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What we learned about the Chiefs this week

Taking a look at the week of March 21 on Arrowhead Pride...

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Film review: What the Chiefs are getting in new tackle Geron Christian

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs had signed the former Texan to a one-year contract — so on Monday, Bryan Stewart took a look at the film, noting that while Christian is adequate in the running game, he shows more promise as a pass blocker.

At right tackle, veteran Andrew Wylie is currently leading the way — but Christian shows the pass-blocking prowess that should position him to provide competition to be the starter. While Wylie is clearly the superior run blocker— and was easily good enough to get by in 2021 — there is a strong argument that Christian is a better pass protector. Still recovering from a torn patellar tendon, Lucas Niang may also be part of the picture in 2022 — especially as the season progresses.

In what is now a brutal AFC West, it is important that the Chiefs find a solid starter on the right side — someone who can avoid being a reason Kansas City loses games. If the team can do it, that will solidify what should be a top-five NFL offensive line.

Brett Veach continues to use all of his tricks to manage the NFL salary cap

Then John Dixon argued that the recent restructure of defensive end Frank Clark’s contract (and the extremely favorable deal that Kansas City’s general manager made with former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster) show that Veach has learned from his early mistakes.

In retrospect, it is reasonable to criticize some of the contracts Veach signed during his first two years as the team’s GM. To many fans, players like Clark — and the recently-released linebacker Anthony Hitchens — appeared to underperform their high-dollar contracts. While the Chiefs probably considered those two deals more in line with those players’ contributions than fans did, the criticism still hasn’t been unwarranted.

But since then, Veach’s salary-cap moves have become sharper and sharper. The brilliant (and unorthodox) contract for quarterback Patrick Mahomes was just the beginning; since then, some of the same mechanisms that allowed that contract to be easily used as a source of cap funds have been used on other deals, too.

Per Spotrac, 13 NFL teams are now carrying dead cap in excess of $20 million. Kansas City is now carrying less than one-third of that: $6.5 million. It’s one thing to be short on cap space because there’s a lot of dead money that must be carried under the cap. It’s yet another to be short on cap dollars because the money is being used for its intended purpose: to pay a team’s players.

Report: Chiefs signing wide receiver Corey Coleman

On Tuesday, the Chiefs acquired a former first-round pick with a lot to prove.

Coleman, 27, was the first receiver taken off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, with the 15th overall pick made by the Cleveland Browns. Coleman was a star in his final two seasons at Baylor, posting more than 1,000 yards in 2014 and 2015, respectively and scoring 20 touchdowns in the 2015 season.

Injuries plagued Coleman his first two seasons from 2016-17, when he appeared in 19 games but only managed 56 catches for 718 yards and five touchdowns. He was seen requesting a trade on HBO’s Hard Knocks — and his wish was granted, as the Browns sent him to the Buffalo Bills for a seventh-round pick.

The Bills ultimately released Coleman in 2018’s final cuts, and he landed with the New York Giants. He appeared in eight games that season, recording five catches for 71 yards. He has not recorded a regular-season catch since December 16, 2018.

Report: Chiefs create $9.6 milllion in cap space with contract restructure

Then we learned that Veach had created much-needed salary-cap space by restructuring the contract of veteran left guard Joe Thuney.

With four years remaining, Thuney’s is the Kansas City contract with the second-longest remaining term — meaning that the yearly charge for the conversion would remain low. Even better, the offensive lineman’s original signing bonus was only $17 million (if you can use a word like “only” with regard to a $17 million payment), meaning that its yearly proration was only $3.4 million. Even by nearly doubling that with this move, the contract will still have only $6.6 million in dead money going into its final year in 2025.

It’s possible to argue that it makes no sense to make this move with the contract of a player who — like Thuney — is already 30 years old. It’s a compelling argument. But the counter-argument is that the Chiefs have now seen Thuney up close for a full season. It’s unlikely they’d want to make this move unless they were pretty certain that Thuney could still play for two — if not three — of the remaining years of his contract.

Report: Tyreek Hill traded to Miami Dolphins

Just a week before, there had been news that a contract extension for the superstar wide receiver could be just days away. But on Wednesday morning, the ground in Kansas City shook: the Chiefs gave their superstar wide receiver permission to seek a trade. Before lunchtime, the local seismometers had gone off the charts: the Chiefs were sending Hill to Miami in exchange for five draft picks.

The most immediate impact of this trade is that the Chiefs will gain a large amount of cap space. Under the deal that will now be replaced by a new contract with the Dolphins, Hill carried a 2022 cap hit of $21.9 million. The Chiefs will have to carry $2.7 in dead money from Hill’s previously-paid signing bonus. So the Chiefs receive a net gain of $18.5 million in cap space. With this trade and all known signings, we now estimate that the team has between $22.3 million and $23.8 million in cap roomlikely $23.8 million.

Later in the day, head coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach released official statements on the trade — and we covered Chiefs players’ reactions on social media.

Chiefs sign former Packers wide receiver to three-year contract

With Hill gone, the Chiefs moved quickly. By Thursday, free-agent wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling was on the team.

The deal is said to be worth a total of $30 million (including incentives to make it reach as much as $36 million) with $18 million of it during the first two years.

Valdez-Scantling was reported to be visiting the Chiefs on Wednesday. There have also been reports that the Packers (who have, of course, also recently traded away their No. 1 wide receiver) were also very interested in re-signing the free-agent wideout.

Valdes-Scantling, 27, comes in at 6 foot 4 and 206 pounds. He joined the Packers after being drafted out of South Florida in the fifth round (174th) in 2018. He’s appeared in 59 games — starting 39 of them — while accumulating 2,153 yards (and 13 touchdowns) on 123 receptions over his four seasons.

Report: Every NFL team was given a chance to trade for Tyreek Hill

Also on Thursday, we learned that Hill trade talks had actually begun immediately after the Packers had traded their star wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders.

It now seems clear that by late Monday or early Tuesday, the Chiefs were certain that Hill would be traded — meaning that they could no longer depend upon the savings from Hill’s contract extension to keep them under the cap when they officially submitted their signings of Derrick Nnadi, Chad Henne, Elijah Lee, Geron Christian, Corey Coleman and Luq Barcoo to the league. While it’s true that the $18.5 million in cap space that the Hill trade would have created would also have been enough, the Chiefs couldn’t be sure how long it would take for the trade to become final. So Veach raided Thuney’s contract for the money he needed.

Then by Wednesday morning, it was down to just two teams in the running to obtain Hill: the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. The Chiefs and Rosenhaus decided it was time to leak the news that a trade was in the offing — and a transaction that had been almost a week in the making appeared to take place over just a couple of hours.

Amidst a franchise-altering trade, let’s not forget who plays quarterback for the Chiefs

On Friday, Pete Sweeney noted that even with Tyreek Hill’s loss, the team’s offensive success will still be centered on quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

We know what Mahomes, who has been described as the “perfect match” for Hill (and vice versa), did for Hill’s bank account. But what about Albert Wilson (Dolphins)? Sammy Watkins (Ravens)? Byron Pringle (Bears)? And Demarcus Robinson (Raiders)?

In a throwaway game in 2017 — the first start of his NFL career — Mahomes made Wilson look like a legitimate No. 2 receiver, hitting him 10 times for 147 yards. That single game boosted Wilson’s free-agent stock and landed him a lucrative deal in Miami.

When Watkins was on the field, Mahomes found ways to get him the football, and for a player drafted by Buffalo at No. 4 overall (and later played in Los Angeles for wunderkind Sean McVay), Watkins’ greatest stretch came during the 2019 postseason, when Mahomes featured him while Hill and Kelce were occupied. The throw to Watkins in Super Bowl LIV to beat Richard Sherman was a fantastic catch, but the ball was on him.

And most recently... Pringle and Robinson. If Justin Fields finds Pringle for more than 568 yards (2021) or Derek Carr can get Robinson to over 450 (which Robinson did twice with Mahomes), that would be quite the surprise.

A few Mahomes critics will say that his success is a product of Hill and Kelce. In 2022, Mahomes will have his first opportunity to prove otherwise with a new cast.

Chiefs sign former Panthers linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.

Friday ended with a new second-level player being added to the Kansas City defense.

The signing follows Carter visiting the Chiefs on Friday.

A report from Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson says Carter’s new contract is for one year. According to a FanSided report, the deal is worth $1.77 million.

Carter, 27, entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2018. He’s now signing his second NFL contract after appearing in 65 Carolina games, totaling 178 tackles (88 solo), including 88 tackles last season alone. He became a front-line player in 2021, starting all 17 of the Panthers’ games as their MIKE linebacker. But he can do a little bit of everything — which fits right in line with what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to see in his linebackers.

Carter has also been useful on special teams, where he had 27% of that unit’s snaps in 2021. In each of the three previous seasons, he was on the field for at least 57% of the special-team snaps.

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