Jones’ salary was a number the Chiefs could simply not afford this offseason, when the coronavirus pandemic impacted their space. There is also a thought that the Chiefs’ primary focus of the moment is a potential extension for star safety Tyrann Mathieu.
With the departure of Sammy Watkins to the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, there is a need at receiver, but the Chiefs are instead relying on much more affordable, in-house options. The most likely candidates are the returners — Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle — or rookie Cornell Powell, their fifth-round draft pick.
In comparison to Jones’ $15.1 million, those four options account for about $5.2 million combined against the cap, according to Spotrac. The Chiefs also have another nine lottery tickets — including Antonio Callaway and Marcus Kemp — at the position.
Tuesday’s edition of the Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast included Pete Sweeney and John Dixon each picking two players at watch at the coming mandatory minicamp — and at training camp.
Pete: My pick here is Antonio Callaway. Wide receiver has become a much more interesting position to watch this coming training camp thanks to the offseason departure of Sammy Watkins to the Baltimore Ravens. Whoever wins the No. 2 position behind Tyreek Hill is a battle to watch, but going deeper, the No. 6 position may be the most competitive. I think — even now — we know 1-5 will be Hill, followed by an order to be determined of Mecole Hardman, rookie fifth-rounder Cornell Powell, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson. The sixth spot can go in about 10 different ways. I am interested in seeing what Callaway — who general manager Brett Veach has mentioned among the returners — can do to revamp and reinvent his career. Honorable mention: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Kyle Long and Lucas Niang
Then Matt Stagner debuted a new series: The Other Side. In the first edition, he gave the other side of the argument that the Chiefs still need to acquire a veteran pass rusher.
If you look at the depth chart and what the Chiefs have done, there’s a path to success that doesn’t include another significant EDGE addition. First, they brought back Taco Charlton, a player that showed some serious pass rush ability in a limited sample size in 2020. They also returned Tim Ward, a massive defensive end that logged a sack and five tackles against the Chargers in Week 17. Ward is a player the Chiefs have kept around through a “redshirt” season in 2019, and they gave him a chance to develop in 2020. Perhaps it’s time for Ward to get real snaps on the field?
Then, in the draft, the Chiefs waited until pick 144 to select Joshua Kaindoh. He’s an ideal fit for what they like to do with the defense but had limited production in college. That, along with some injuries, points to a player who the Chiefs don’t expect to be a full-time starter in year one. If there weren’t any other options on the roster, that would be an issue. But, Kaindoh is a pick with an eye on the future.
For the present, the Chiefs added defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who projects as the key to this whole puzzle. Not only is he a threat from the interior of the defense — where he had 6.5 sacks last year, and a career-high of 10.5 in 2018 — but his presence also gives Spagnuolo options. Pass rush isn’t just about the end positions, Reed and undrafted standout Turk Wharton can bring heat from the interior of the defense along with Chris Jones.
On Wednesday, Kansas City announced 20 promotions and new hires among those who work under general manager Brett Veach. We highlighted the most important changes.
Executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles: Poles has been a member of the Chiefs’ personnel department for nearly 12 years, starting as a scouting assistant in 2009 and working his way up to the team’s assistant director of player personnel, a position he held for the last three seasons prior to the promotion. Poles was named one of four finalists for the Carolina Panthers general manager job this past offseason. Since 2009, Poles scouted under Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and now Veach, giving him a variety of perspectives when it comes to ways of doing things. When the time comes, Poles may quietly be the team’s first general manager candidate off the board.
On Wednesday, we reported on Judy Battista’s article on NFL.com, in which she pointed out that in an offseason highlighted by unhappy quarterbacks, no team had done more than the Chiefs to make Patrick Mahomes happy.
There’s a school of thought that a man who signed a $500 million contract to play football might always be the happiest player in the league. But even then, pride counts for a lot. It’s undoubtedly true that Mahomes — and the Chiefs — felt embarrassed by what happened after their fourth starting offensive lineman was lost during the AFC championship game. And Battista is right: taking the team’s offseason moves at face value, the performance the world watched in Super Bowl LV is unlikely to happen again.
Battista is figuring that Long will return to his All-Pro form and take the starting job away from Laurent Duvernary-Tardif — and also that Remmers will start over rookie Lucas Niang. Whether that’s what will actually happen is open to question — but there can be little doubt that from the top to the bottom of the team’s offensive line group, there should be a substantial improvement over 2020.
Callaway appears to be fighting for the fifth or sixth spot in the Chiefs’ receiving corps — and to get either one, he’ll have to really impress the coaches. The Chiefs usually require special teams ability from their reserve receivers — but Callway has very limited NFL special-teams experience; he has really only been a returner in that phase of the game.
Fortunately, the receivers ahead of him are experienced, important special-teams players who can make up for what Callaway lacks. If he can show ability similar ability to what he displayed in 2018, it will be tough for the Chiefs to pass up the chance to have him, Hardman and Hill on the field at the same time — forcing opposing secondaries to really worry about not letting anything get behind them.
After Thursday’s news that the unretired offensive lineman had been injured and might miss training camp, the head coach spoke to reporters.
“They’re going to look at it and determine it,” said Reid regarding the injury. “There’s a chance he has to have surgery on it, but we’ll see, see where it’s at.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs need to figure out who will be their starting right guard — where Long was considered a favorite.
“We’re lucky that we have some good players in there,” said Reid, “one of which, Trey Smith can get some work, too. And then Larry’s (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) coming back, so you add all of that in there. And (Andrew) Wylie, who’s had a couple years starting under his belt, so we’re OK there. Nick Allegretti, likewise.”
The second-year linebacker also spoke to the media.
“I don’t even know what really happened with it,” Gay admitted. “I tore my meniscus; I don’t know if it was at practice or if it happened walking around after. All I know is that during this offseason period with the training staff, we’ve been working nonstop. Me, [assistant athletic trainer Julie Frymyer] and all her help, it’s been a real grind. It’s why I’m here today, 100%.”
100% is a strong description to use, and it is hard to imagine a player would throw it out at this point of the offseason unless he truly believed it.
And so did the team’s new defensive tackle.
Jones was not participating in practice during the media look Thursday, but in times he has been active, Reed has been impressed.
“Chris is a great guy,” said Reed in a Zoom conference call on Thursday. “You can tell that this is his team and I’m just following suit. He’s a great guy, great teammate, funny, he’s a real cool dude. His game is immaculate, it’s self-explanatory how he plays. One of the best there is in the league and of course, we all watch each other and he’s everything he’s done, I see why. He puts in the work and he works hard every day.”