Through the first week of NFL free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs have lost some players and added a couple of replacements — but mostly, they have tested our patience. It's a tough time of year for fans, as we only see a tiny piece of the offseason plans at a time, and it's easy to feel like they aren't doing enough.
This year has been remarkable so far, with big-name quarterbacks and pass rushers flocking to the AFC, and trades and signings are dominating the headlines. Chiefs fans are stuck watching the names fly off the board, wondering when their team will make a splash. The best we can do now is remember that there's a lot of offseason left to go, and this front office has been pretty good at putting together a roster, even if it's not with the same moves we maybe would have made.
Here are a few winners and losers from the Chiefs' first week of free agency:
Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City's brass has always committed to surrounding Mahomes with as many weapons as possible. But for too long, the best quarterback in the world struggled when his top two targets were covered. Out are Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle. In comes JuJu Smith-Schuster, arguably the best, most productive, most talented No. 2 receiver Mahomes has worked with in Kansas City. He'll at least be able to provide what Sammy Watkins used to, but there's reason to believe that Smith-Schuster's best days are ahead of him — if he produces anywhere near the projected number. The Chiefs also brought back familiar depth by re-signing Chad Henne, Michael Burton, Derrick Gore, Andrew Wylie, and they added another capable tackle: Geron Christian. This offense won't miss a step from 2021 — and it has a chance to be much better with Smith-Schuster on board.
Frank Clark: Clark wanted to stay in Kansas City, and he got his wish via a fairly drastic makeover of his contract. He'll get one more year to prove his worth on this defense, hoping that he'll be healthier and more productive. He's in a good situation, on a championship-level team — and he's still averaging eight figures per year. If all goes according to plan, the Chiefs will add a new EDGE to improve the pass rush and take the pressure off Clark. Even those who wanted to see Clark released have to admit that he could be a pretty strong second or third option for this defensive front.
Charvarius Ward: The former undrafted free agent finally hit the open market, and he got paid like one of the top players at his position. Ward has come a long way since the Chiefs acquired him for Parker Ehinger back in 2018, becoming a consistent and competent starter at one of the most challenging positions in sports. Ward's three-year, $42 million contract with San Francisco would have been very difficult for the Chiefs to afford. The 9ers were aggressive in paying Ward for his consistency and upside. We'll see if he can build on what he did here in Kansas City.
Brett Veach: It hasn't been flashy or what many fans had hoped for, but Veach is quietly having a smart offseason already. He's been patient and selective, avoiding bidding wars that could saddle the team with bad contracts in the future. He's focused on finding good fits for the roles Andy Reid needs, bringing in Reid and Smith-Schuster, who will step right in, filling needs from day one. But, Veach has also stuck to paying young players (Reid and Smith-Schuster are both 25) with upside instead of aging veterans looking for one last payday. There's also a theme of adding speed and athleticism with each addition they've made, which should be evident on the field in 2022. There is a plan and a blueprint, and the Chiefs are executing, even if it's difficult for us to see — and to wait for.
Tyrann Mathieu: It seems the Chiefs had planned on moving on from their emotional leader all along. They reportedly didn't even make a contract offer to their team MVP and quickly signed his likely replacement. Now, the market for Mathieu's services appears to be softer than he had hoped. Most of the teams he reportedly was interested in playing for have already signed big-name safeties. It can't be how the "Landlord" expected his free agency period to start.
The Chiefs' defensive line: Most fans and media believed that when Veach said, "We've got some work to do on the defensive line," it meant a complete overhaul in favor of an improved pass rush. So far, that hasn't happened. Instead, the Chiefs brought back Clark and Derrick Nnadi but have yet to add any free agents on their defensive front. The rest of the division aggressively acquired big names like Khalil Mack (Chargers), Chandler Jones (Raiders), and Randy Gregory (Broncos). The Chiefs have been linked to a couple of guys but have yet to pull the trigger on any free-agent EDGE players. There are still some names on the market, available via trade or free agency, that could help improve the Chiefs' ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. The options are drying up, however, and fans are getting impatient.
The Chiefs' cornerback room: The unit that Veach famously hasn't invested in has taken a step backward with the departure of Charvarius Ward and (and to a lesser extent) Mike Hughes. They still have L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton returning, which is a start, but there's plenty of work to do. The Chiefs will look to capture lightning in a bottle again, shopping for cornerbacks in the second and third waves of free agency. The recently announced signing of Luq Barcoo would indicate they are trying to do just that. But it will take more than a couple of long shots to replace Ward and improve upon the cornerback play we've seen over the past couple of years.
The Chiefs' chances for a seventh straight AFCW title: We shouldn't overreact to moves made in March in the NFL, but it happens every single year. This year, the story is about how the rest of the division has gone "all-in," adding star players at a remarkable rate in an effort to finally unseat the Chiefs. There won't be any "easy" victories in the division schedule now that Russell Wilson, Davante Adams and the aforementioned pass rushers are in the way. Even if it turns out to be a good thing for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, it's clear that the AFC West will be a gauntlet for the upcoming season. It's no longer a given that the Chiefs will dominate, so now we'll see if they can use the weekly challenge to emerge stronger than before.