Four winners and three losers from the first wave of free agency
Monday marked the end of the first week of NFL free agency, so our Matt Stagner toted up the Kansas City Chiefs' winners and losers.
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.
Seeing the future in the Chiefs’ offensive line moves
Meanwhile, John Dixon pointed out that it's important to view free agency from an altitude where we can see the biggest part of the picture: the contract of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
We’re going to have to adjust our expectations about what Kansas City will do in free agency. 2021 might be the last year in which we see the team even consider the possibility of being in the market for big-name players.
In turn, that means that the Chiefs must transition to becoming largely dependent on the draft and undrafted free agency, with early-round picks slated to become immediate starters — or, at worst, players who could start in their second year — while later selections and undrafted players will be expected to develop into starting-caliber players on a somewhat longer timeline.
Report: Chiefs complete deal to bring back safety Daniel Sorensen
Monday also brought a report that another Chiefs player would return in 2021.
For the second season in a row, the highlight of Sorensen’s year came in the team’s Divisional round playoff game. His thunderous hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins forced a fumble at the 1-yard line and into the end zone, creating a touchback rather than a second-quarter touchdown. The Chiefs eventually won by five points after Patrick Mahomes had to depart through the league’s concussion protocol.
In 2020, Sorensen made a $3.6 million base salary with a $1 million signing bonus for a cap hit of $4.75 million. Teope later reported Sorensen’s 2021 figure at $2.46 million deal fully guaranteed.
In 15 games (11 starts) in 2020, he finished with 91 tackles (68 solo), five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Report: Damien Williams lands with Chicago Bears
Wednesday produced news that one of the heroes of Super Bowl LIV would be wearing a different uniform this season.
It did not take Damien Williams long to find a new home. The former Kansas City Chiefs running back is signing with the Chicago Bears, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
As Rapoport notes, former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is the head coach of the Bears, and Williams has a connection to their current offensive coordinator Bill Lazor from their time in Miami.
Williams, 28, caught on with the Chiefs following his four-year tenure with the Dolphins (2014-17), 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.
Ranking 5 possible offensive line combinations for the 2021 Chiefs
With speculation mounting about how the Chiefs would solve their offensive line puzzle, Ron Kopp went through some of the more common scenarios. Our readers liked the last one best.
Left tackle: High draft pick
Left guard: Joe Thuney
Center: Nick Allegretti
Right guard: Kyle Long
Right tackle: Mike Remmers
Pros: A veteran left guard can help a rookie left tackle. Both guard positions are filled by high-level talents. There’s continuity with Remmers at right tackle.
Cons: Starting a rookie left tackle is nowhere near an ideal scenario for a Super Bowl-contending team. The right side of the line is aged.
Inside the Chiefs’ offseason — and where they go from here
Pete Sweeney spent Thursday gathering up everything he's learned about the Chiefs this offseason, analyzing the moves they have made in free agency.
While fan frustration early in free agency is more than understandable, there is a long way to go before the first week in September. The Chiefs have been true to themselves, not sacrificing the plan to make a move in which they feel would hurt the future.
The Chiefs have two goals to which they want to remain true.
Despite the cap room they have right now for 2021, they have a desire to roll at least some money over so that they may be able to take care of their own (such as defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward) while still being able to sign free agents (for the right value) in 2021 and future seasons. If another Thuney, regarded among the elite, makes it to unrestricted free agency in 2022, the Chiefs will need capital to spend. There are no elite players still currently available.
We have been through regimes in Kansas City where the organization was careless with money; this is not one of them.
Report: Demarcus Robinson re-signed to the Chiefs
Then the Chiefs moved a wide receiver from their Free Agent column to their Re-Signed column.
Robinson, 26, will be beginning his sixth NFL season — all of it with the Chiefs. He started nine games in 2020, catching 45 passes on 59 targets for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Over his career, Robinson has appeared in all 80 regular-season contests, starting 32 games while gaining 1,415 yards (and scoring 11 touchdowns) on 120 receptions.
While terms of the deal are not yet known, Robinson played last year on a version of the NFL’s veteran salary benefit (VSB) deal — the so-called “four-year qualifying contract” — in which he earned $2.3 million, but had a cap hit of just over $1 million.
Robinson will not get that particular contract in 2021, because the Chiefs have already spent all of their $1.25 million VSB allowance on the contract they gave to safety Daniel Sorensen earlier this week. But Robinson would be eligible for a standard VSB contract that would pay him $1.14 million — but would have a cap charge of only $988,000.
Kyle Long’s signing is looking better and better for the Chiefs
The acquisition of the former Chicago Bears guard might have looked a little expensive at first — but on Friday, we explained why it was actually a very good deal for the Chiefs.
At the time [of his signing], the one-year contract was announced as being worth up to $5 million — which is agent-speak for, “This contract is actually worth much less than that.”
In fact, per Spotrac, Long’s salary is only $1.1 million in 2021. He received a $350,000 signing bonus and also has a $50,000 workout bonus — so his cap hit this season is just $1.5 million. Even if he earns the incentives to push his compensation to $5 million, they are categorized as not-likely-to-be-earned (NLTBE) — which means that if he makes the benchmarks in 2021, the extra pay will be charged against the cap in 2022.
While it is likely that the Chiefs themselves don’t know exactly how they will lay out the offensive line this season, I would be surprised to learn that their initial plan is to have Long replace returning right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Instead, I believe they intend for Long to serve as the primary backup to both the good doctor and their newly-signed left guard Joe Thuney.
Report: Sammy Watkins signs one-year deal with Ravens
Then we learned that “Playoff Sammy” would have to find his way to the postseason with another team.
Former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has picked his next destination — he is signing a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Rapoport says it’s a one-year deal with $6 million, including $5 million guaranteed.
Watkins met with both the Ravens and Indianapolis Colts this week, and the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans were reportedly interested as well. In the end, Watkins chose Baltimore.
In three seasons with the Chiefs, Watkins, 27, recorded 129 catches for 1,613 yards and eight touchdowns (34 regular-season games). Watkins was the team’s most productive receiver during the 2018 and 2019 playoff runs, and the 2019 playoffs included the highlights of his Chiefs career. In the AFC title game against the Titans, Watkins had seven catches for 114 yards and a 60-yard touchdown to all but seal it, and in Super Bowl LIV, his 38-yard catch over San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman set up the go-ahead score.