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Plotting the course for the Chiefs’ 6 restricted free agents

The Chiefs have some decisions to make before March 17.

NFL: FEB 02 Super Bowl LIV - Chiefs v 49ers Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before the Kansas City Chiefs reach the beginning of the new league year (at 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on March 17) they’ll need to make some decisions about six restricted free agents. If they do nothing, each will become an unrestricted free agent. But by extending the right RFA contract tender, the Chiefs could lock up any of them at a relatively low cost.

There are many wrinkles in this often-misunderstood process, so I’ve prepared an article that explains all of them. We’ll keep it available for easy access under the Resources tab on any Arrowhead Pride page.

For each of these six players, the team’s decision comes down to betting on what will happen in free agency. Will a given player attract enough interest from other teams that it make sense to offer them a one-year deal between $2.13 million and $4.77 million to keep them from reaching the open market? Or should they gamble that they can sign the player later at a lower cost?

Chiefs’ restricted free agents

  • Running back Elijah McGuire: A sixth-round pick for the New York Jets in 2017, McGuire appeared in 24 games before bouncing on and off Kansas City’s offseason and practice squad rosters during the last two seasons; he’s never been active for a Chiefs game. So it’s unlikely that Kansas City would invest an RFA tender to keep him around. But it wouldn’t be surprising for us to see him signed to a veteran-minimum contract later on.
  • Linebacker Ben Niemann: It won’t be hard to find Chiefs fans who think Niemann isn’t worth even a right-of-first-refusal tender — but the team may feel differently; there’s plenty of evidence the Chiefs like his football IQ. It’s reasonable to think that Willie Gay Jr. could push Niemann off the field in 2021, but Niemann might land a job elsewhere. A $2.2 million bet on a depth linebacker with experience in their scheme might make sense to the Chiefs.
  • Cornerback Charvarius Ward: A year ago, most fans would have assumed that Ward would be getting a $2.2 million original-round tender — or maybe even a $3.4 million second-round offer. With the emergence of L’Jaruis Sneed (and the signing of DeAndre Baker), that assumption might not be safe any longer. But even if Ward loses playing time to others, he could be a fairly inexpensive (and experienced) depth player in 2021.
  • Running back Darrel Williams: The Chiefs have an interesting situation with their other running back named Williams: the $2.3 million they could clear by releasing Damien would almost exactly match the $2.2 million they’d need to tender Darrel. We could have a spirited argument about which Williams is a better backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but one significant factor remains: Darrel is three years younger than Damien. With an eye toward the future, might the Chiefs consider a swap? Or would they rather have both Williamses in 2021?
  • Offensive lineman Andrew Wylie: Like with Niemann, there is no shortage of Chiefs fans who believe Wylie should be allowed to walk. Whether Wylie is ultimately on the roster in 2021 will largely depend on the players the Chiefs can bring in through the draft and free agency — and Wylie does not appear likely to attract a lot of attention as a free agent. In this case, the team’s best bet could be to let him walk. The odds are good that if he is needed, he’ll be available at a lower price.
  • Tight end Deon Yelder: The Chiefs would likely prefer to have a blocking tight end who is also a credible receiving threat. Yelder doesn’t quite fit that bill. With Yelder’s price tag over $2 million. Kansas City can probably find better options elsewhere — and if not, still be able to bring him back later.

Next, we’ll examine the similar decisions the Chiefs will have to make for their exclusive-rights free agents.