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Dixon’s AP mailbag: Peterson and cornerbacks; OL depth and Darwin

What do Chiefs fans want to know now that training camp is underway?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Training Camp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to e-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

Now that Tyrann Mathieu is dropping hints about Patrick Peterson, what kind of odds would you put on Veach making a deal for Peterson or another upper-tier corner?

— Bryan

Does KC have a 2020 first round pick by the time preseason is over?

— Josh

Thanks for asking, Bryan and Josh.

I believe both of you are referring to this tweet from Mathieu on Monday.

Mathieu can see what in Peterson’s basement? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else.

Mathieu and Peterson were teammates at LSU. Then they were together on the Arizona Cardinals for four years. The two are close friends, and I’m positive they’d love to play together again.

But what I said back in June about a trade that would bring Peterson to the Chiefs remains true today:

Many Chiefs fans got themselves worked up over the “rumors” that the team was going to make a deal for Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but there was never any indicator such a deal was ever in the works. Instead, there was only one piece of informed speculation from one national writer that was passed around and around the Internet. Pretty soon that may seem like buzz, but there was never really any actual buzz. Peterson may have been unhappy with the Cardinals last season, but he reported to OTAs in Arizona. That’s not what unhappy veteran players do.

Mathieu’s tweet doesn’t change any of that. It looks to me like nothing more than some inside joke between two longtime friends. It’s as if I would send this tweet:

(OK... I did send that tweet. Sorry for the nonsensical tweet, my loyal Twitter followers).

But that’s the point. It was nonsensical. Nobody but me and my high school friend Joe Anderson — plus a few others who were there — could possibly know what that tweet means. (By the way... it does mean something. But even though the statute of limitations expired long ago, I’m not going to tell you any more than that).

Patrick Peterson is among the NFL’s best cornerbacks. It’s true that a trade for Peterson — or someone like him — could make the Chiefs defense better. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes sense for the Chiefs to make such a deal. As I pointed out in this space just last week, the Chiefs have a lot of problems to solve after this season. The largest among them is making a record-setting deal for their franchise quarterback. Trading Peterson for draft picks (and paying him a big salary) doesn’t make that problem any easier to solve. In fact, it might make it harder.

Could Chiefs general manager Brett Veach decide to make “a splashy move” — which our own Kent Swanson thinks the team needs at cornerback — and trade for Peterson? Of course he could. But I don’t think Mathieu’s tweet is evidence that it’s any more likely.

Do you expect the Chiefs to add to the secondary before the season starts? Seems like quality depth could be an issue.

— Matt

Who should the Chiefs be targeting as cornerback help? The position was already thin and with Keith Reaser going down the depth looks even worse.

-- Zach

Thanks for your questions, guys.

Just like Kent Swanson, Matt and Zach are concerned about the Chiefs cornerbacks. Losing Reaser to injury on Monday didn’t help matters any. Wednesday’s news that the Chiefs are apparently moving cornerback Tremon Smith to the offense further reduced the depth of the group. Wednesday’s signing of he-of-many-teams cornerback Michael Hunter put another player back in the room but isn’t likely to assure many fans that the cornerback position is where it needs to be.

I think it’s important to remember, though, that the Chiefs aren’t even yet sure what they want their cornerbacks to be able to do.

“It’s all about technique. I’ll be honest with you: I’m still trying to find out what we have at corner insofar as what they can do,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told the press on Tuesday. “It’ll probably dictate what we play coverage-wise. We’re throwing a lot at them — a plethora of different coverages. Once we get a feel for what they can and can’t do, we’ll cut it down and settle in. I’m just evaluating that as we go. We’re giving them everything.”

Spagnuolo also said that D’Montre Wade is “one guy that I think is really buying in and embracing the techniques Sam Madison and Dave Merritt are teaching” — which might explain why a player who was on the Chiefs practice squad last season has been getting snaps with the first-team defense.

So here’s an alternative reality to consider: the Chiefs cornerbacks have been worrisome in camp — to use Kent’s word for it — simply because they’re being tested with lots of different coverages so the coaching staff can decide which ones are best-suited to the players they already have. Once the coaches figure that out, they’ll be able to decide which players to keep and which ones to jettison — and identify the player(s) that need to be acquired.

Of course... if this is what’s going on, it’s far from ideal; the beginning of the season is only five weeks away. But this is the price you pay for a complete overhaul of a defensive unit. Rome wasn’t built in a day — but it was built.

Is the loss of Mitch Morse being undersold? Our offensive line depth seems severely compromised, and I haven’t read a lot of coverage that accounts for it. Keeping Patrick Mahomes upright and clean seems paramount to success. But one injury and we are maybe playing Kahlil McKenzie as a starter?

— Shawn

Thanks for asking, Shawn.

I love Morse. He’s a solid player, and I’m happy he was able to get a deal with the Buffalo Bills. But we know the saying: for an NFL player, the most important ability is availability. Morse was just missing too many games from injuries and concussions to justify signing him to another contract — especially when the Chiefs found that Austin Reiter could carry the load at center and had so many other pressing needs.

Right now, it looks like Andrew Wylie will be the starting left guard. With Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back from injury, that means the offensive line will be Eric Fisher, Wylie, Reiter, Duvernay-Tardif and Mitchell Schwartz. I believe that line can do its job.

That means former starting left guard (and former first-round pick) Cam Erving will be the swing tackle. Erving can play any position on the line. So the first injury will put Erving on the line — not McKenzie. But even if McKenzie ends up coming in, there’s every reason to believe that he can be at least an adequate backup; reports from training camp indicate the former defensive lineman is looking good. Behind them will likely be seventh-round draft pick Nick Allegretti (another versatile player with experience at guard and center) and either Zack Golditch or Jimmy Murray.

I know some of those names won’t fill you with confidence. But I’d bet that going into last season, the names “Andrew Wylie” and “Austin Reiter” didn’t fill you with confidence, either. And yet... here we are.

If the Chiefs have proved one thing in the Andy Reid era, it’s that they can identify and develop offensive linemen. The offensive line — including its depth players — should be fine in 2019.

How much playing time do you see Darwin Thompson getting this season?

— Mark

Thanks, Mark. Appreciate the question.

It’s looking more and more like Thompson is impressing everybody in training camp. If the Chiefs hadn’t already publicly (and positively) declared Damien Williams as the starter at running back, it would be anybody’s guess who will get the starting snaps. But even if Williams is the starter, I can easily see Andy Reid finding ways to use a shifty, elusive running back who has RPO experience on his resume. Barring injury, I don’t see Thompson as the starter this year. But I think we’re going to see him play in this offense.

Are the Chiefs allowed to re-sign Eric Berry if he doesn’t get picked up?

— Bird

Thanks for your question, Bird.

Yes... the Chiefs would certainly be allowed to re-sign Berry — just as they would be allowed to re-sign Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Branden Albert or Larry Johnson. If a player has enough accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent, then as long as they aren’t under a contractual obligation to another team, they’re fair game.

But why would the Chiefs want to do that?

Rightly or wrongly, the Chiefs have moved on from Berry. This was made eminently clear with the signing of Tyrann Mathieu and the selection of Juan Thornhill in the second round of the draft; nobody at One Arrowhead Drive is hoping Berry doesn’t sign with another team so the Chiefs can bring him back. Even if the team hadn’t so clearly demonstrated their feelings about Berry, it’s extremely rare for a high-profile, highly-paid player to be so unceremoniously dropped by a team — only to be re-signed the following season.

I feel you, Bird. I really do. In his prime, Berry brought a lot to the franchise. I wish the Chiefs could get it all back again. But the Chiefs don’t think there’s any chance that can happen — or they wouldn’t have done what they did.

But hey... Deron Cherry might be willing to suit up again.

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