Fenton, 25, was drafted by the Chiefs during the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He heads to the Falcons having appeared in 47 games (16 starts), accumulating 20 passes defensed, two interceptions and 123 tackles (95 solo). The top three Chiefs cornerbacks now project to be veteran L’Jarius Sneed, rookie first-rounder Trent McDuffie and rookie seventh-rounder Jaylen Watson.
Sending Fenton to the Falcons provided the Chiefs with $1.4 million in additional 2022 cap space, giving them approximately $4.2 million in space for the rest of the season. Fenton being sent to the Falcons freed up a roster spot, which the Chiefs used to activate McDuffie, who had been on injured reserve stemming from a Week 1 injury.
McDuffie’s activation translates to him making his return against the Tennessee Titans this Sunday night.
More than cap space, the Chiefs are leaning into their young cornerbacks by sending Fenton to the Falcons. Over his three-career in Kansas City, Fenton proved he could start as an outside cornerback and be a backup for L’Jarius Sneed in the slot.
With the trade, the Chiefs are acknowledging they have seen enough from their rookies to feel comfortable moving forward. First, Watson entered the lineup when McDuffie went down, showcasing his abilities with an exclamation point: a 99-yard interception return touchdown that led to the Chiefs’ Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
With Fenton missing the last two games due to a hamstring injury — as well as McDuffie not being quite ready yet — the Chiefs had to turn to rookie fourth-rounder Joshua Williams, who showed he could serve the team as ample depth in the case of another injury.
But the key to the deal might have very well been rookie seventh-rounder Nazeeh Johnson, who the Chiefs added to their active roster in late September. Chris Lammons is important to the team’s special teams unit (he’s played 75% of special teams snaps on the season), so clearing McDuffie’s spot may have meant the Chiefs had to risk Johnson through waivers. There is a good chance he would have been claimed.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the Chiefs traded Fenton to the Falcons, created a little cap room and can now develop four cornerbacks on rookie contracts on their active roster. We’ll get further clarity on the move when defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo speaks to the media on Thursday.
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