On Sunday, we learned that Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and quarterback Patrick Mahomes had been in Las Vegas for the heavyweight boxing rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury — by way of the controversial ESPN commentator, who didn’t miss his chance to get a picture with a couple of the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Kelce had traveled a lot over the weekend. On Sunday, Chris Jones retweeted one of our own tweets that showed Kelce at the Lakers-Grizzlies game in Los Angeles the previous Friday night. “Granddad” is actually legendary record producer Lou Adler, who sits courtside (next to actor Jack Nicholson) at Lakers games. Kelce is there with social media personality Kayla Nicole, whom he has been dating since 2017.
On Monday, Pete pondered what might happen during the offseason, listing five things he thought could occur.
In real life, procrastination is never the answer, but sometimes, it is the best possible option in the NFL. Despite Chris Jones’ genuine desire to stay in Kansas City, his representatives won’t allow him to take less than what he is worth, meaning I think the Chiefs franchise tag him for approximately $16.3 million in 2020, according to CBS Sports cap expert Joel Corry.
Despite their apparent friendship, I can’t see Jones pulling a Le’Veon Bell and sitting out a year. Jones signs the franchise tag a few weeks before the regular season, and both sides re-address the situation next year.
Tuesday brought us media appearances from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. During Veach’s turn at the podium, he talked about the situation with Watkins.
“Sammy’s a guy that — like Chris Jones — we’re going to have dialogue this week,” he said. “There are certainly different options and different scenarios that could play out with him. He’s a guy that we do want back. Again... these are good problems to have. When you’ve won a Super Bowl, you obviously have a lot of good players — and they make a lot of money. But Sammy’s a guy that — as you mentioned — he’s been critical to our playoff success.”
Veach said he has a good relationship with Watkins’ agent Tory Dandy.
”We’ll sit down, talk about the landscape of where we are, what would make sense to us and how we could make this work. We’ll get feedback from them in regard to what they’re looking for. Hopefully we can bridge a gap and make something happen, [keeping] as many of these good players on our team as possible.”
When the league’s movers and shakers together for the Combine — and with reporters hanging out in the dark corners of the swanky restaurants — sometimes we get little tidbits of news. This one from Tuesday was particularly welcome.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill is expected to be ready for the start of the 2020 NFL season, according to a report from NFL Network’s James Palmer.
Expectation is for #Cheifs S Juan Thornhill to be ready for the start of the season. When he gets going during training camp is still TBD. I’m told his ACL injury actually turned out to be in better shape than expected when the surgery actually happened. Good news.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) February 25, 2020
The Chiefs selected Thornhill, 24, with the 63rd pick in last year’s NFL Draft, and he won the Chiefs’ starting safety position next to veteran Tyrann Mathieu and started all 16 games before tearing his ACL in the team’s final regular-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
In those 16 games, Thornhill registered 58 tackles (42 solo), five passes defensed, three interceptions and one touchdown.
On Wednesday, Pete gathered up Reid’s comments from Indianapolis about how winning his first Super Bowl championship has changed things for him. Somewhat unsurprisingly... not all that much.
“[The championship’s] sunk in, but you only have a short time to enjoy that, and you’ve got to move on,” said Reid. “And that’s where we’re at. So we took a little time off after the game, after the parade, and then we dove right back in and got busy, and we’re still doing that. That won’t stop throughout training camp.
“Maybe someday when we get a little older and we’re out of the game, you could sit back and go, ‘Hey, you know what? We did pretty good there.’ But right now, it’s buckling down and making sure we take care of business.”
Wednesday also brought us Stags’ evaluation of the team’s strongest and weakest points.
Coaching: There’s no longer an asterisk next to Andy Reid’s name in the record books. He’s a Hall of Fame head coach — and with the Chiefs, he is having the time of his life. The real surprise is that the team has been able to retain their entire coaching staff — including offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The new defensive coaches really showed their worth, changing the scheme and turning over the bulk of the starters — who turned in performances that absolutely helped win big games down the stretch.
Projection: With another year of continuity, the Chiefs coaches build on their success. More than one of them is likely to become a head coach after 2020.
As we all expected, on Thursday we learned the Chiefs intend to place the franchise tag on Jones for 2020. Before the day was over, Jones was TV, speaking with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd about it. John covered the highlights and broke it down.
“There’s no hard feelings,” Jones said. “It’s the business.”
”But there’s a little hard,” said Cowherd.
”It’s a little hard,” agreed Jones. ”It’s like, ‘What else y’all want me to do? I’ve got to go ahead and get 30 sacks — 35 sacks — to show y’all I can?’
”But the beautiful thing about the franchise tag [is] that it can go one of two ways,” added Jones. “The team can either long-term you to have you for the future, or they can trade you. Either way, I’ll get paid benefits.
”I would be nice to stay in Kansas City and stay with Mahomes,” he said. “What we’re building is exceptional. I feel like we’re building a dynasty. For Brett Veach, it’s about looking at the team, analyzing what you can lose — and what you have to keep.”
Ron spent some time on Friday examining the various things the Chiefs could do to free up some cap space that would help them sign Chris Jones and Patrick Mahomes to the new deals they need.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins
2020 cap number: $21 million
Cap savings if cut or traded: $14 million
While one of the problems with having an elite quarterback like Mahomes is that they must be paid a large salary, one of the benefits is the effect he has on the players around him; even relatively inexpensive weapons can produce for him. A $21 million cap hit for the third-most targeted receiver just doesn’t fit.
Mahomes’ ability will help develop drafted receivers — even if they aren’t picked early. This year’s class of receivers is incredibly deep — and young receivers like Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle will continue to improve, too. Watkins should be shopped around to teams with a plethora of cap space. A team desperate for offensive skill players may take on Watkins’ $14 million salary for a late draft pick.
Verdict: Cut or trade for draft capital
Also on Friday, the Nerd Squad gave us a full first-round mock draft —- and prognostications for all five Chiefs picks.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - CB Cameron Dantzler
There are some concerns about Dantzler’s frame, but everything else about seems like a great fit for the Chiefs. While a little slight, Dantzler is a physical, competitive corner in the run and pass game. He has good feet and long speed to pair with excellent length. Some may see this as a reach, but we don’t.