This is a wonderful time of year. The draft has come and gone, rookie minicamp is in the rearview mirror and NFL teams are generally set with their rosters.
But there are still a number of high-level veterans available on the market. Did you know Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to sign with a team? Duane Brown, Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones and Larry Ogunjobi are available, too.
This is the time of year when Super Bowl contenders tend to sign players who will come up with a big play or two throughout their playoff runs.
It was around this time a year ago that the Kansas City Chiefs re-signed Andrew Wylie and traded for Mike Hughes. Before the 2020 season, they signed Kelechi Osemele to a 1-year contract in late July. Morris Claiborne was signed to a 1-year deal in early August of 2019.
Those moves worked — to varying degrees, of course.
Players available at this point in the offseason are generally unsigned for a reason. Some are waiting for the “right” opportunity, while others are dealing with nagging injuries.
But all of them have something preventing a deal.
There is one obvious connection to the Chiefs. By now, you’ve probably read plenty about James Bradberry, a former Pro Bowl cornerback who was just released by the New York Giants. Without question, he is currently the top free-agent fit available to the Chiefs.
But at what price? And are the Chiefs willing to get in a potential bidding war for a 29-year old cornerback who has shown signs of decline? Given Veach’s history with aging players, it seems unlikely.
More likely, Veach would look at his remaining options on the free-agent market for a more team-friendly deal. So if not Bradberry... then who?
Let’s take a look.
5. Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney
I know... I know. The Chiefs drafted a first-round edge rusher. All signs point to Melvin Ingram’s eventual return. Frank Clark took a pay cut to stay in Kansas City. Do the Chiefs really need to add another veteran to that room? Maybe not. But it’s a position group without a star — and Clowney is the rare player who has the ability to be that kind of performer.
There seem to be four edge rushers locked in for the Chiefs opening week roster: Clark, Ingram, rookie George Karlaftis and Mike Danna. Joshua Kaindoh is probably the favorite to be the fifth man in that rotation.
Clowney would serve as an upgrade to that group. But would he be willing to join a team where he’s no better than the third pass rusher? It seems unlikely.
If the Chiefs want to add an edge rusher, the more likely options might be Trey Flowers or Jerry Hughes. If the price is right, any of the three could make sense.
Projected Contract: 1 year, $8 million with $5 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives
4. Cornerback Joe Haden
All of the arguments for signing Bradberry also apply to Haden, who is a limited player at this point in his career. He’s getting up there in age (33 years old) — and last season, his ball production was in steep decline: six passes defended and no interceptions in 12 games.
That said, he can still bring some value to a defense. He’s as smart a corner as you’ll find in the league — and as long as he has help over the top, he can still get the job done in zone coverage. The Chiefs could do a heck of a lot worse than a nickel defense featuring Trent McDuffie, L’Jarius Sneed and Haden at corner.
Haden could also serve as a solid veteran presence in a room that currently lacks one. The most experienced cornerbacks on the roster are Lonnie Johnson and Rashad Fenton.
The biggest holdup with signing Haden is his position. At this point in his career, he’s more of a slot corner than an outside player. Are the Chiefs comfortable playing Sneed outside, or is he better in the slot? That’s the type of thing that could put the kibosh on signing Haden.
Projected Contract: 1 year, $5 million
3. Wide receiver Will Fuller V
The Chiefs have been more than willing to give second (or third) chances to former first-round draft selections and other high-level performers. Look no further than their current wide receiver corps, which includes former superstar Josh Gordon and former first-round pick Corey Coleman.
It’s not hard to imagine Fuller having a little something left in the tank. But he doesn’t come without warts.
In his first four seasons, Fuller missed 22 games with injuries. He missed the final five games of 2020 (and the first game of 2021) with a PED suspension — and then he missed Week 2 with a “personal issue.” He made his Dolphins debut in Week 3, played again in Week 4... and then missed the rest of the season with a broken finger. He finished the year with four receptions for 26 yards.
A suspension and a whole lot of injuries explain why this 28-year-old former first-round wide receiver remains unsigned. But there are also plenty of reasons why he should be signed — and why he can still be a productive player for whichever team takes a chance on him.
Fuller is unbelievably fast. I mean... really fast. He ran a 4.32 40 at the NFL Combine — and that speed shows up in his game. The only wide receivers to average more yards per reception than Fuller since he entered the league in 2016 are Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, Julio Jones, Mike Evans and T.Y. Hilton (minimum 200 receptions). His 9.2 career yards per target matches Tee Higgins and Cooper Kupp. When healthy, Fuller is a very productive player. Unfortunately, that’s been the big caveat throughout his career.
The overwhelming likelihood is Fuller won’t cost much. He’s looking for a one-year prove-it deal. He would have a very specific role in the Chiefs offense — similar to the ones DeSean Jackson has filled in the latter stages of his career. He would likely battle Justyn Ross, Daurice Fountain, Gordon and Coleman for the final wide receiver spots on the roster. This wouldn’t be a signing for need, but rather one for luxury.
Projected Contract: 1 year, $3 million with $7 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives
2. Nose tackle Akiem Hicks
Do you like nose tackles who have the ability to stuff the run and also have some juice to rush the passer? I sure do. Hicks fits that bill.
From 2015 through 2018, Hicks was one of the league’s best interior rushers. Injuries and age have taken their toll, but he still has more than enough ability to make an impact as a role player along the interior. He’s also an incredibly fun character guy who could fit in seamlessly with Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi.
Hicks could fill a similar role to the one Jarran Reed filled in 2021. The Chiefs have improved their edge-rushing situation with Karlaftis, but it doesn’t feel like they’re done adding players along the interior.
1. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
I’ve convinced myself that Suh is the perfect fit for Kansas City. Suh is at the “ring chasing” point of his career. He’s made his money. Now it’s about doing some winning. And he’s still a pretty darn productive player, too.
Suh accumulated 12 sacks, 32 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss over the past two seasons in Tampa Bay. The only defensive tackles with more sacks during that stretch are Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, DeForest Buckner and Cam Heyward. For quarterback hits during that period, only Grady Jarrett and Jonathan Allen notched more than Suh.
The moral of the story? Suh can still play.
Defensive tackle is also one of the only positions at which the Chiefs could clearly use an upgrade. It’s also a one without a recent high draft pick that Suh would be preventing from seeing playing time.
When they signed Reed last year, the Chiefs clearly saw value in adding a veteran interior rusher. Suh’s role would be similar: joining Jones on the interior to wreak havoc on passing downs.
Projected Contract: 1 year, $5 million