot 187, Wide 89
2017: Slot 45, Wide 745
2016: Slot 250, Wide 431
2015: Slot 80, Wide 841
2014: Slot 82, Wide 676
New @Chiefs Signing: CB Bashaud Breeland— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) March 18, 2019
-2018 (GB): 330 snaps and 58.5 overall grade, only season with more slot snaps than wide
-94.8 graded game in week 14 vs Atlanta (INT, PBU, 1/5 in coverage)
-2017 (WAS): 856 snaps, 68.8 overall
-2015 (WAS): 984 snaps, 74.0 overall https://t.co/s1YoAhxnsr
Breeland’s best season was 2015, when he guarded the slot 80 times out of 921 snaps. His role should be similar in Kansas City, where the Chiefs already have their slot cornerback in Kendall Fuller. Tyrann Mathieu will also be around to help in that regard.
The combination of a few things—Breeland having an offseason, likely no longer manning the slot and it being a full contract year—makes me think that there is a real chance Breeland could be a better starter than Nelson. If he isn’t, it sounds like the Chiefs won’t owe him much money at all, anyway.
The one-year deal also gives Breeland a chance to prove it, and his money comes off the books in time to give the Chiefs room as they prepare for next offseason’s historic quarterback contract for Patrick Mahomes.
Grade the Chiefs’ signing of CB Bashaud Breeland.
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