KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Austin Ekeler, running back
The Super Bowl-winning Chiefs are laced with weaponry, but the backfield occasionally morphed into a clown car in 2019. Damien Williams enjoyed his moments, but no Chiefs back reached 500 yards on the ground or 250 through the air. The committee approach was far from fatal, but I’d love to see Patrick Mahomes author on-field madness with a player like Ekeler at his disposal. The Chargers wonder finished second among all backs in receiving yards (993) last season and showed flashes of dominance on the ground before splitting time with a back-from-holdout Melvin Gordon. Just 24 years old, Ekeler is primed for a string of monster seasons as one of the AFC’s most exciting talents. Stealing him away from a division rival would serve as a raging coup for the high-flying Chiefs. Ekeler’s a restricted free agent, though, so admittedly that might be easier said than done.
Chris Jones, DT, free agent
Jones headlines this year’s free-agent DT class, to no one’s surprise. With the second-most sacks (33) by a DT since 2016, Jones has been a game-wrecker for the Chiefs over the last few seasons. He routinely beats linemen with his power, speed, strength and footwork. Not to mention, he has a great get-off time (.88 seconds, per Next Gen Stats) for a player of his size (6-6, 310). We saw just how disruptive and impactful he is in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run. He missed four games this season, including the Divisional Round contest, and it was evident when he wasn’t on the field, as the Chiefs allowed almost six more points per game without him. One of Jones’ top outings of the season came when his team needed him most in Super Bowl LIV, as he logged three passes defensed, which helped spark the comeback. He deserves a big payday this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Primary coaches (no changes from 2019): Andy Reid, coach; Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator; Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator; Dave Toub, special teams
Combined years of NFL experience: 79
“I want people to know how relatable I am and how I’ve been the same person that I’ve been my entire life,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, I feel like I’m still growing in everything that I’m doing. Every single year I feel like I have a better knowledge of not only the game, but how I want to be perceived off the field.”
Kelce became the first NFL tight end to compile four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Heck, only one more tight end (Greg Olsen) even has accomplished the feat in three straight years.
The records only start there. Kelce has totaled 6,465 yards in his first seven seasons —despite not catching a pass his rookie year because of injury — another NFL record.
CB Bashaud Breeland (Kansas City Chiefs)
You might think that someone like Breeland would be getting overrated after enjoying the Super Bowl spotlight, and maybe free agency will prove that to be the case, but the lead-up to March would have you believe he’s nowhere near a possibility for big, let alone top-tier, money at a premier position.
That’s partly fair, considering how he faded out of favor in Washington a few years back, but he’s also coming off one of the better stretches of his career, which just happened to be one of the most important stretches in Chiefs history. Kendall Fuller and Tyrann Mathieu obviously helped the cause in K.C.’s secondary, but Breeland was far from a slouch, racking up 15 tackles, three pass deflections, two tackles for loss and a pick in three playoff games. And that came after a regular season in which he allowed just 48.4 percent of passes thrown his way. He was active. He was confident. He just turned 28. He’s a very solid No. 2 CB, at worst.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Marlon Davidson DL
Davidson can play outside and inside and would give the Chiefs a nice versatile player who can continue to help the pass rush improve.
Around the NFL
The Cleveland Browns receiver told NFL.com during the Pro Bowl he played the entire 2019 season with a hip injury but planned just to rehab.
Instead, Landry went under the knife earlier this month.
The team announced Thursday that Landry underwent successful surgery on Feb. 4. The procedure was performed by Dr. Chris Larson in Minnesota.
Landry posted about the surgery in two lengthy Instagram videos.
The good news is Landry is expected to make a full recovery for the 2020 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($79.9 million in cap space)
Like the Cowboys, the Buccaneers currently don’t have an experienced quarterback under contract for the 2020 season. Both Jameis Winston and Blaine Gabbert are set to become free agents in March, leaving only Ryan Griffin at the position. Solving that problem will eat a chunk of Tampa Bay’s space.
Three ways to spend that money
Sign a starting quarterback: The answer could be re-signing Winston, going after a veteran starter like Philip Rivers, picking a quarterback early in the 2020 NFL Draft, or some combination of those strategies. Whatever the Buccaneers decide, it’ll cost a pretty penny.
Con: The Football Isn’t That Great
The no. 7 seed in the AFC last season would have been the Pittsburgh Steelers. In case you forgot about the 2019 Steelers, they finished their campaign by losing a must-win Week 17 game against a Ravens squad that was resting its best players. This after losing to the Jets a week prior and the Bills the week before that. Pittsburgh scored a combined 30 points in those three losses—10 in each game.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Visiting the hypothetical
If this system were in place for 2019, the Chiefs would have finished second in the AFC, we believe. The Chiefs and Patriots finished with the same 12-4 record, and another game might have changed that.
Assuming the Chiefs would have been the No. 2 seed anyway, they would have hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wild Card weekend, then played the second-lowest remaining seed between Patriots-Titans and Texans-Bills. In a new system, had the Chiefs won, they would have played the Texans in the Divisional Round and the winner of Titans-Ravens in the AFC championship.
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