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Evaluating Brett Veach’s 4 free agency periods as Chiefs’ GM

How has each free agency period differed for Veach and the Chiefs’ front office?

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

2021 marks the fourth full offseason for Brett Veach as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. The 43-year-old has headed the organization’s front office for three seasons, while the team totaled 44 wins — the most victories among all NFL teams over that span. He also became the youngest general manager in league history to win a Super Bowl with the championship season in 2019.

Each year, Veach has done his part by being active in free agency. He’s handed out big-time contracts when he has needed to and has also stuck to one-year deals and re-signings at times.

In 2021, we’ve seen a little of both — and the free-agent signings may not be done. That being said, it’s been a month since free agency opened. It’s a fair time to evaluate this free agency period compared to his previous three at this same point.

I looked at the short-term and long-term implications of Veach’s three previous offseasons — and projected 2021’s impact.

2018

AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Notable re-signings: Dustin Colquitt and De’Anthony Thomas

External signings: Anthony Hitchens, Sammy Watkins, Damien Williams, Xavier Williams, Chad Henne, Jeff Allen, and David Amerson

Trade: Quarterback Alex Smith to acquire cornerback Kendall Fuller from Washington

Immediate offseason goals

  • Prepare the team for the transition to Patrick Mahomes as the starting quarterback.
  • Patch up holes and strengthen the defense so it can support a potentially volatile offense.

Did they meet their goals?

Yes. The offense was already set up well for a young quarterback to step into, but adding a big-time playmaker like Watkins absolutely made things easier on Mahomes. Damien Williams’ impact as a receiver down the stretch of 2018 proved the value of his signing. Chad Henne’s veteran presence in the quarterback room was important to Mahomes’ development.

No. The two big defensive additions — Fuller and Hitchens — made minimal difference on one of the NFL’s worst units during 2018. Neither player lived up to the capital it took to acquire them, and Amerson didn’t even make the active roster after training camp.

Long-term impact

Low. Hitchens and Henne are the only players from this free agency period that are still on the team. Initially, guys like Fuller and Watkins were probably expected to become long-time Chiefs — but neither truly lived up to their initial billing.

2019

Reid says ‘good chance’ injured Tyrann Mathieu would’ve stayed in regular season game Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Notable re-signings: Anthony Sherman

External signings: Tyrann Mathieu, Bashaud Breeland, Alex Okafor, Damien Wilson, Carlos Hyde, Blake Bell and Jeremiah Attaochu

Trades: Safety Eric Murray to acquire Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah from Cleveland

Franchise tag: Dee Ford (traded to San Francisco 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick).

Immediate Offseason Goals

  • Revamp the starting defense for first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
  • Build a starting defense capable of winning a championship.

Did they meet their goals?

Yes and yes. The team flipped a very disappointing defense on its head and brought in a new wave of starting-capable players — headed by Mathieu. Veach also traded a reserve safety for Ogbah: a productive pass rusher that played a big role in 2019 before getting injured.

The defense significantly improved statistically and helped secure a Super Bowl championship in their first season together.

Long-term impact

Average. The only acquired player from this offseason that has remained on the team is Mathieu — and he has yet to sign a contract extension to keep him in Kansas City past 2021. It’s hard to see the Chiefs allowing him to test free agency, so that extension is likely in the works for some time this offseason.

The Chiefs got a compensatory pick for Ogbah signing with Miami, a second-round pick from the Ford trade and have another year of Martinas Rankin under contract from the trade of Hyde.

2020

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Notable re-signings: Bashaud Breeland, Demarcus Robinson, Chad Henne, Anthony Sherman and Mike Pennel

External signings: Mike Remmers, Ricky Seals-Jones, Antonio Hamilton, Nick Keizer, DeAndre Washington

Franchise tag: Chris Jones

Immediate Offseason Goals

  • Keep together as much of the championship team as possible through an offseason impacted by COVID-19.
  • Add another reliable offensive weapon.

Did they meet their goals?

Yes. The Chiefs had the highest number of re-signings under Veach with five unrestricted free agents returning to Kansas City — plus the franchise tagging of Chris Jones and restructuring of Watkins’ deal. With the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 NFL season, Veach acted on the plan to “Run It Back” and executed.

No. Watkins’ postseason heroics were fresh on everyone’s minds, but it’s important to remember what the receiving corps looked like in the early-season games when Hill was injured. The offense could have used another legitimate pass-catching threat. To Veach’s defense, there weren’t many appetizing options in free agency — but I’m sure he was hoping for something more out of Seals-Jones. The lack of investment in that need showed up in Super Bowl LV.

Long-term impact

Low. Outside of tagging Jones, there were no exciting long-term moves made this period. Remmers and Keizer earned themselves additional one-year deals as solid contributors, while Robinson and Henne have stuck around in low-impact roles.

2021

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Notable re-signings: Mike Remmers, Demarcus Robinson and Nick Keizer

External signings: Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, Austin Blythe, Jarran Reed, Blake Bell, Michael Burton, and Tajae Sharpe

Immediate Offseason Goals

  • Rebuild the offensive line for improvement in 2021.
  • Add a reliable pass-catcher.

Have they met their goals?

No. After releasing both of their starting offensive tackles due to injury issues, the Chiefs signed three interior offensive linemen. Thuney and Long have played tackle in the past, but they were most likely signed to play the positions they’ve played for the majority of their careers. Tackle is a much more significant spot in terms of protecting Mahomes, and they are unlikely to be better at those spots in 2021 than they were in 2020.

No. In a very talented free agency class of wide receivers, the Chiefs failed to sign any. There was interest in Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, but he chose to re-sign with Pittsburgh. The team came away with no external signings at receiver for the second offseason in a row — but this time, they don’t have Watkins’ talent to fall back on.

Potential long-term impact

Below average. From what we know right now, the only long-term player of this group is guard Joe Thuney — who could be one of the NFL’s best guards for the entirety of his four-year contract. None of the other signees are long-term Chiefs, unless Burton takes the Anthony Sherman role and runs with it.

A note: Don’t be surprised if Smith-Schuster is once again a target for Veach next offseason.