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Arrowheadlines: Position battles loom on defense as rookies stake their claims

Chiefs headlines for Saturday, May 21st

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Wisconsin at Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The latest

Chiefs dead cap: 4 players account for nearly $8 million | Chiefs Wire

Gone are the days of paying for past contract sins for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Right now, the Chiefs rank near the top of the NFL in effective salary cap space, with $14,755,982 available per Over The Cap. One of the reasons that their cap space is in such a good spot is because they’re not paying out a ton of dead money to players who are no longer on the team. For instance, Kansas City stopped paying for the contract handed out to Eric Berry just last season.

The Chiefs actually rank seventh in the NFL with just over $7.9 million in dead cap space according to Over The Cap. Only six NFL teams have less dead cap owed than Kansas City. They’re paying dead money on just four contracts right now, though, that number could increase as we get closer to the season.

Newcomers to KC Chiefs’ defense will fight for jobs: more early roster predictions | KC Star

DEFENSIVE LINE (13): CHRIS JONES, FRANK CLARK, DERRICK NNADI, GEORGE KARLAFTIS, MIKE DANNA, JOSHUA KAINDOH, TAYLOR STALLWORTH, KHALEN SAUNDERS, TERSHAWN WHARTON, AUSTIN EDWARDS, CORTEZ BROUGHTON, MALIK HERRING, KEHINDE OGINNI HASSAN

The Chiefs fluctuated between 9-10 defensive linemen on the active 53-player roster last year, so there’s not much room for error among the 13 linemen on the team’s current offseason roster.

That said, the Chiefs used a first-round draft pick on Karlaftis, and he will contribute immediately as a complementary piece to Clark in the team’s 4-3 base defense. While the Chiefs could still add a veteran pass rusher through free agency before training camp, they have rotation-ready options in Danna and Kaindoh, who will both be expected to contribute more this season. Wharton also has versatility to play inside and outside.

The Chiefs identified improving their defensive line as a priority this offseason. But after staying out of the hunt during March’s free-agency period, the question remains: Are there enough pass rushers currently on the roster to help the Chiefs’ defense overcome last year’s deficiencies?

They had hoped to bring back Melvin Ingram, who recently signed with the Dolphins instead. Any veteran defensive end the team signs at this point should be viewed as a stop-gap.

At defensive tackle, Jones and Nnadi project as the starters, while Saunders and Stallworth, a free-agent signing, provide depth.

WILDCARD: Herring joined the Chiefs in 2021 as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia but spent the regular season on the non-football injury (NFI) list. He’s now healthy and could surprise at defensive end and thus make a case for a regular-season roster spot.

Chiefs in a contract year: 9 players who can cash in with a productive 2022 | The Athletic

WR Mecole Hardman

Hardman, a four-year veteran entering the final year of his rookie contract, is a prime candidate to raise his stock. Hardman’s role within the Chiefs offense increased the moment general manager Brett Veach traded Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for a package of five draft picks. Known for being a speedster, Hardman has improved his receiving yards every season. A successful season for Hardman would include producing more than 1,000 receiving yards, which would show him continuing to harness his potential while taking advantage of the increased touches from superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“A once-in-a-generation type of player has left the team, so somebody has to step up and fill the role,” Hardman said last month of Hill’s departure. “I just want to get better as an overall receiver and establish my name a little bit more. The opportunity is bigger. It’s up to me to be prepared for that.”

Veteran Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore are the only prominent receivers the Chiefs are committed to beyond 2022, so a productive season could lead Hardman to a lucrative contract extension. Or Hardman could sign a deal in free agency for around $16 million per season.

Former Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka details his exit from Kansas City | Chiefs Wire

Speaking to the New York media during Giants offseason workouts, Kafka provided some details on his exit from Kansas City. He was asked whether it was a tough decision for him to leave the Chiefs after spending the past five seasons there.

“Yes, (the Chiefs are) a great team,” Kafka said. “It was an awesome experience. But this opportunity was something that was special to me and my family. It wasn’t just something I took on a whim. I wasn’t just going to go to any team. It had to be built the right way with the people, the Mara family, (Brian Daboll), Joe (Schoen), the players that we had here. So it was all that encompassed. But of course, I have a lot of great relationships and great people in the Chiefs organization, and I respect them and have a lot of respect for the coaching staff and the guys there.”

NFL Network analytics expert says Chiefs will have second-best offense in the AFC West | Yahoo! Sports

This is part of what Frelund wrote: “The Chiefs’ receiving corps looks a lot different, and their schedule starts off with a punishing set of opponents. Last season, Kansas City used motion on an NFL-high 808 snaps, which indicates that they have lots of wrinkles in their playbook, so it could take some time for the overhauled WR group to get up to speed.

On the plus side, K.C. still has the same superstar at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes had the second-best passer rating on quick passes (115.8 on throws made in under 2.5 seconds) and led the league with a 73.8 completion percentage against the blitz. Computer Vision shows that of Mahomes’ nine interceptions on short passes (0-9 air yards), five were unlucky. (He only had four such picks in his career prior to 2021.)“

The Chargers were No. 2 overall behind the Bills, and Frelund’s calculations were based in large part on the NFL Draft.

“In the draft, Los Angeles immediately boosted the offensive line in Round 1 with plug-and-play starter Zion Johnson before nabbing another versatile piece in sixth-rounder Jamaree Salyer, who could see some early action,” she wrote. “The Bolts also nabbed RB Isaiah Spiller in the fourth round. With increased O-line potential and added RB depth, Keenan Allen, (Mike) Williams and (Austin) Ekeler forecast to be in more favorable situations — a scary thought for opponents, given how productive each already was.”

Around the NFL

Green Bay WR coach Jason Vrable: Sammy Watkins ‘in a good place right now’ with Packers | NFL.com

Sammy Watkins’ latest stop has him in a new location, but among familiar company.

Watkins’ position coach, Jason Vrable, doubles as Green Bay’s pass game coordinator in 2022. He’s bringing with him some familiar terminology from their days spent together in Buffalo, and believes the wide receiver’s move to Green Bay will position him for success — and that’s without even mentioning who will be throwing passes to Watkins.

“I talked to Sammy about it the other day. The way he was running some routes and catching, it reminded me of when he first walked on the field (in Buffalo),” Vrable told reporters Thursday, via the team’s official site. “The biggest thing had been some injuries, if you looked at the thing. But he know he’s going to work as hard as he can. He’s here doing all the workouts right now in conditioning. He feels good where his body is at.

“One thing you’ll see with him is he plucks the ball different. He has hands where you’ll hear the pluck and running through catch, and his play strength. There’s a reason why we drafted him that high and he’s had a lot of successful years in his career.

Exclusive-American football-Former NFL quarterback Vick coming out of retirement | Yahoo! Sports

Michael Vick, the once-dynamic NFL quarterback whose involvement in a dogfighting ring halted a breathtaking career in its prime, has agreed to come out of retirement to join startup league Fan Controlled Football, a source told Reuters on Friday.

Vick, a former first overall draft pick who last suited up for a National Football League game in 2015, will make his debut on May 28, the last day of the regular season, according to the source who said an official announcement is expected next week.

The 41-year-old Vick has not yet been assigned a team.

Vick is the latest high-profile player to sign up with Fan Controlled Football, joining a group that includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens and Johnny Manziel, whose much-hyped NFL career fizzled out after two seasons.

According to the source, Vick agreed to a comeback after seeing the success that good friend Owens has been having since he signed with the league this year.

In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride

Report: Chiefs’ L’Jarius Sneed’s car ‘shot up’ in Louisiana; cornerback not accused of wrongdoing by police

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed’s car was “shot up” in Minden, Louisiana — his hometown — as first reported by TMZ Sports. The report noted that Sneed was not in the vehicle at the time. Police said the cornerback had not been accused of any wrongdoing.

TMZ: According to a department spokesperson, Sneed’s Ford Bronco — which the 25-year-old football player was not an occupant in at the time — was hit by bullets ... and Sneed later showed up on the scene to check things out.

We’re told Sneed and others were detained on the scene and questioned by officers, but ultimately, Sneed was not arrested and not charged with a crime ... and was let go.

Sources close to Sneed say two of his friends were driving the vehicle at the time ... and believe the shooting was random.

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