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What we learned about the Chiefs this week

Taking a look at the week of March 8 on Arrowhead Pride...

Kansas City Chiefs v New Orleans Saints Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

What the Chiefs should do at offensive tackle

Monday brought the beginning of Ron Kopp’s Offseason Examinations series, first focusing on the bookends of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line.

Lucas Niang

2021 will be Niang’s de facto rookie season since he opted out of the 2020 season. He was picked 96th overall in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

It’s impossible to know anything more than what Niang showed in college. At TCU, he was a very good pass-protector at right tackle, but had injury issues — mainly a torn hip labrum that resulted in season-ending surgery in 2019.

The opt-out season gives him a chance to completely recover. Without the injury, Niang could have been selected a lot higher in the 2020 draft. It’s unfair to expect too much from him in his NFL debut season, but he could also be a pleasant surprise.

My opinion: Give him the chance to prove himself a starter — but don’t expect it.

Through the week, Ron also turned his attention to the team’s defensive ends, along with its wide receivers and centers.

When the NFL salary cap is announced, expect bedlam

As the league and the NFL Players Association continued their negotiations to finally set the 2021 salary cap, we noted that the Chiefs would be making rapid-fire changes very soon.

While some teams have already begun making moves to get under the cap, other teams — including the Chiefs — have announced no changes. Weeks ago, general manager Brett Veach said that he and his experts had worked out scenarios with cap numbers ranging from the previously-announced minimum of $175 million all the way to $195 million. So it’s reasonable to think that the Chiefs have plans ready to execute for whatever cap number is ultimately announced.

The most recent reports have indicated the cap is likely to fall between $180 million and $185 million — which means the Chiefs could be anywhere from $18.5 million to $23.5 million over the cap. So wherever the cap finally lands, the Chiefs will have to make a lot of moves just to get under it — much less decide on contract tenders for their six restricted free agents and four exclusive rights free agents. All of that will have to be done before the new league year begins a week from Wednesday at 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time.

Dak Prescott’s new contract further shows Patrick Mahomes took less

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t wait for the final salary cap number, signing their quarterback Dak Prescott to a four-year deal worth $160 million, including $124 million guaranteed ($95 million fully guaranteed) and a $66 million signing bonus. On Tuesday. Pete Sweeney wrote that the larger deal the Chiefs made with Mahomes was still better.

The reason the Chiefs were able to put themselves in such an outstanding position with Mahomes is that between the player and the organization — the Hunt family, head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach and his team — they had the secret sauce the Cowboys never had: good faith between the two sides.

The Chiefs knew they always wanted Mahomes — and Mahomes knew he always wanted the Chiefs. Under Reid’s guidance, Mahomes had the desire to stay in Kansas City, while allowing the team room to surround him with pieces to win. With good faith, he committed to the length of essentially a 12-year contract, likely believing that the team would do him right in the event of substantially increased revenue. The deal also includes a natural point to restructure — 2027, when his cap hit stands to be just under $60 million.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, delayed coming to an agreement for two years as Prescott continued to play well. The clincher for complete loss of leverage was when Prescott was injured for the season after five games in which he threw for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns.

Marcus Kemp re-signed to the Chiefs

The Chiefs also didn’t need to know the final salary-cap number in order to decide that they wanted one of their key special-teams players back in 2021. They made the move on Tuesday.

After missing 2019 with an injury, he played with the Chiefs in 12 games during 2020 — two of them in the postseason after spending time with the Miami Dolphins to close the regular season.

Kemp began the season on the active roster. After appearing in four games, he was waived in early October and then re-signed to the practice squad. He was elevated for three games before being activated for three more. He was waived again in mid-December — joining the Dolphins for the rest of the season — before returning to the Kansas City practice squad for the last two postseason games. He was active in both of them.

Chiefs confirmed to have two compensatory picks in 2021 NFL Draft

We had been pretty sure the Chiefs would have two compensatory selections in the upcoming draft. On Wednesday, we finally knew all the draft picks the team would have at its disposal.

Round 1 – No. 31
Round 2 – No. 63
Round 3 – No. 94
Round 4 – No. 136
Round 4 – No. 144 (compensatory)
Round 5 – No. 175
Round 5 – No. 181 (compensatory)
Round 6 – TBD (Acquired from Miami in exchange for RB DeAndre Washington)

2021 NFL pre-free agency mock draft: Arrowhead Pride picks first-round players for every team

Then in their midweek podcast. the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad suggested one way the Chiefs might use the first of those picks.

31. Kansas City Chiefs - OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas

Cosmi is a swing on a young, high-ceiling tackle to protect Patrick Mahomes for hopefully the length of his enormous contract. He’s got a great athletic profile but needs technical work to unlock the ability he possesses. He may not be the readiest tackle at this spot in the draft, but in an NFL environment where developmental players are fast-tracking to playing time more quickly, Cosmi could be thrown into the fire depending on Eric Fisher’s recovery from an Achilles injury. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be able to hold up — his developmental arc has been good to this point in his career. The pre-draft process could help him develop enough technically to be a capable tackle from Jump Street, as he hopefully works towards becoming one of the best at his position — it’s in him to become that.

Four free-agent options for Chiefs to replace Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz

After the NFL set the salary cap at $182.5 million on Wednesday, the stage was set. 24 hours later, the Chiefs fired an unexpected salvo: they released their injured veteran tackles, clearing $18.3 million in cap space. In our coverage, John Dixon explained the salary cap ramifications and then gave three reasons why the releases shouldn’t have been a surprise. Meanwhile, Ron Kopp suggested some free-agent replacements.

Riley Reiff

Turning 33 next season, Reiff isn’t as exciting of a signing as the 33-year-old Williams. He’s been a solid starting left tackle for the Minnesota Vikings for a big chunk of his career, averaging an annual salary of $11.75 million over the last four seasons. He was cut from the team this offseason and could be a short-term solution for a starter.

For how serviceable Mike Remmers was in 2020, Reiff could probably be an even better, more consistent version. He’s been a very durable player throughout his career.

Report: Patrick Mahomes to restructure contract, saving Chiefs $17 million in 2021 cap space

Another big move came on Friday, when we learned the Chiefs would make use of the unique nature of their star quarterback’s contract.

Adam Schefter notes that the team will convert Mahomes’ $21.7 million roster bonus to a signing bonus in the coming days, which would save Kansas City $17 million against the cap. If the math is right, based upon what we know, that would put the chiefs roughly $13 million under the cap just in time for the league’s new year on March 17.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero added a note regarding language in Mahomes’ contract, which sees him in Kansas City for the next 11 seasons.

What will this mean for the Chiefs in free agency? Stay tuned.