ESPN senior writer Mike Sando released offseason grades for all 32 NFL teams on Wednesday (ESPN In$ider), and they are especially interesting, as they include commentary from executives, evaluators and coaches from throughout the league.
Let’s see what Sando thought of the Kansas City Chiefs:
OFFSEASON LETTER GRADE: C
The Chiefs still have Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, which is what matters most, but this will be a vastly different team in meaningful ways — some good, some bad.
”You can see what they are trying to do with the defense, but Kansas City is a hard one to figure overall because they’ve had some curveballs,” an exec said.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, outside linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, safety Eric Berry and (for now) receiver Tyreek Hill are out. Taking their places: defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, defensive end Frank Clark (among others), safety Tyrann Mathieu and rookie receiver Mecole Hardman.
In a four-day period bleeding into the draft, the Chiefs acquired Clark, suspended Hill after audio surfaced in which his fiancée accused him of abusing their 3-year-old son, and traded up in the second round to select Hardman, a potential replacement for Hill. They also gave Clark a deal worth nearly $21 million per year, which one evaluator noted could explain why Chris Jones is not attending OTAs.
”They did really well on Dee Ford,” an exec said. “They are changing schemes and this is a guy who had one good year in a contract year, and they were not biting. They parlayed it into getting Frank Clark, who is just a much better player.”
The Chiefs essentially traded Ford and the 29th pick for Clark (their own 2020 second goes to Seattle, and San Francisco’s 2020 second goes to Kansas City). If you’re going to trade a first-round pick, you’re better getting a player at a premium position in return. Clark is one such player.
”They have lost a ‘blue’ running back [Hunt] and a ‘blue’ wide receiver [Hill] and could drop because of that,” an evaluator said. “You just can’t replace those guys. But they do have the X factor [Mahomes] that can make that all less relevant.”
- First, let’s add a little context to the Chiefs’ grade. Sando was not an easy grader. The two highest grades went to the Indianapolis Colts (A-) and Denver Broncos (B+). Every other team in the league scored below B+. 10 other teams scored a C. Only two teams—the New York Giants (D) and the New York Jets (D-) scored worse than the Chiefs.
- The first paragraph is important and should be for the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, if all goes well. After several decades, the Chiefs found their guy in Patrick Mahomes. He’s the main entree. Every offseason for the foreseeable future is about side dishes. Views will vary about offseasons from here on out, but the most difficult part of this is over for a long time.
- Doing this for a living, I agreed with NFL executive X on truly figuring the Chiefs out. There are so many questions for which we won’t get definitive answers until we do—and that may not be for a while. How much time will Tyreek Hill miss? Who will replace him? Will Sammy Watkins stay healthy? What is the true timetable for Travis Kelce’s return? Who will play center and left guard? Will the shift to the 4-3 work? Will this set of defensive players—who have never played together—be better than last year? How long will it take them to gel together? Is the secondary good enough? When will Chris Jones return to the club? You get the point.
- I was not a fan of the Chiefs trading Dee Ford when it happened, but I did note at the time that it was part of a bigger picture that we couldn’t see yet. The trade led to an asset to get a better fit for Spagnuolo’s defense in Frank Clark—which Brett Veach later said was the plan all along. Then everything made more sense. Ford had one strong, healthy season, while it looks like the 25-year-old Clark has had three. I’ll take the bait here.
- “Blue” means a blue-chip player—one who is extremely hard to replace. I found this quote interesting when I remembered the Chiefs called Sammy Watkins a “blue” player when they acquired him. We’ve heard the rumblings—Watkins “looks incredible” and is mentally rejuvenated. It feels like the Chiefs will need Watkins to be all of the above—at least at the start of the 2019 season.
MY OFFSEASON GRADE: B
This year’s Chiefs draft class was solid—and I think the two second-rounders (Mecole Hardman and Juan Thornhill), especially, have a good chance for key roles. The Chiefs needed to completely revamp their defense and did just that, bringing in a fiery defensive coordinator and two studs in Clark and Mathieu. Despite the Hill situation, the culture around the team already feels different. Unlike many who worry about the secondary, my concerns are there when it comes to tight end and wide receiver depth. If the season started tomorrow, TE Blake Bell would be the Chiefs’ starter. The Chiefs would also presumably be one Watkins injury away from a starting WR tandem of Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter and a rookie. That’s not good enough for me—even with Mahomes.
YOUR OFFSEASON GRADE
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