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Charvarius Ward called ‘key player’ in free-agent market

It’s seeming more and more likely the cornerback will be priced out of Kansas City.

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NFL: NOV 21 Cowboys at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Is cornerback Charvarius Ward about to be priced out of Kansas City? It seems like that could be a very possible scenario, according to a recent note from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, in his “free agency and trade buzz” article after the NFL Combine.

Here is what Fowler had to say about the Kansas City Chiefs’ cornerback:

Charvarius Ward: He has emerged as a key player in the cornerback market and should be paid quite well. Expect the Chargers and San Francisco 49ers to be interested, among others. He might not be paid as much as, say, a J.C. Jackson or Carlton Davis. But don’t be surprised if he’s awfully close.

The Chiefs acquired the 25-year-old at the end of training camp in 2018, with general manager Brett Veach sending offensive lineman Parker Ehinger to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for the cornerback. As it played out, Ward would appear in 56 games (including 43 starts) for the Chiefs over four seasons, while Ehinger would never play for the Cowboys after suffering a knee injury.

Ward’s résumé contains 10 playoff starts, including all three games en route to the Super Bowl LIV championship. It would be safe to call the Ward-for-Ehinger swap one of the most underrated and essential deals in Veach’s tenure as Kansas City’s general manager.

Fowler’s words are especially interesting because Ward’s value within league circles seems to be far greater than the outside consensus. For example, on NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal’s “Top 101 free agents of 2022” list, Ward is listed at No. 91 — the 11th best cornerback available, according to Rosenthal. Pro Football Focus sees Ward as the 47th best player and the seventh-best cornerback available.

Fowler specifically mentions J.C. Jackson of the New England Patriots and Carlton Davis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as he describes what Ward may command. Jackson reportedly wants “Jalen Ramsey” money — or $21 million a year — and he might receive it as the best cornerback available.

Veach was pressed about Ward at last week’s Scouting Combine.

“He’s a really good player,” said the Chiefs’ GM. “Talking about what he’s accomplished over the last four years – acquiring him via trade from Dallas. Early on, right off the bat, he showed how talented he was on special teams. 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 – we’re going to have dialogue with him. I’d love to have Charvarius (Ward) back. He’s a talented player. He’s done well in our scheme. Coaches like him. 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 the next few weeks.”

I do believe Veach likes Ward — and I also think that in an ideal world, the Chiefs retain him. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. The Chiefs have many positions to address, including defensive end and defensive tackle, possibly safety — and consideration for a luxury purchase at wide receiver.

If Ward is genuinely going to be “awfully close” — per Fowler — to the deal Jackson receives, the Chiefs won’t be able to consider keeping him. And they shouldn’t.

Ward has been a rather reliable player for Kansas City, but with whispers of a 2022 defensive overhaul compared to the offensive line rebuild of 2021, there are quite simply too many needs to address to spend that much money on Ward. Chiefs fans have been waiting a long time. It might finally be time for the Chiefs to spend a premium Day 1 or Day 2 pick on a defensive back.

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