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4 winners and 3 losers from the first wave of free agency

After a week of free agency, let’s update the board.

NFL: AFC Championship Game-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of NFL free agency is in the books. The Kansas City Chiefs have made one “splash” signing — and a few designed at building depth — but have also missed out on some of the biggest names available. It’s still very early in the offseason to make any clear judgments, but here are some of the Chiefs’ winners and losers from the past week:

Winners

NFL: AFC Championship Game-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
  • Patrick Mahomes: The greatest player on Earth can’t win a Super Bowl on his own — and his team has acknowledged this by being aggressive in free agency. In order to provide an anchor and some stability to the front five, the Chiefs signed the top interior offensive lineman available. Even after adding Joe Thuney, Brett Veach was (reportedly) willing to pay the best left tackle on the market over $23 million per year. They also narrowly missed out on one of the top wide receivers on the market when JuJu Smith-Schuster decided to return to Pittsburgh. Even though they didn’t land Williams or Smith-Schuster, it’s a safe bet that the Chiefs will continue to do everything in their power to rebuild the offensive line and add weapons for Mahomes.
  • Darrel Williams: Dirty Darrel earned a new contract with his hard-nosed, do-everything play over the last couple of seasons. The subsequent release of running back Damien Williams solidified his role as the complement to starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
  • The offensive line depth chart: Yes... Kansas City is still looking for a left tackle and a center — but the depth across the rest of the line is looking better than it was a week ago. With the addition of Thuney, the newly re-signed Andrew Wylie is once again a backup. With his ability to play guard or tackle, that makes him valuable depth. Adding Kyle Long and bringing back Laurent Duvernay-Tardif gives the team good competition and depth at right guard. Re-signing Mike Remmers and bringing back Lucas Niang gives competition and depth at right tackle. There’s still work to be done — but at least three positions, this will be a deeper offensive line than it was in 2020.
  • Chris Jones: Many have speculated that Jones would be a potential candidate to be traded — or that his contract was structured in a way to allow the Chiefs an out. But when the team needed salary-cap room, they restructured Jones — along with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. Teams just don’t restructure the contracts of players who aren’t in their long term plans; Jones is very likely here for the long run.

Losers

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Brett Veach: It may seem like a contradiction to give Veach credit for going after top free agents to help Mahomes — and then list him as a loser. But in the first week of free agency, we saw Veach swing and miss at some of the top talent available. This offseason would have been an absolute home run if the Chiefs had been able to land Trent Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster. As it is, the Chiefs are left with few good veteran options to fill the massive hole at left tackle — and they’re still in search of an X wide receiver. Other potential contributors like Kyle Fuller and Rodney Hudson found new homes before the Chiefs even had a chance. But there are plenty of reasons to be patient; there’s still a lot more offseason to go — and plenty of lesser-known options to fill out the team’s depth chart prior to the draft.
  • The Chiefs’ free agents: Of the 29 Chiefs who hit free agency, 6 have re-signed with Kansas City. The rest are still looking for a contract — along with Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Fisher and Damien Williams, whom the Chiefs released. The salary cap decline has really hurt the contract values for many free agents — and the market is also moving very slowly for down-roster contributors who have been with the team over the last couple of seasons; Demarcus Robinson, Damien Wilson, Sammy Watkins, Austin Reiter, Alex Okafor, and Tanoh Kpassagnon are all guys who probably expected to get more interest on the open market than they have so far.
  • The Chiefs left tackle position: It’s arguably the second or third most important position in the NFL — and if the season were to start today, the Chiefs have basically nobody on the roster to play it. It started with Fisher’s injury, which all but guaranteed the Chiefs would no longer have stability on the blind side for 2021. Then as the Chiefs prepared to attack free agency and rebuild their line, Fisher and Schwartz were released. The best options on the market were Trent Williams and Riley Reiff. Both have now been signed. Others who could have been available — like Laremy Tunsil, Daryl Williams, Germain Ifedi and Kelvin Beachum — have agreed to terms to remain with their current teams. The Chiefs need a veteran tackle to protect the franchise — and for Brett Veach, the options are narrowing. When the season begins, it’s possible the Chiefs will be depending on a rookie — or a subpar in-house option — which will be less than ideal.