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Prioritizing the Chiefs’ personnel needs heading into free agency

Let’s examine how Kansas City might rank the importance of their various personnel needs.

Washington Football Team v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs fan and media communities are mostly in agreement about the team's needs this offseason — but so far, there has been little movement. The bad news is there are lots of potential needs — but the good news is that there are going to be a lot of opportunities to not only fill the holes left by departing players but also to upgrade the team. As recent headlines have made quite apparent, there's no such thing as staying the same in the NFL. If your team isn't getting better, it's being passed up.

So before free-agency transactions start flying next week, let's take another look at the list of the team's needs — and rank their importance.


Critical needs: multiple investments required


Wide receiver

It has now been a need for some time — and in 2021, general manager Brett Veach's efforts to address the position group failed. Now that Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle are entering free agency, Kansas City's wide receiver room has some seats to fill. Tyreek Hill is likely getting a new contract, and Mecole Hardman has settled into his role. So the focus turns back to the team's No. 2 wideout, where the team needs to find a player who can get open on a regular basis. They also could use upgrades near the bottom of the roster, where Robinson, Marcus Kemp and others have taken significant snaps without substantial impact. Put another way, the Chiefs need to raise both the ceiling and the floor of their receiver group.

Prediction: The Chiefs add a mid-tier free agent like Juju Smith-Schuster and re-sign Byron Pringle. Then in the first two days of the draft, they add another pass catcher. Talon Graff covered some of the team's other free-agency options.

Safety

All signs point to Tyrann Mathieu hitting free agency, leaving a leadership void and a hole in the defensive backfield. The man everyone loves to hate — Daniel Sorensen — is also a free agent, along with Arma Watts. Juan Thornhill will return, but there are questions about whether he's a building block or just a complementary player. So this offseason, the position could see a near-complete overhaul. Where will the Chie s start? They'll need a starting strong safety — a tone-setter and leader. They'll also be looking for third safety for subpackages — someone who can cover as a slot corner, play on special teams and so on. That doesn't add up to be one guy. The team will likely take a veteran or two — plus a draft pick — to remake the position group. It's no small task — but in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense, it's a must.

Prediction: The Chiefs will sign a veteran like Landon Collins, plus a less-expensive safety who can play special teams. Then they'll address the position in the draft — perhaps even in the first round.

Edge rusher

A year ago, we saw the Chiefs rebuild their offensive line in one offseason cycle. Can they do the same for their pass rush this season? Kansas City currently has Frank Clark under contract — but one with an unsustainable cap number, so he's likely to be released. Given their other options, there's always a chance they work something out to keep him around. But even if he returns, Alex Okafor and Melvin Ingram are hitting free agency; the Chiefs will still need more pass ushers. Given the other priorities, Kansas City will have to be smart about overhauling the defensive front. As many have recently noted, it's not as simple as taking a pass rusher early in the draft; the Chiefs pick near the end of each round, so the likelihood of getting an impactful pass rusher in the draft is low. So they'll have to look at EDGE in free agency or with a trade. The free-agent group features some aging (and underperforming) players who will likely become overpaid on new deals — so that's not ideal, either.

Prediction: The Chiefs make somewhat of a splash by signing Haason Reddick, Z'Darius Smith (if released) or make a trade for Danielle Hunter or Jo h Allen. Then they sign a second free agent like Melvin Ingram or Randy Gregory to fill out the rotation while developing Joshua Kaindoh and a top 100 pick in 2022. Bryan Stewart has already covered some of the team's other free-agency options at EDGE.


Significant needs: at least one mid-tier investment required


Defensive tackle

With Derick Nnadi and Jarran Reed hitting free agency, the middle of the team's defensive front is also likely to see some turnover. Kansas City needs a stout run stuffer and a deep rotation of guys to push the pocket. But this is one position where they can find a guy later in the draft — or a veteran on a short-term deal.

Prediction: Veach waits for the first wave of free agency to pass — and then does some bargain hunting. Taven Bryan and Tim Settle are a couple of players who could make sense.

Cornerback

One of the most important (and difficult) positions on the field also happens to be one where the Chiefs have previously done some bargain hunting. One of the biggest hits of the Veach era was the trade for Charvarius Ward, who will now enter free agency as a very dependable option. That leaves the Chiefs with only L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton on the outside. We've already learned that the team intends to tender a contract to Deandre Baker, which will provide some depth. This would be the perfect time to invest in a front-line starting cornerback.

Prediction: The Chiefs bid on J.C. Jackson or Carlton Davis but come up short. If Ward's market doesn't develop as expected, he returns. Otherwise, someone like Rasul Douglas or Kevin King could fit.


Depth: upgrade without breaking the bank


Running back

Most would agree that the Chiefs need to run the b ll more. To do that, they'll need more running backs. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire returning, they have one solid player who hasn't yet reached his ceiling. But his running mates Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon and Derrick Gore are all free agents, so we'll see if any of them return. If any of them leave, the Chiefs will be in the market to complement Edwards-Helaire. There will be some inexpensive options available in free agency and late in t e draft. Ideally, Kansas City will add a back who can make big plays down the field.

Prediction: Jerick McKinnon and Derrick Gor return. Sometime after the fourth round of the draft, the Chiefs find another back to round out the room.

Offensive tackle

If Lucas Niang is healthy, the Chiefs have their starting five offensive linemen locked in for the next f w years. If not, they'll need to prioritize a right tackle this offseason. Assuming that Niang is ready for the regular season, the only backup tackle is Prince Tega Wanogho — that is, unless the team brings Andrew Wylie back. So there's room to add at least one this offseason.

Prediction: As the team prioritizes defense and playmakers this offseason, Wylie returns for another year.

Linebacker

Anthony Hitchens has already been released, clearing the way for Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton to lead the second level of the Chiefs' defense. Each should see an increased role, but the team will need to add some depth or 2022 and beyond. Ben Niemann and Dorian O'Daniel are free agents — and the Chiefs would do well to upgrade each position. They'll look for a coverage backer who can play special teams — and likely a SAM linebacker who can rush the quarterback alittle. Neither player will have a full-time role, but each could be important in the new-look defense.

Prediction: The Chiefs add a relatively inexpensive free agent who can play SAM — like Kyle Van Noy or Anthony Barr — and then use a late-round draft pick for special teams.