When Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid spoke with reporters as the NFL Scouting Combine opened in Indianapolis on Tuesday, there were plenty of headlines about big-picture issues — such as the situation regarding free-agent safety Tyrann Mathieu, the return of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy.
But they also talked about some other players who are a little bit more under the radar as the beginning of 2022’s league year on March 16 — and with it, the beginning of the free-agency period — gets closer and closer.
One of them was Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward, who has just completed his fourth season with the team after being traded from the Dallas Cowboys on the eve of the 2018 season. The unheralded UDFA out of Middle Tennessee State has now appeared in 53 Kansas City games — starting 43 of them — while collecting 168 solo tackles, four interceptions, 29 passes defended, a forced fumble and a sack. In 2021, Ward allowed a completion percentage of just 51.2% and a passer rating of only 79.4 on 76 targets.
Ward might find another team willing to pay him handsomely — but according to Veach, he’s a “really good player” the Chiefs would like to have back for the coming season.
“Early on, right off the bat, he showed how talented he was on special teams,” recalled Veach. “Then, year by year, he got better and better and better. He’s certainly a guy — just like Tyrann [Mathieu] and more of these players — [with whom] we’re going to have dialogue.
“I’d love to have Charvarius back. He’s a talented player. He’s done well in our scheme. Coaches like him — [and] I like him. It’s one of those things that you have to work through in free agency when you have a talented roster: you try to keep as many of these guys you can under contract. But he’ll be a guy that we’ll certainly look forward to spending a lot of time with [during] the next few weeks.”
According to Veach, Kansas City wide receiver Byron Pringle is another such player. Joining the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent from Kansas State, Pringle missed all of the 2018 season after suffering a hernia in a preseason game, had to work his way up from the practice squad in 2019 and missed some time with an ankle injury in 2020. But in 2021, he appeared in all 17 games (starting five), while collecting 568 yards and five touchdowns on 42 receptions. While his use as a wideout was limited, he was very effective: quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a passer rating of 127.6 while targeting him. Pringle also added value on special teams, where he averaged 24.8 yards on 25 kickoff returns.
“Byron is another guy like Ward that over the years, [has] developed into a really good football player — both on special teams and in our wide receiver sets,” said Veach. “I think it’s a good thing, because we have a lot of these guys that are good players — so it’s a good problem to have.
“But just like Charvarius and a number of these other players, we’re not going to lose sight of these guys. [We] look forward to getting with them and their agents this week — and hopefully retain as many of these players as we can.”
So Veach has his work cut out for him as team coaches, executives and player representatives mingle during the Combine. That’s OK with Reid, who was happy to leave those duties behind when he left the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I like watching all of [the drills],” he chuckled on Tuesday. “I sit up there and eat potato chips and watch them all. I’m happy.”