NFL teams operate in life cycles. The best example of this might be the New England Patriots. You look back at Tom Brady's career in New England, and it's almost as if he played for five different iterations of the team.
The first "era" of the Patriots was built around defense. The Patriots in the late 2000s were as explosive an offense as we've seen in the last 20 years. Then the team shifted to the multi-tight end offense. And suddenly, in the late 2010s, the team was fully into the "death by a million paper cuts" mode.
The league changed, and the Patriots adjusted accordingly. Franchise icons moved on. The lone constants were Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
This brings us to the Chiefs' offseason, which will be highlighted by turnover, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We could witness a complete overhaul of the defense the way we did in 2019, but this time without a change at defensive coordinator.
From our NFL Combine coverage: A look at some of the key DB storylines in free agency, including the value (money-wise and locker room-wise) of the Honey Badger. pic.twitter.com/tEsidChGJd— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 6, 2022
General manager Brett Veach is known for taking big swings, and this offseason presents ample opportunity to swing for the fences. Any move the Chiefs decide to make will have a butterfly effect on the rest of the offseason.
What would the "ideal" offseason look like? That's what we're here to find out.
Opening up cap flexibility
You've probably seen some national reports on the Chiefs' lack of cap room. Don't pay attention to that. The Chiefs have plenty of flexibility with their contracts on the books to make room, as needed. The first order of business appears to be re-signing Tyreek Hill to a multi-year extension. According to reports, Hill's extension will likely be for four years at approximately $21 million per year. This could drop his 2022 cap hit to $8 million.
Other housekeeping moves could include restructuring Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Joe Thuney's contracts to convert some (or most) of their 2022 salaries into signing bonus money. This would free up space in 2022 but increase their cap hits in future years.
That flexibility will be necessary with the Chiefs intending to hit Orlando Brown Jr. with the franchise tag. The offensive tackle franchise tag this year comes in at $16.5 million. That is fully guaranteed and would not be spread out over multiple seasons. It's a significant chunk of the cap, but it's worth it to keep a player who adjusted well to a new scheme last season.
The last housekeeping move before going to the market is likely to be a Frank Clark release. A pre-June 1st cut would result in $12.7 million in cap savings — and a $13.6 million dead cap hold for 2022. The nearly $13 million in cap savings will be necessary if the Chiefs are going to be as bold as we're projecting in this particular mock offseason, so it's a move that must be made.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach on Frank Clark and his $26.3 million cap number for 2022.— Matt Derrick (@mattderrick) March 1, 2022
"That's certainly a high number and we'll have to work on that, and do a lot of work on that if he were to stay here ... it may be a long shot but it's not impossible."
All of these moves would leave the Chiefs with approximately $53 million in cap space. Kansas City's current draft positions require $8.5 million to sign, so let's treat it as if the Chiefs have $44 million to work with as they turn their attention to the market.
Re-signing role players
The Chiefs will have to say goodbye to several role players this offseason. In this scenario, the Chiefs allow Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorensen, Mike Remmers, Jarran Reed, Demarcus Robinson, Charvarius Ward, Alex Okafor, Mike Hughes, Deandre Baker, Jerick McKinnon, Byron Pringle, Armani Watts and Chad Henne to go elsewhere. It's a lot of turnover, but thus is life when you're in a transition year.
Brett Veach on Melvin Ingram: "I do think if a guy like Melvin decides he wants to come back and play, I think we would be at the top of his list, and that's something we'll work to keep a dialogue open with."— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) February 1, 2022
That doesn't mean everyone is moving on, though. In the ideal offseason, the Chiefs are able to bring back the likes of Melvin Ingram, Andrew Wylie, Darrel Williams, Blake Bell and Ben Niemann on one-year contracts. Those deals add up to roughly $15 million against the cap.
The Chiefs are now going to the market with right around $30 million to work with. Now to the fun part.
Free Agency Frenzy
You want bold? Let's get bold. The Chiefs' top needs going into the offseason are adding a legitimate top-end pass rusher, replacing Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, improving the talent at cornerback, adding a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver and finding a run-stuffing defensive tackle.
In the ideal offseason, the Chiefs add one of the top defensive ends on the market, of which there are plenty. Von Miller, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chandler Jones all make sense. Veach decides Jones is the right man for the job, and he signs him to a three-year deal worth $45 million.
The next move is to improve the pass-catchers around Mahomes. There are plenty of options on the market. Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Juju Smith-Schuster all make sense, but Veach decides to go a different route. Amari Cooper is very likely to hit the market after the Dallas Cowboys make his release official. Veach loves him some former first-round picks, and Cooper wouldn't factor into the compensation pick formula after his release.
Veach decides to hand Cooper a three-year deal, which resembles the deal the Chiefs handed Sammy Watkins back in 2018.
Cowboys are “likely” to release WR Amari Copper by the start of the new league year, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2022
Cooper is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on the fifth day of the new league year, March 20.
With Jones and Cooper in the mix, it's time to fill the other two big holes. The safety options are appealing with guys like Quandre Diggs, Justin Reid and Jordan Whitehead.
The Chiefs go back to the former Texans safety well and sign the 25-year old Reid to a three-year deal worth $35 million. The last big free agency move is to bring in a run stuffer. Veach considered BJ Hill or bringing back Derrick Nnadi before ultimately signing former Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks to a two-year deal worth $5 million per season.
You might be wondering how the Chiefs afford to make so many big moves. It's a fair question. Contract structures are going to be important. The "Brett Veach special" is keeping the first year of those contracts at a very low salary, with the cap hits going up in the latter years of the deal. This structure becomes that much more appealing with the NFL's looming salary cap explosion in 2023 when the new TV rights hit, which triggers a clause in the CBA which grants a greater percentage of the revenues to the players (also known as the salary cap).
In other words, the cap hit is about to go up in a big way in 2023, and the Chiefs are structuring the deals accordingly.
A big trade
You didn't think we would get through the ideal offseason without Veach making a big trade, did you? The Chiefs have already addressed their needs at wide receiver, defensive end, defensive tackle and safety. Next up is cornerback.
From NFL Now: While the #Giants aren't expected to trade Saquon Barkley, CB James Bradberry could be had in a trade. Teams are expected to inquire about the former big ticket FA, who is in the last year of his deal. pic.twitter.com/EoRXfLWwyy— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2022
Reports from the NFL Combine suggest the New York Giants could be looking to trade James Bradberry. The 28-year old former Pro Bowl cornerback has one year left on his deal worth $13 million. The Chiefs decide to send their third-round compensation pick they received for Ryan Poles to the Giants and let Bradberry play this season on the final year of his deal.
After this deal, the Chiefs cap is essentially at capacity for 2022, with just enough space to sign their draft class.
The NFL Draft
The Chiefs go into the draft with very few true "needs" after reloading the roster with talent through a big trade and some key free agency additions. This allows Veach to go with a "best player available" approach in the draft.
- Round 1 - Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
- Round 2 - Alex Wright, DE, UAB
- Round 3 - Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
- Round 4 - Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
Pay less attention to the specific names and more attention to the positions. We're still very early in the draft process with plenty of movement expected between now and draft day. Veach tends to "overcorrect" at positions of need, and that's exactly what we see in this specific scenario with the team throwing multiple assets at the weakest positions on the roster this past season.
Preparing for 2022
So, there you have it. The ideal offseason is complete. Veach was able to patch up the problem areas while adding young talent throughout the roster. How much of this will actually happen? It's hard to say.
Veach has the flexibility to get very aggressive, and he's taken advantage of such situations in the past. There are marquee free agents and trade options available at wide receiver, defensive end and cornerback. The depth of this safety class is impressive — and that applies to both the free agency crop and the draft.
This is my ideal offseason for the Chiefs. What would yours look like? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.
Buckle in, folks. This offseason is going to be a wild ride.
If the Chiefs’ 2022 offseason played out like this, I would be...
This poll is closed
fine with it