Key Additions: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ronald Jones, Justin Reid, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Key Departures: Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu, Austin Blythe, Charvarius Ward, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson
The Kansas City Chiefs can quickly go from the AFC West division winners in 2021 to the bottom of the division in 2022. That is how topsy-turvy this division is.
The loss of Tyreek Hill is a massive one for them, and they also saw wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle leave. But, they brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in a revamped WR room, so there is some hope.
The Chiefs also let Tyrann Mathieu walk, and he remains unsigned as of March 31. Justin Reid is an excellent replacement for Mathieu, but losing him, Hill, and Charvarius Ward in the same offseason are tough losses.
Nonetheless, it is hard to count against a team that still has Mahomes and Travis Kelce, not to mention a defense that was much improved down the stretch in 2021. Until Mahomes slows down, the Chiefs will be competitive, but the loss of Hill is more than enough to kick them out of the top spot of this division — and it could derail them altogether.
[Note: This article picks the Los Angeles Chargers to win the West. Imagine that!]
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes has been one of the best (if not the best) quarterbacks in fantasy football for much of his career, but losing Tyreek Hill hurts his value. Over the last two seasons, 27% of his fantasy points from pass completions went to the speedy wideout. The team did add JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marques Valdes-Scantling, but neither has the same skill set as Hill. I’ve moved Mahomes out of my top-five quarterbacks for 2022.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Much like Mahomes, Rodgers lost his top option in the passing game when the Packers traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. The playmaking wideout made up for 32.5% of Rodgers’s fantasy points from pass completions since 2020, and the Packers have done nothing yet to help fill his void. Green Bay will do some work in free agency and the NFL draft, but Rodgers will still fall down into the low-end QB1 range.
When Malcolm Jenkins patrolled the defense in Philadelphia, the Eagles defense had an identity of being hard-nosed and downhill. Since Jenkins left in FA after 2019, the Eagles identity on defense has been missing in a major way.
The Honey Badger could bring in the swagger this city has desperately needed on defense. A member on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010’s, Mathieu has statistically been a better player on the field than Jenkins has.
Mathieu has battled injuries lately and is turning 30-years-old this season, but last year showed he can still play at a high level. He made the Pro Bowl after a three pick, six passes defensed season. He has the speed and ability to play in any defense and could be the vocal leader on a defense that has certainly needed one since Jenkins has departed.
Williams sat out the 2020 season – as many players did – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He wanted to be closer to his mother, who has cancer. He returned to the field in 2021 with the Chicago Bears, where he showed flashes of the talent that helped him lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
And he’s confident that his style, which he compares to a Looney Tunes character, will fit right into the Falcons’ offense.
“I’ve always been, you know, that wild tasmanian devil,” Williams told AtlantaFalcons.com while laughing. “I can make you miss. I can spin. I could run through you, and I could run past you. I can catch the ball up the field. I can run routes. I’m a football player. Whatever you want me to do. I could do that.”
Williams joins a backfield with Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, who should also spend time at receiver. Last season the Falcons had the second-worst rushing attack in the league in terms of average yards per game at 85.4, just ahead of the Houston Texans.
Pringle’s emergence in 2021 resulted in part from his determination and perseverance. It’s a mentality the 28-year-old has possessed since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent—and one that he’ll bring to Chicago, where he’ll team with receiver Darnell Mooney under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
“Adding that element of a big target on the other side of Mooney and giving that to Luke and his staff, I feel really comfortable about that,” Poles said. “And when I say chip on his shoulder, he’s dying to prove that he can show that he can play in this league. Those are the types of players that we want, so I’m looking forward to his production.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s comment signals Kansas would be willing to use economic incentives to lure the Chiefs, who have been in Kansas City since 1963, across the state line.
When initially asked about the possibility of relocating the NFL team, Kelly quipped that she was “on speed dial with Lamar Hunt,” referring to the Chiefs’ late founder and owner. His son Clark Hunt is the team’s chairman and CEO.
Kelly, who was attending an unrelated event in Roeland Park, then added: “You know, I would be all for it, obviously. When I signed the border war truce with Missouri, it didn’t include the Chiefs.”
Around the NFL
Bowles has head coaching experience, but it isn’t exactly a sparkling endorsement as he takes the same role for the second time in his career. Bowles manned the sideline as the head coach of the New York Jets from 2015 to ‘18, helping the Jets nearly reach the playoffs with a 10-6 record in his first season before New York entered a stretch of struggles that included two 5-11 seasons and a 4-12 campaign in 2018, after which he was fired.
Despite the difficulties, that time was valuable to Bowles, who said Thursday he learned how to “wear many hats” as a head coach and will lean on that experience with the Buccaneers.
“You just have to move on to the next week,” Bowles told NFL Network’s Sara Walsh. “I think every week is a grind. You don’t carry the game with you from week in and week out. I feel I did that a little bit in New York.
“Coming here with the people I’ve been around and understanding what I’ve come from and how I’ve been coaching, it kind of changed the way I saw things and the way I coached. I think this will help me the second time around.”
As part of the trade that brought Russell Wilson to the Broncos, Fant now heads to Seattle. He told 104.3 The Fan in Denver this week that he became frustrated with how he was used in Pat Shurmur’s offense with the Broncos. In Fant’s view, he’s a field-stretching weapon but was primarily utilized as an outlet with run-after-catch ability.
“I feel like when I came into the league, that’s what I was drafted to do, right?” he said of making explosive plays. “Get down the field, make those explosive plays, and kind of be that pass catching tight end. And over my time in Denver, I felt like that narrative kind of got muddled down a little bit. It was more of a focus of me catching flat balls or whatever it may be, and then trying to be a shifty guy and elusive guy and try to break as many tackles possible to get my yards. I view myself as a downfield threat, getting open space, then I can make things happen. It was a little frustrating being used in the short field.”
The comments underscore the restraints put on the offense by Shurmur and the inconsistent quarterback play during the TE’s three seasons in Denver. Unfortunately for Fant, he won’t be around for the Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett era.
Fant noted that he found out about his trade to Seattle from TV reports. The 24-year-old wishes he’d have found out in a more direct fashion.
Antonio Brown has done plenty of interviews this offseason and in most of those interviews, the former Buccaneers receiver has made it clear that he wants to return to the NFL in 2022.
The problem for Brown is that he comes with some serious baggage. Besides the fact that he always seems to drum up controversy wherever he goes, any team that might sign him also has to worry about his injured ankle.
Brown suffered the injury during the 2021 season and as he tells it, it’s the same injury the Buccaneers wanted him to play through when he stormed off the field while shirtless against the Jets in January (the Buccaneers have insisted that his injury had nothing to do with the bizarre situation, but Brown says otherwise).
If Brown wants to return to the NFL this year, he’s probably going to get his ankle surgically repaired, but apparently, he doesn’t want to get it surgically repaired unless a team signs him first. The receiver revealed that information during an interview with TMZ this week.
Jerry Jones has paid nearly $3 million to the woman who says she is his biological daughter, including her full tuition at SMU and a $70,000 Range Rover on her 16th birthday, and to her mother, according to the Little Rock, Arkansas, lawyer who delivered the payments on behalf of the Dallas Cowboys owner.
Lawyer Don Jack told ESPN that he made regular payments on Jones’ behalf to Alexandra Davis, the 25-year-old congressional aide who filed a paternity lawsuit against Jones on March 3, and her mother, Cynthia Spencer Davis, whom Jones met in 1995 when she was a ticket-counter agent for American Airlines in Arkansas.
“On numerous occasions I have made payments on behalf of Mr. Jones to Cindy and Alex Davis,” Jack said in a statement. A longtime friend of Jones, Jack said he struck an agreement on Jones’ behalf with Spencer Davis in 1995, paying her $375,000 and providing “for monthly payments for child support which ultimately totaled over $2 million.”
Jones has not acknowledged that Davis is his biological daughter. Asked why he used the term “child support” in his statement, Jack said, “I used the term child support because that’s what the agreement calls it.” Asked if the “child support” payments indicate that Jones is Davis’ father, Jack paused for five seconds before saying, “I am not going to answer that one. My statement speaks for itself.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Drawing from his experience of five years with the Chiefs, including two with Hill, Smith tried to forecast the club’s future in 2022 and beyond.
“Flat out, you’re not going to replace him,” said Smith. “There’s literally only one Tyreek Hill in the whole NFL — he is that kind of difference-maker. I was fortunate enough to play my last two years there in Kansas City with him.”
Hill accumulated 2,102 scrimmage yards and a combined 16 touchdowns while playing with Smith from 2016-17.
“When [Hill’s] on the field, defense plays differently,” Smith added. “He opens up so many other players around him because everybody’s so fearful. There’s a lot of fast guys in the league that are very — in the end — they’re kind of one-dimensional. Tyreek is not that. We saw it throughout the playoffs: catch-and-run, catching the deep ball, put him back there for punt/kickoff return, hand him the ball in the backfield. I mean, he’s an incredible weapon, incredibly unique — and you’re just not going to fill those shoes.”
Are we just admitting Joshua Kaindoh won’t be a thing? I mean the guy was a former 5-star and the Chiefs spent a 4th round pick on him. It’s like nobody even mentions him.— Mark Gunnels (@MarkAGunnels) March 31, 2022