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How worldwide uncertainty could be affecting how Chiefs are navigating the offseason

The emergence of COVID-19 has affected the NFL in more ways than just logistics.

NFL Combine - Day 2

It’s been less than two months since the Kansas City Chiefs celebrated their Super Bowl season with that unforgettable victory parade. The party culminated on stage at Union Station, where Chiefs players and coaches were adamant that they wouldn’t be content with the one Lombardi trophy.

”So listen, one more thing is, next year, we’re coming right back here,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said at the rally. “One more time, baby. One more time.”

A pumped-up Reid declared it in a speech that now — with the current state of the country and the world — feels like it was given an eternity ago.

The COVID-19 virus has taken control of everyone’s life, including the NFL. The Chiefs were among several other teams that took actions to counter this pandemic before the league ruled on it.

This Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell gave league-wide directions to close club facilities to all personnel, excluding essential trainers, building security, and IT. These orders will remain in effect “until further notice,” and they will re-assess the situation on April 8, according to ESPN’s report on Goodell’s statement from March 24th.

The unpredictability of the virus is the most significant factor of its impact on professional sports organizations. Since the NFL is in its offseason, it has had more time than the in-season sports to evaluate the situation before making decisions. They canceled college pro days and decided to keep the dates of April 23-25 for the draft, but they have not made decisions on anything past that late-April weekend.

The experts that have studied pandemics their whole lives aren’t able to pinpoint a range of dates when athletics will be able to resume. That frightening uncertainty may be forcing Chiefs general manager Brett Veach to re-consider his offseason plan and strategy.

If the Chiefs are as serious about repeating their Super Bowl championship as they seemed to be at the parade, should they retain as much of the team as possible to counter a potentially shortened offseason?

NFL: FEB 02 Super Bowl LIV - Chiefs v 49ers Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are scenarios where the effects of COVID-19 are still prevalent in the summer. The first organized team activities (OTAs) usually begin in late May. Pushing those back would not only delay the beginning of scheme installation and on-field work with new teammates but also possibly affect the length of training camp.

There are even worse, more drawn out scenarios too. If there is dramatically less time for practice and team meetings, it’s safe to assume it will be harder than it ever has for a player to assimilate onto a new team.

Think how long it took some defensive players to truly understand Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s game plan last season. They began to really hit their stride as a unit after Week 10 and players looked more comfortable. For new incoming players, getting to that level may take even longer with a condensed period of time before the season to learn it.

The same goes for the offense. Reid has spoken about how it can take multiple years for receivers to fully learn his scheme. That is probably the case for every position in the unit.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

So instead of cramming and stressing to teach your new pass-rushing 3-tech or a new X wide receiver, why not go with what you’ve already seen work?

The Chiefs may be showing hints that they are considering this question themselves:

  • The only new player acquisitions they’ve made have been for smaller role players. Offensive lineman Mike Remmers is the new swing tackle (the versatile Cam Erving backup role), defensive back Antonio Hamilton will primarily be on special teams, and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu will get a shot at the third-string spot.
  • They retained veterans that could be considered expendable in fullback Anthony Sherman and defensive tackle Mike Pennel on one-year deals.
  • They have yet to make decisions on players with large impacts on the cap space, like defensive tackle Chris Jones, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and other players that are candidates to be cut for cap relief. The point of doing so would have been to sign a high-level free agent, but there are few to choose from at this point. If they continue to be inactive in free agency, there is a path to retaining all three named players.
  • Chiefs free agents like cornerback Bashaud Breeland and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson have yet to sign elsewhere. While the two are realistically replaceable, they were integral parts of a championship team. Could the Chiefs be making a push to keep them?
  • The only two Super Bowl starters the Chiefs have lost are safety Kendall Fuller, who signed with the Washington Redskins, and offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Neither were definite starters throughout the season.

With these unprecedented times, strategies and goals have to be adjustable. It’s hard to believe Veach’s offseason is going the way he envisioned it would be going the day after the Super Bowl. The uncertainty of this global pandemic is negatively affecting NFL teams’ ability to evaluate free agents and potential draft selections — and a team as talented and confident as the Chiefs could go conservative as a result.

Every team will have to deal with the negative consequences of this potentially altered offseason. If the Chiefs minimize personnel turnover while the rest of their competitors are busy trying to embed new players in shortened time periods, it may show up as a distinct advantage early on in the 2020 season.

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