It can be enjoyable to look at all the different ways the Kansas City Chiefs could make themselves better this offseason. There are several positions that could use a quality player or a high draft pick; only a select few positions are set to the point where they can be almost ignored during free agency and the draft.
I picked out the four positions that are the strongest for 2021 in terms of starters and depth. Minor moves can be made, but these units shouldn’t really be messed with — at least in the short-term.
Signed to 2021 roster: Patrick Mahomes and Chad Henne; Jordan Ta’amu and Anthony Gordon are on reserve/future contracts
The Chiefs’ starting quarterback position is obviously cemented as much as any other position on any team in the NFL. That’s clear — but the Chiefs have given themselves good depth behind Mahomes.
Backup Chad Henne was the hero of the AFC Divisional round victory over the Cleveland Browns, and he also played well in Week 17. I’ll admit: I thought Matt Moore deserved the second-string spot for his fill-in performance in 2019 — but Henne proved why the Chiefs stuck with him last season. He may be one of the most valuable backups in the league.
With one year remaining on his current deal, it could go either way on if the 36-year old veteran is ready to retire or would want to re-sign and play further. If 2021 is his last season in Kansas City, the Chiefs have an intriguing, developmental player in Jordan Ta’amu. He’s been with the organization since last spring but played in the short-lived XFL prior to that. His comparative athleticism to Mahomes could be what head coach Andy Reid likes about the 23-year old.
Interior defensive line
Signed to 2021 roster: Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton and Khalen Saunders; Tyler Clark is on a reserve/future contract
While finding a defensive end capable of playing a lot of snaps should be a priority this offseason, the interior defensive line shouldn’t need a significant addition.
It does depend on how the Chiefs feel about investing in Derrick Nnadi past his rookie contract. 2021 will be his last year on that deal, which makes an extension this offseason a possibility if they want to keep him long-term. With Jones and Nnadi as starters, the Chiefs found a needle in a haystack with Turk Wharton — last year’s undrafted rookie who became a legitimate pass-rushing threat from the interior.
Khalen Saunders — a third-round pick from the 2019 draft — needs to be a viable option as depth behind Jones and Nnadi. Wharton’s role last year looked like what Saunders was supposed to become. Some injuries have set him back, so his third season could be where it all clicks as a dependable, rotational player.
If it does, the Chiefs should have a good four-man group to start with. They could look to add another run-stuffer — like re-signing Mike Pennel — but it needs to be an inexpensive deal.
Signed to 2021 roster: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson; Darrel Williams is a restricted free agent. Derrick Gore is on a reserve/future deal
With the Chiefs’ confirmation of Damien Williams returning from 2021, they could have a loaded running back group. While Darrel Williams’ playoff performance could have enticed a team to make him an offer this spring, he’s likely back in Kansas City next year.
That gives the Chiefs four running backs — all with a decent amount of experience in Andy Reid’s offense. Edwards-Helaire will likely play an even larger role in the Chiefs offense next year, but the other three all have something to offer. There’s always the possibility that Damien Williams isn’t what he was at the end of the 2019 season, but his body could also be well-rested and fresh at 29 years old.
If anything, the team could afford to cut or trade one of the four players. They’ll rarely have all four active on game days, and they can’t keep Darwin Thompson on the practice squad forever.
Signed to 2021 roster: Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend, and James Winchester
Neither Butker nor Townsend were perfect at their positions in 2020. It’s hard to forget how inaccurate Butker was on intermediate kicks during parts of the season, and Townsend’s rookie campaign ended on a sour note with a noticeably bad performance in Super Bowl LV.
That being said, both are still young players — and have shown their value in spots. Butker is one of the best long-range kickers in the entire NFL, while Townsend had highlight-reel punts landing inside the 10 a handful of times. Plus, he executed a fake punt perfectly in Week 8 against the New York Jets.
The more these specialists play together, the better all of their performances will be. There’s no reason to mess with this trio, at least for 2021.