The NFL offseason is a special kind of beast. Hope trafficking runs rampant. Your favorite team has a legitimate reason for optimism this time of year, whether it went 2-15 or 15-2 the previous season. The draft, free agency and trades can right all the wrongs that plagued the roster the season before.
That brings us to the Kansas City Chiefs.
This is a good team, but it’s a team that isn’t without apparent flaws. The defense needs a (nearly) complete overhaul. They could use an upgrade at wide receiver. It wouldn’t hurt to finally invest significant resources in the cornerback position.
But there are five positions this team absolutely does not need to invest significant resources in — whether that be in the form of a top-100 draft pick, a trade or a multi-year free-agent contract.
The Chiefs have invested a second-round pick at linebacker in each of the past two drafts, selecting both Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton. Both Gay and Bolton have shown enough promise to earn expanded roles for 2022. This week, the Chiefs admitted as much when they decided to part ways with Anthony Hitchens.
This is not to suggest the Chiefs should altogether avoid the position this offseason — quite the contrary. The only linebackers under contract for the upcoming season are Gay, Bolton and Darius Harris. General manager Brett Veach needs to improve the depth of the position, but that should come with late-round picks and/or veterans on cheap, one-year contracts.
2) Offensive guard
The Chiefs killed a fly with a sledgehammer the last offseason with the number of resources they threw at the offensive line. Veach went all-in to land Joe Thuney on a five-year deal worth $80 million, the second-largest contract for an offensive guard in the NFL. He then took a big swing on Trey Smith in the sixth round of the draft and hit a home run in doing so. The Chiefs also have capable depth behind Smith and Thuney in Nick Allegretti, who enters the final year of his rookie deal this season.
Veach could look to add another late-round pick or a cheap veteran to the mix, but the Chiefs appear to be set at guard not only for 2022 but for many years to come.
You’ll hear draftniks describe some offensive linemen in the draft as “set it and forget it” types of players. That rarely ends up coming to fruition, but that’s exactly what happened for the Chiefs with Creed Humphrey.
#CreedIsGood is more than a catchy song on 610 Sports Radio. It’s also a very accurate statement about 2021 second-round pick Creed Humphrey. Humphrey and Smith are arguably the best draft picks of the Veach era, and both should be stalwarts along the interior for the Chiefs offensive line for the next decade.
4) Offensive tackle
OK — this is where it gets a little bit wonky. I’m under the impression Orlando Brown Jr. will be back next season despite his expiring contract. If that changes (which would be quite the surprise), obviously the Chiefs would have to invest significant resources again at left tackle. Otherwise, they should be set.
Lucas Niang is back on his rookie deal and showed enough promise as a rookie last season to get the starting nod if needed. It would also be an intelligent move to re-sign Andrew Wylie, who played surprisingly well in seven starts last season at right tackle.
The dirty secret about the offensive line is teams don’t need to have five Pro Bowl-caliber players. The Chiefs are above average to very good at four spots along the offensive line. If they simply get average to above-average play at right tackle, they’re fine. There is no reason to spend significant resources, whether in the draft or free agency, to acquire an average to an above-average player at tackle when the team has much more pressing needs elsewhere.
The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes.
Investing a top-100 pick or significant cap space in a backup quarterback would be crazy. This reminds me of my favorite football story of the last 20 years. It comes from the book, “The Games that Changed the Game” by Ron Jaworski, David Plaut and Greg Cosell. Jon Gruden reportedly asked former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore why he wasn’t giving more snaps to Peyton Manning’s backup quarterbacks. Moore responded by saying, “Fellas, if ‘18’ goes down, we’re effed. And we don’t practice effed.”
He used slightly different phrasing, but you get the point. The Chiefs are now in the position the Colts were in many years ago. Having a quality backup quarterback is nice, but let’s be honest. This team goes as far as Mahomes takes them, and if Mahomes isn’t on the field, then the entire dynamic changes.
The Chiefs always bring in some sort of backup quarterback competition, and the same will likely be true this year. Maybe it comes with one of their four seventh-round picks. Or perhaps they simply rely on Shane Buchele as their backup. While the quarterback carousel spins throughout the rest of the league, the Chiefs will be A-OK with their setup.