Free agency is always the hardest part of the offseason to predict. That’s especially true in 2021, because there is simply no easy way to pull it off.
That said, I really do anticipate the Kansas City Chiefs will shake things up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team move on from one or two players they don’t feel are living up to their expectations — but for now, let’s focus on two free agents that could help the team.
Where does the money come from?
Per Spotrac, the Chiefs are currently $18.1 million over the salary cap, so some things will have to be done to make room for significant free agent signings. As I outlined last week, one way to do this is by extending the contracts of safety Tyrann Mathieu and left tackle Eric Fisher, releasing right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (or letting him retire) and converting Patrick Mahomes’ 2021 roster bonus to signing bonus. With these moves, the Chiefs could easily eclipse $20 million in cap space under the projected $185 million cap ceiling.
Signing 1: DE Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions
Okwara entered the league as an undrafted free agent for the New York Giants in 2016 — while Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had the same job in New York. Okwara was seen as developmental player. He did have the prototypical Spagnuolo size — coming in at 6-feet-4 and 263 pounds with 34.25 inch arms — and early on, he was able to work his way into the playing rotation. But he never quite caught on with the Giants, winding up with the Detroit Lions in 2018. There, he has continued to develop — and now enters free agency as an ascending player who has already proved he can perform at a high level.
Speed to Power by Romeo Okwara (@RomeoND45) as he gets the blocker's shoulders turned with a great get off/speed, then strikes with power. Brings Alex Smith down for the sack! #passrush #speedtopower #onepride #lions pic.twitter.com/HKI6YWMmy7— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) November 15, 2020
Outside of the obvious connection to Spagnuolo, he would provide a Day 1 improvement over the players the Chiefs have been fielding across from defensive end Frank Clark. He won’t be cheap — his market value is currently around $10 million per year — but he would come in as a starting-caliber player who is is young (26 years old in September) and ascending. His best football is very likely still ahead of him — which makes him the kind of player for whom the Chiefs have previously been willing to spend money to acquire. In addition, his signing would relieve the Chiefs from having to use a Top-50 draft pick on a defensive end, freeing them to address other needs in April.
Signing 2: WR Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams
Next, the Chiefs could dip into a loaded group of free-agent wide receivers and find a bargain. A fourth-round pick for the Rams in 2017, Reynolds is entering free agency after his best season to date, in which he gained 618 yards (and a pair of touchdowns) on 52 catches. Despite this production, there isn’t much talk about Reynolds as a free agent. Checking in with prototypical X-receiver measurables — 6-feet-3 and 196 pounds — he has been wildly underutilized in a Rams’ offense that struggles to involve outside receivers. He could be a nice little free-agency bargain.
Along with his prototypical X-receiver size, Reynolds has shown he can be effective working downfield. From a blocking, toughness and versatility perspective, he is the very definition of what the Chiefs have generally liked in their larger wideouts. Like Okwara, the 26-year-old is also a young and ascending player — one who is likely build on his most recent performance. And since the current group of free-agent wide receivers is loaded, he shouldn’t cost much to sign.
Reynolds is good enough to improve the Chiefs’ talent at the second wide receiver position, which would eliminiate the need to draft such a player in the first two rounds this spring. And he could be signed inexpensively — just in case he has already maxed out his potential.
On Wednesday, I’ll show you a Chiefs draft class that would complement these two free-agent signings.