Over the weekend, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back had started a controversy by saying on Instagram that he’d “rather retire” than once again play for the Chiefs’ head coach. On Monday, we covered Bell walking back his original remarks.
On Sunday evening, however, Bell addressed his Instagram reply on Twitter, saying that he “didn’t regret” making the statement — and said that he had a right to express his personal opinion.
Then he sought to clarify a perception raised by the original Instagram reply: that he had not enjoyed his time in Kansas City.
We also covered news that the former Chief’s new deal only accounts for $2.7 million under Minnesota’s salary cap — not much more than the $2.3 million cap hit he had for Kansas City in 2020.
As we noted ten days ago, the Chiefs have a number of younger players they are hoping will step up this season, which has the potential to make Breeland’s presence in Kansas City less vital. But a weekend report from Andrew Kramer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune revealed another angle: Breeland had shoulder surgery during the offseason.
“I’m on track,” Breeland told Kramer. “The doctors tell me when I’m ready to get on the field. I’m just as anxious as everyone else to see me in this purple and gold and get going out there. At this time, I’m just taking the process of really getting in tune with my body as well as getting in tune with my teammates.”
This might explain the presence of the per-game roster bonuses in Breeland’s new contract — and why the Chiefs may have been reluctant to sign him to yet another one-year deal.
On Tuesday, NFL.com’s Anthony Holzman-Escareno released the 53-man roster he would pick to make the best team under the 2021 salary cap. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive tackle Chris Jones, left tackle Orlando Brown and left guard Joe Thuney were all listed as starters.
Let’s be fair: the primary reason there are so many Chiefs on this list is Kansas City general manager Brett Veach’s foresight in structuring the contracts of his main contributors: Mahomes, Kelce and Jones.
All three players signed contract extensions during the height of the pandemic in 2020. While all three deals were designed to make sense for the team over the long term, they also allowed Veach to clear very large amounts of cap space with the stroke of a pen — which turned out to be necessary for 2021.
To be sure, Mahomes and Kelce — and perhaps even Jones — might have been chosen as starters on this team, anyway. But because their extensions were structured the way they were, Veach made them bargains in 2021 — which allowed him to completely rebuild the team’s offensive line while dealing with a historically low salary-cap figure.
During Wednesday’s “Out of Structure” podcast, Ron Kopp Jr. and Matt Stagner discussed how Kansas City will use their linebackers in 2021.
WILL linebacker: Willie Gay Jr.
The loss of linebacker Damien Wilson will be a blow to a few positions. We’ve seen him play the SAM in the base defense, but he eventually earned the WILL role in nickel personnel alongside Hitchens. The WILL has weak-side run responsibility in the base defense and needs to cover the flat or a slot receiver.
Wilson filled into his best ability, but the player in this role is ideally more athletic — meaning the logical replacement is second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. He should play the position in the base and nickel formations.
When the team’s mandatory minicamp began on Tuesday, three Chiefs were absent. On Wednesday, offensive lineman Kyle Long — along with two others — still weren’t in attendance.
Long has a good excuse: the knee injury he suffered last week will keep him off the practice field until training camp at the earliest. The other two — offensive lineman Martinas Rankin and safety Armani Watts — don’t have an official excuse, but they could be injured. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is scheduled to speak with the media on Thursday — when we may get some greater clarity. Cornerback Deandre Baker and defensive lineman Malik Herring were once again present but without a helmet.
Besides those five, the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell noted that interior offensive lineman Austin Blythe did not participate in team drills.
When Kansas City’s star defensive tackle spoke on Wednesday, he addressed one of the offseason’s top storylines: that the team intends to use him on the edge more often.
“I came in the league as a defensive end originally,” Jones pointed out to reporters after practice via Zoom. “Unfortunately, we had guys that excelled at that level in Justin Houston and Dee Ford. I waited my time, and thank God — it finally happened for me.”
You would have thought Jones was talking about winning the lottery, considering how he said it “finally happened” for him. Playing along the edge of the defense sounds like a dream come true for Jones. He’s wreaked havoc as an interior rusher, but he believes there are reasons he can replicate that dominance from the end as well.
“Personally, I feel like I can be productive inside and outside,” he assured. “I think there’s more advantages on the outside; you can’t really double-team. You can chip, but you’re not really getting as many double-teams as a 3-technique would in this defense, so I’m excited about that.”
Thursday brought news that the Chiefs had signed another wide receiver — and released an offensive lineman.
Darrius Shepherd prepped at Blue Springs High School in suburban Kansas City. Measuring 5 feet 11 and 186 pounds, he sat out his 2014 season as a redshirt at North Dakota State, following that with 36 starts for the Bisons over four years, collecting 2,841 yards (and 20 touchdowns) on 188 receptions over 57 games played. Starting all 15 games as a senior, he accumulated 1,065 yards (and nine touchdowns) on 62 receptions, averaging 17.2 yards a catch.
Signed as an undrafted free agent for the Green Bay Packers, Shepherd spent most of 2019 and 2020 on the Packers’ practice squad. But he was on the active roster for 14 games over those two seasons, collecting 47 yards on six receptions — along with 374 yards on 20 kickoff returns, averaging 18.7 yards for each.
Rankin, 26, has been with the team since before the 2019 season, when the Chiefs acquired him by trading running back Carlos Hyde to the Houston Texans. Over his two seasons in Kansas City, Rankin has been plagued with injuries. He appeared in just seven games — starting six of them. All but one of those starts was in 2019.
The head coach and starting safety were asked about the former running back’s earlier statements.
“Listen, I really enjoyed my time with him here,” said Reid in his mandatory minicamp wrap-up presser on Thursday. “I appreciated the way he handled things and did his business. He had some productive downs for us, and I’m pulling for him in the future. I mean, that’s how I roll. People say things, they say things. I move on, and I wish him the best.”
“I’m not sure — I feel like he was a great teammate when he was here,” explained Mathieu. “Things don’t go our way. It’s a performance-based business. It’s a lot of things that determine our performance. It’s not just what we do on the football field.
“I’m wishing him the best. I’m hoping things get better for him. This is probably one of the finest organizations I’ve ever been a part of, as far as the locker room, coaches — they’re transparent, they’re honest — and I think in this business, that’s really all you can ask for. It’s honesty from coaches because they don’t have to tell us the truth, but I do feel like coach Reid and his staff — they’re some of the best people and coaches I’ve been around.”
In Friday’s latest edition of his new contrarian series, Matt Stagner argued against yet another common Chiefs narrative — and distilled it into six points.
1. There’s no doubt that the Chiefs have elite No. 1 and No. 2 receiving targets in Kelce and Hill.
2. Sammy Watkins wasn’t some super-reliable and productive “running mate opposite Hill” that can’t be replaced.
3. The Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes will spread the targets around among several receivers, so they really didn’t need Watkins to be too much more than what he was.
4. It also shows that Robinson and Hardman are likely to continue to be substantial parts of the wide receiver group. They both have an argument to make that they — not Watkins — were the third receiving target after Hill and Kelce.
5. Everyone else is a wide receiver-by-committee. There could be three or four guys who share the roughly 170 available targets, which means each could have 400-600 yards and three touchdowns.
6. So, there is no No. 2 wide receiver, and maybe there never was.