The week began with cornerback Deandre Baker officially signing his exclusive rights free agent tender.
Since Baker was a player with fewer than three accrued seasons when his contract expired at the end of the 2021 league year, Kansas City was able to retain its rights to him by offering him a minimum-salary contract before 2022’s league year began. Because the team has all the leverage in ERFA transactions, players almost always sign these tenders; it’s essentially a formality. But now, it’s a formality that’s been executed.
Our Matt Stagner weighed in on which Chiefs players are trending up and trending down following the club’s mandatory minicamp sessions. Second-year linebacker Nick Bolton was among Stagner’s “bulls.”
Nick Bolton: 2021’s second-round linebacker exceeded all expectations as a rookie, leading the team in tackles and generally playing at a high level — even when others around him were not. Now — with Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann gone — Bolton is the unquestioned leader among the team’s linebackers. He and third-year player Willie Gay Jr. have formed a tight bond — and a formidable duo — at the second level. Bolton is continuing to grow before our eyes, playing faster and taking command of the defense. He’ll be the MIKE linebacker in 2022, wearing the green dot and calling the defense.
Of all the team’s remaining needs, most would agree that the defensive end position is the most pressing, so our John Dixon rounded up the options out there, even mentioning a familiar face.
Justin Houston is also 33, coming off his 11th NFL season — the first eight of which were with the Chiefs. Fans still remember his All-Pro season in 2014, in which he led the league with 22.5 sacks. But in the years after that, he was never able to come very close to that peak. So in 2019 — with a new defensive coordinator shaking things with a new 4-3 scheme — the Chiefs released him, clearing $14 million in cap space. Playing for the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens during the last three years, Houston’s production has been quite comparable to his Kansas City career after 2014 — but he’s earned far less money; in 2021, he earned just $2.1 million on a one-year deal in Baltimore. Perhaps more importantly, he has been available, missing only two games since 2019 and starting all of the rest. Would the Chiefs consider bringing Houston back? And if they did, would he be willing to return? Stranger things have happened — but it’s probably prudent to avoid betting a lot of money on it.
The Chiefs retained the running back in 2022 on a “veteran salary benefit” contract.
This type of contract allows a team to sign a player with at least four accrued seasons to a one-year deal at their NFL minimum base salary and up to $152,500 in other compensation — such as a signing or roster bonus.
When a contract meets these conditions, the cap hit for the player’s base salary is the same as a player with just two accrued seasons — which in 2022 is only $895,000. That figure — plus the additional compensation — becomes the player’s adjusted cap hit.
With the Chiefs relying upon so many first-year players in the coming season, our Rocky Magaña counted down the five most important players to watch.
George Karlaftis’ outlook
Entering this offseason, EDGE might have been the Chiefs’ greatest position of need. While he initially drew mixed reviews from our pre-draft film team, all reports out of minicamp say that Karlaftis dropped 10-15 pounds — and on the field, is playing like a man possessed. If this more agile Karlaftis can translate his newfound athleticism into production, the Chiefs may have found a cornerstone around which they can build their pass rush.
A tweet from former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III really caught our attention, as he essentially said, “No
wide receiver podcaster Tyreek Hill... no problem.”
The @Chiefs are DEEPER AT WR THAN EVER. Tyreek Hills don’t grow on trees so after he moved to Miami, the Chiefs replaced Tyreek with DEPTH. Added Ju Ju, MVS, Skyy Moore and have Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and Justyn Ross fighting to be WR 5-6. CHEMISTRY will be key, not talent.— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) June 21, 2022
Arrowhead Pride advocate Peter Schrager added to watch out for Justin Watson.
As training camp draws nearer every day, we continued to introduce you to Chiefs you may not know much about. Meet Jack Cochrane.
Cochrane played high school football in the same state he attended college, enrolling as part of the 2017 recruiting class. He started playing in 2018 — mostly as a middle linebacker — finishing second on the team in tackles. From then on, he was a constant force for the Coyotes’ defense, being named team captain in each of his last three seasons.
This year’s Chiefs schedule includes quite a few opportunities for revenge. Our Jared Sapp counted down the six games to watch.
5. Week 12 vs. the Los Angeles Rams Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Rams
In 2018 — Mahomes’ first year as a starter — the Chiefs met the Rams on Monday Night Football. In the third-highest scoring game in NFL history, the Rams won 54-51. Since then, the Chiefs have held the dishonor of being the only NFL team to score 50 points in a loss. The Rams are also one of only three teams that Mahomes has never defeated.
As has become the norm in recent years, Kansas City is favored in most games this year — but not every game...
Kansas City isn’t favored against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6 — or on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers in Weeks 4 and 11. In addition, DraftKings now figures that the back-to-back road games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos in Weeks 13 and 14 are pick ‘ems; neither team is favored.
...and speaking of the “norm” of recent years — it’s a lot more fun for Chiefs fans now than then.
This year, FO’s Brian Knowles has been releasing a list that he has called “the Dynasties of Heartbreak.” These are defined as NFL teams that were very good over an extended period but were unable to bring home the ultimate prize.