On Sunday, news broke that the Kansas City Chiefs had signed a one-year deal with the former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle. Monday’s Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast covered the signing in detail — especially how the signing could change the draft. And then Ron Kopp covered other things to like — including a potential change in Chris Jones’ role.
Jones and Derrick Nnadi have been the early-down starters on the interior of the Chiefs’ line for the past couple of seasons. During the middle of the 2019 season, the Chiefs attempted to line up Jones on the edge of the defensive line, but there was minimal effectiveness. However, there’s a difference with trying the move this time around.
Jones was in a contract year in 2019. His negotiation held him out of offseason workouts leading up to training camp. That doesn’t allow enough time for a first-year staff to teach him a new position. On top of that, there is some hesitation to play him at defensive end before a contract negotiation; he would then be able to demand defensive end money.
Now, both the staff and the player are familiar with each other, Jones is signed to a long-term contract, and they have an entire offseason to work on a possible tweak to his role.
Monday also brought news that the New Orleans Saints were signing former Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon — and that the team was returning a veteran wideout they had stashed in their back pocket last season.
Sharpe, 26, first entered the league as a fifth-round pick made by the Tennessee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound receiver spent the first four years of his career (2016-19) with the Titans, though he lost the 2017 season due to a stress fracture in his foot.
In three seasons on the field for Tennessee, Sharpe had 92 catches for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns. A free agent after the Titans declined to bring him back in 2020, Sharpe latched on with the Minnesota Vikings, but he only saw 28 offensive snaps in four games active before being waived. The Chiefs added him to the practice squad last December, but he never made it to the main roster.
The last we knew, 2020’s starting center Austin Reiter was considering a contract to return to Kansas City — but on Tuesday, the Chiefs signed a player who could replace him.
Blythe, 28, first joined the league as a seventh-round selection of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Rams claimed Blythe from waivers in the spring of 2017. After starting just one game in 2017, he started all but one of the Rams’ regular-season games over the next three years, and he has started five playoff games.
He is a native of Williamsburg, Iowa. A two-time All-State center in high school, he started four years for the Iowa Hawkeyes. In his senior season, he was a finalist for the Rimington Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate center.
By Wednesday, we had information on Blythe’s contract numbers.
Austin Blythe (Chiefs) one year, $990K salary (gtd), $760K playtime, team performance incentive— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 31, 2021
Per Spotrac, Blythe earned just over $2 million from the Rams in 2019 — the first season following his rookie contract. In 2020 — after serving as a Rams starter for the previous two seasons — Blythe signed a one-year deal that paid him $3.9 million.
So some speculation had suggested that Blythe would command something around that much with the Chiefs. But as we see, Kansas City continues to be very stingy with contracts for mid-level players — even when they have significant experience as starters. To be sure, part of that has to do with the general depression of the market for free-agent players during this cap-starved offseason. But some of it likely has to do with Kansas City’s status as an NFL contender, too.
Then the Kansas City media had their first opportunity to meet with the team’s new defensive tackle.
“I wanted to be on a contending team and a chance to win a championship and a chance to go play in the Super Bowl,” he said. “Just the family vibes that’s around the building, the team that they have, the way that they work is great. It attracts players — it attracted me as well. I just want to be somewhere that was going to have a chance to play for a championship, have a chance to play for a Super Bowl ring because we all play football to provide for out families, but at the same time, the game is to get a ring. Not just to keep playing for regular seasons. It’s to keep playing after the regular season is done — and that’s been done here for a number of years, and hopefully, we can do it again.”
The ESPN draft analyst’s projections always attract attention. His latest dropped on Thursday.
31. Azeez Ojulari • OLB • Georgia
It’s difficult not to force an offensive tackle in here, and maybe the Chiefs reach a little for Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg or Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield. But the class is deep enough that they could find a solid tackle in Round 2, and the signings of Joe Thuney and Kyle Long — along with the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — at least help shore up the interior. Edge rushing is a big concern too. Ojulari is a real specialist there, and a quartet of Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed and Ojulari could be problematic for opposing QBs.
63. Walker Little • OT • Stanford
I couldn’t finish off a two-round mock without giving the Chiefs an offensive tackle. The value wasn’t there in Round 1, and Little might even be a stretch here at No. 63, but the Chiefs have to use an early pick on an OT. Little is massive and an effective run blocker, but he missed essentially the entire 2019 season and then opted out in 2020. There’s plenty of risk here.
With the retirement of fullback Anthony Sherman, there had been speculation that the Chiefs would no longer carry one. The team put that idea to rest on Thursday.
Burton, 29, will be entering the the seventh year of his NFL career. Drafted by the Detroit Lions out of Rutgers in the fifth round (168th overall) of the 2015 NFL draft, Burton spent two years in Detroit before joining the Chicago Bears for two more. He then spent a season with the Washington Football Team and another with the New Orleans Saints.
We shouldn’t expect the 6-foot, 240 pound Burton to be an offensive powerhouse. He has accumulated just 29 yards rushing on 15 attempts during his career — along with 81 yards on 13 receptions — but we can expect him to be reliable. He’s accumulated 14 first downs and a touchdown on those 28 career touches — and he’s played in at least 15 games in four of his six previous seasons.
On Friday morning, Ron Kopp outlined some of the things we should remember about Burton’s signing.
Although he only spent one season with the Saints, Burton was used all over the place in an offense that shares the creativity of the Chiefs’ offense. According to PFF, Burton lined up as an inline tight end for 11 snaps, flexed out as a slot receiver for 29 snaps and even lined up out wide for 25 snaps in 2020.
He also showed some receiving ability in his short time there. Adding in the postseason, Burton hauled in all six of his targets for 43 yards — including a 9-yard catch-and-run against the Chiefs in Week 15. All three are the most he’s had since his rookie season with the Detroit Lions in 2015.
While he’s been primarily used as a traditional fullback, he should feel comfortable adapting to the creativity and innovation of the Chiefs’ offense.
Friday also brought news that the Jacksonville Jaguars had signed former Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson — and that Kansas City was shuffling some of its coaches.
Following the departure of running backs coach Deland McCullough for the University of Indiana just after the Super Bowl, wide receivers coach Greg Lewis is taking his duties. Joe Bleymaier — formerly the passing game analyst/assistant quarterbacks coach — is taking over the wide receiver room, while David Girardi moves up from offensive quality control to take his place. Conor Embree moves from being a defensive assistant to offensive quality control. Terry Bradden Jr. moves up from defensive quality control to assistant defensive line coach.
Veteran coach Ken Flajole — formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles — is joining the team to become outside linebackers coach, replacing Britt Reid. Donald D’Alesio is signing on as a defensive assistant, while Tyler Judkins comes on board as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.