As free agency’s legal tampering period began on Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs went right to work, signing former New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney to a five-year contract. Ron Kopp took a look at the positives.
Thuney has played 98% of his career snaps at left guard — but that doesn’t mean he is cemented there. This past season, he had to start two games at center. In prior years, he mixed in at offensive tackle for a handful of snaps. At North Carolina State, Thuney played tackle his last season — and earned the highest-pass blocking grade by PFF’s grading in 2015.
Most likely, Thuney will be slotted into the position he’s played the most in his All-Pro NFL career. However, the Chiefs need help at tackle — and Thuney has the size to make it work on the perimeter. Don’t be too shocked if the Kansas City tries him out there — or also at center.
The Kansas City tight end made an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.”
“I say it like this: ‘You ever just wake up on Sunday and got your ass beat by a bunch of guys you never thought you’d get your ass beat by?’” said Kelce. “That’s exactly what just happened. I mean — we never thought that was going to happen. I don’t think the score of that game is true to who we are and where we rank in terms of being a great team and being as good as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was just kind of the situation is what it is, and we have to live with that, we have to try and get better because of it. That’s all we can take from it.
“Right now is it is what it is... in my mind, hopefully, we’re there next year and Tampa Bay’s there next year so that we can go ahead and go after it again. That’s all that’s really ingrained in my heart right now — work your tail off, and get back there next year because what we just put on display, I don’t think that’s our best effort.”
Thuney’s contract was big one — totaling $80 million over five years — so on Tuesday, John Dixon went through the details, showing that it would have only a small impact on 2021’s cap space.
Joe Thuney Contract
As you can see, this is structured much more like a traditional NFL contract, in which a signing bonus is prorated across the life of the deal. This allows the contract to count only $4.5 million against the cap in 2021. Furthermore, under Top-51 cap rules — under which Thuney’s hit replaces the 51st-highest contract — its immediate impact is just $3.8 million.
So if you were thinking that this deal will prevent the Chiefs from making other free-agent deals this offseason... it absolutely won’t. The Chiefs still have $30 million with which to work.
Then we learned the Chiefs had decided to re-sign a running back who had been coming on strong at the end of the 2020 season.
“That was really the only thing that was holding Darrel back, was just being able to stay healthy consistently,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Williams back in early February. “He spent so much time rehabbing this past offseason, got himself into great shape, caught a couple breaks, which you need. I mean, he’s always worked hard, he just got nicked up. So, he was able for the most part to stay injury-free, and he put together this season... Whether it’s third down, blitz protection, whether it’s blocking for another back or you’ve seen him block for Tyreek (Hill) at times, or whether it’s out catching a pass, he just has a real feel for it and is very instinctive, and likewise very smart.”
Then we got some shocking news about another running back.
Williams, 28, caught on with the Chiefs during the 2018 offseason, initially serving a backup role behind Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware before taking a piece of the lead role during the 2019 season. Unable to consistently stay healthy during the regular season, Williams did most of his damage for the Chiefs during the 2018 and 2019 postseasons, when in five games, he compiled 81 rushes for 355 yards and six rushing touchdowns, as well as 21 catches for 185 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Williams drew some consideration for the Super Bowl LIV Most Valuable Player, as he rushed 17 times for 104 yards, caught four passes for 29 yards and scored two touchdowns in the game. Williams opted out of the 2020 season in part to take care of his sick mother.
Throughout Tuesday, there were reports that the Chiefs were in the mix to sign the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive tackle — one of the offseason’s top free agents. But during Wednesday’s early-morning hours, the 49ers re-signed him.
What do they do from here?
On the open market, there are some good-but-not-elite options at starting tackle, such as former Vikings tackle Riley Reiff, former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva or former Bears tackle Bobby Massie. The Chiefs could call about Orlando Brown, but do we really believe the Baltimore Ravens are going to be eager to bolster what is potentially their greatest AFC obstacle over the next decade?
There is also a chance the team could bring Eric Fisher back for a cheaper figure after the market settles, but whether he will be ready to start for Week 1 in 2021 is unknown at this time. Mitchell Schwartz probably fits into this category if he chooses not to retire.
On Wednesday, the team signed the former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl guard to a contract, officially ending his one-year retirement. In his film review, Craig Stout called him “a potential free-agency steal.” And Ron Kopp weighed in, too.
Does this say something about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif?
I laid out how Long could be considered for a tackle position — but he has been a career right guard, so let’s assume that the Chiefs want him for that spot. Kansas City has confirmed that Duvernay-Tardif is returning to the team after the opt-out season, but maybe they aren’t confident he’ll be ready as a starter.
I criticized Duvernay-Tardif a fair amount during parts of 2019 — a season he spent fully recovering from a broken leg suffered early in 2018. Yet, by the end of that championship season, he and the rest of the line were playing as well as you could ask for. Mitchell Schwartz and Duvernay-Tardif were in control of the right side of the line through the title run.
It may be difficult to get back to that level immediately, and the Long signing could be confirming that the Chiefs are aware of that.
Also on Wednesday, the Chiefs extended restricted free agent contract tenders to wide receiver Byron Pringle and cornerback Charvarius Ward — and then re-signed linebacker Ben Niemann and tight end Nick Keizer.
Signings continued on Thursday. Our readers showed the most interest in the one involving a former practice squad player.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette for the New York Jets in 2017, McGuire played in 24 games during his first two seasons, collecting a total of 961 yards from scrimmage (and four touchdowns) on 216 touches.
He then embarked on a practice-squad tour that included stops with the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and two separate stints in Kansas City, where he ended both the 2019 and 2020 seasons on the practice squad. He was also with the team during the 2020 offseason.
Although Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t make it through Friday as a free agent, he was one of the players the Nerd Squad picked during that day’s edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast.
LT Russell Okung
At left tackle, Okung is the highest-ceiling player still remaining. Now 33, he has had his struggles staying healthy — but when on the field, he is a capable player. The Chiefs could explore a one-year deal and then select a replacement early in the draft, giving a rookie a year to develop while ensuring Mahomes is protected on his blind side. At minimum, the hope would be that Okung could stay healthy far enough into the season that a rookie tackle could be ready to step in.
Friday also brought the last installment of Ron Kopp’s position-by-position Offseason Examinations series, which covered cornerbacks on Sunday, offensive guards on Monday, linebackers on Tuesday and tight ends on Wednesday.
Who they could sign
I would be in favor or re-signing veteran Daniel Sorensen to once again to fill that third safety role.
There has been no news on that front — so if the Chiefs are looking elsewhere for that position, here are a few veteran options: Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, the San Francisco 49ers’ Jaquiski Tartt, the Tennessee Titans’ Kenny Vaccaro, the Detroit Lions’ Duron Harmon or Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers.
Who they could draft
It could also make sense to draft another player that fits the versatile role the Chiefs ask of their third safety. Some early-round options would include Oregon’s Jevon Holland, UCF’s Richie Grant, TCU’s Ar’Darius Washington and Cincinnati’s James Wiggins
Possible picks later in the draft could include San Diego State’s Tariq Thompson, Middle Tennessee’s Reed Blankenship or Missouri’s Tyree Gillespie.