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What we learned about the Chiefs this week

Taking a look at the week of August 10 on Arrowhead Pride...

Kansas City Chiefs vs New York Jets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes loves the Chiefs’ new offensive players

On Sunday, we told you about how much the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has been impressed with three newcomers: running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and offensive linemen Mike Remmers and Kelechi Osemele.

So far, Mahomes has been impressed with both of the new veteran linemen.

“Both those guys — they’re big and strong and they’re smart,” said Mahomes. “That’s the three things that you need to have when you come in to play in this offense. Kelechi — I mean, when he shook my hand the first time, I had to go, ‘Hey, man... easy a little’ — [that’s] just how big and strong that guy is. So I’m excited to have them. They’re learning — obviously — this offense quickly and progressing quickly; it’s good to have veteran guys like that. But I’m excited for that competition in that room to bring the best out of everybody.”

Chiefs re-sign reserve defensive tackle

Before the weekend came to a close, we learned that the Chiefs had returned one of 2019’s practice-squad players to the team.

According to the NFL transactions report, the Kansas City Chiefs have brought former Mississippi State defensive tackle Braxton Hoyett back into the fold, filling the hole in the team’s 80-man roster that was created when rookie offensive lineman Lucas Niang opted out of the 2020 season on Thursday.

Hoyett, 24, is listed at 6-feet-2 and 302 pounds. A native of Pelham, Alabama, he first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent for the Tennessee Titans in 2019, but was cut by the Titans at the end of training camp.

With Hoyett’s return, five current Chiefs hail from Mississippi State: Hoyett, defensive tackle Chris Jones, offensive tackle Martinas Rankin, rookie linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and rookie offensive lineman Darryl Williams.

Chiefs clear some cap space restructuring Alex Okafor’s contract

We’re still not sure exactly when it happened, but on Monday, we learned that the team had restructured one of its defensive linemen.

From the numbers Pelissero has reported, it would appear that Okafor’s roster bonus has been increased by around $700,000 — but restructured to be paid on a per-game basis. Since Okafor missed six games of last season with an injury, at least some of that roster bonus would be considered not-likely-to-be-earned (NLTBE) in 2020, meaning that if paid, it will count against the team’s 2021 salary cap. It’s likely that the $2 million in other incentives are also NLTBE in 2020.

What’s more interesting is that Okafor was previously under contract for 2021. If Pelissero’s reporting is correct, the Chiefs and Okafor have agreed that he will not play for the team after 2020. This suggests pretty strongly that next season — if not this season — Tanoh Kpassagnon, Taco Charlton and Breeland Speaks all have an improved chance to start across from Frank Clark on the Chiefs’ defensive line.

Wednesday’s Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast also analyzed what the new deal could mean for the Chiefs in 2020 and beyond.

Two Chiefs projected to lead NFL in three 2020 statistical categories

On Tuesday, we covered Cynthia Frelund’s projection that Mahomes would pass for 4,790 yards and 37 touchdowns this year — and Edwards-Helaire would score seven touchdowns during his rookie campaign.

For the Chiefs, Edwards-Helaire is the great unknown of the 2020 season. On paper, he is a perfect fit for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s offense; there’s every reason to think he’ll eventually be a big contributor in it. And yet, he is still a rookie who is coming into his first NFL season — one without a real offseason program. How much is that going to matter?

Mathematical models tend to have a difficult time with unprecedented situations, so I’m not sure how much faith to put in Frelund’s projection here. So I’ll go with my gut, recalling that Kareem Hunt scored 11 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2017; seven touchdowns for Edwards-Helaire in 2020 seems a little low to me.

Could there be a kick returner battle brewing in Kansas City?

Wednesday came with Craig Stout’s positional review of Chiefs special teams players, which revealed the possibility of a unexpected battle between a veteran and newcomer.

The returner job has surprisingly opened up a bit for Byron Pringle and Justice Shelton-Mosley. Pringle was an excellent kick returner at the collegiate level and found himself back to return a couple of kicks for the Chiefs in 2019. However, he was limited as a punt returner at Kansas State and has never returned one for the Chiefs in the regular season.

Meanwhile, Shelton-Mosley was an excellent kick and punt returner throughout his collegiate career. During his time at Harvard, he was a three-time All-Ivy League returner and wide receiver, culminating in his All American 2017 season. His comfort level as a punt returner gives him a bit of a leg up on the competition, as it’s a difficult task to master.

Pringle is decidedly the better fit at wide receiver, as he’s currently the only receiver with “X” experience behind Sammy Watkins. Shelton-Mosley is not in that mold. However, if push comes to shove, Shelton-Mosley just might eke out a spot on the 53-man roster.

What we know (and can estimate) about the structure of Kelce’s extension

The week’s biggest news came on Thursday, when the Chiefs agreed to a four-year contract extension for star tight end Travis Kelce that gave him $57 million in new money — $28 million of it guaranteed — and was reported to structured like the deal given to defensive tackle Chris Jones. By the end of the day, we had projected how the deal might play out.

Carrying that over to the Kelce deal, here’s what we get:

The last two years of Kelce’s existing contract (totaling $18.25 million) become guaranteed at signing. On the first day of the 2021 league year next March, Kelce’s 2022 salary (let’s say it’s $10 million, which would be an increase over the $9 million he is due to collect in 2021) becomes fully guaranteed, bringing the total guarantees of the deal to $28.25 million. That leaves $47.25 million to be spread out over the remaining three years of the deal — perhaps something like $15 million in 2023, $15.75 million in 2024 and $16.5 million in 2025.

There are other numbers you can plug into those slots and make it match what we know. But based on what’s been reported, the contract structure could look something very much like what we’ve described.

Chiefs’ core is choosing dynasty over personal finance

On Friday, Pete Sweeney reflected on how Kelce’s contract is yet another example of how the Chiefs are demonstrating a new way of thinking.

Over the years, NFL fans have called for players to be less greedy — to choose team over me, to desire legacy over personal financial security — and let’s be clear: we are still talking about millions and millions of dollars.

But you can’t ignore the sacrifice; not with this team, not this many times.

In Kansas City, it truly is about dynasty potential. The Chiefs weren’t just talking about it moments after the Super Bowl; they’re being about it through their financial decisions.

And unless other teams — and their players — follow suit, it just might become a reality.

Report: Chiefs considering ‘pods’ when fans are allowed at games

We also learned about a new buzzword that some teams are using to describe groups of fans who will be allowed to sit together in partially-empty NFL stadiums this fall.

When the coronavirus pandemic first brewed up in the spring, NFL teams began exploring ways to safely bring fans to their stadiums while observing social distancing guidelines. The immediate thought was to simply reduce the number of people allowed in stadiums by half or two-thirds — and then just seat them in a way in which no one is sitting in close proximity to anyone else.

But it’s easy to see the problem with this. While it’s not unknown for fans to attend games by themselves, most come in pairs or groups. It’s common for couples and families to attend games and sit together — and in many such cases, these groups of people are already living within their own COVID-19 “bubble” — so that when seated together, they would carry little additional risk among themselves.

Several players out as Chiefs begin padded practices

The team’s first real practice went smoothly on Friday morning — although a handful Chiefs were on the sidelines.

Defensive end Frank Clark, tight end Deon Yelder, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi — along with defensive linemen Devaroe Lawrence and Demone Harris — were not in pads today.

After the practice, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Clark has a stomach virus; Reid was careful to say that he is not infected with COVID. Reid said both Harris and Lawrence were excused for personal reasons — and that Yelder has a “slight” groin strain.

Offensive lineman Martinas Rankin, safety Juan Thornhill and cornerback BoPete Keyes — all still currently listed a physically-unable-to-perform — also sat out the session, but worked with trainers on the sidelines.

Reid revealed that Keyes has an orbital fracture — apparently in his jaw — that he suffered before arriving in Kansas City.

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