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Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster for 2022 revealed after cuts

Instant analysis of Kansas City’s initial 53-man roster.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs have made their cuts to get the team’s active roster down to 53 players before the NFL’s deadline.

Likely, this will not be the exact roster that will begin the season against the Arizona Cardinals a week from Sunday. Some players will likely be removed during the coming days to make room for other Chiefs players who were previously removed — or players from other teams who are now available. This is just the starting point for 2022.

Offense (26)

Quarterbacks (3): Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shane Buechele

For the first time in three cuts, the Chiefs opted to keep three quarterbacks, something that seemed like an Andy Reid rule prior to the 2018 cut. Henne remains the backup to Mahomes, but the Chiefs appear to have figured that waiving Buechele would have resulted in him being claimed by a team such as the Arizona Cardinals — who tried to do so last year — or the New York Giants, whose offensive coordinator is now-former quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka. When asked about Buechele on Tuesday, Reid emphasized that he was coming off a “pretty good game” against the Green Bay Packers — when he threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Running backs (4): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, Isiah Pacheco, Ronald Jones

Coming to Tuesday’s deadline it seemed like running back Jones was a “cut man walking” of sorts, but his third preseason game reportedly convinced the Chiefs to keep him on their initial roster. Jones had eight carries for 43 yards. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid routinely notes that you “can never have too many running backs,” and perhaps that should have been a sign that the Chiefs would keep Jones, who provides added depth if starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire were to suffer another injury.

“I thought RoJo did a nice job down the stretch, and we know what he’s capable of,” said Reid. “It’s a matter of him being comfortable in the offense. [We] throw a lot at the running backs, and it looked like he was starting to get it down the stretch there. Good football player.”

Fullbacks (1): Michael Burton

The Chiefs’ fullback was not seen during Tuesday’s media look, but do not fret. Burton was reportedly excused from practice for the birth of his daughter. Reid’s commitment to the fullback is alive and well.

Wide receivers (5): JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson

The Chiefs keeping only five wide receivers was somewhat of a surprise — especially because of the well-known special-teams upside of Daurice Fountain. We knew the top four players on this list would certainly make the team — and Watson impressed Mahomes throughout the offseason and preseason. Pay attention to which wide receivers make the practice squad (right now, it’s looking like Corey Coleman and Cornell Powell), as these will be the first players up should there be an injury to one of the five receivers on the 53-man roster.

Tight ends (4): Travis Kelce, Jody Fortson, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

Bell being on the roster is simply procedural, as hip surgery will sideline him for at least a portion of the 2022 season. For Bell to be placed on injured reserve with an opportunity to return, he had to make the 53-man roster. You may remember Kansas City did a similar thing with quarterback Chad Henne ahead of the 2019 season. Bell will be placed on injured reserve in the coming days.

Offensive linemen (9): Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Andrew Wylie, Geron Christian, Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho, Darian Kinnard

In just over a year’s time, the Chiefs have gone from having one of the worst offensive line situations in the league to one of the best. The starting five is set, with Andrew Wylie earning himself the starting right tackle position throughout training camp and the preseason. The Chiefs have tackle options with Geron Christian and Prince Tega Wanogho, and Nick Allegretti can play center and the two guard positions in an emergency situation. Over the past month or so, we’ve watched Kinnard’s outlook go from starting right tackle potential to project, but the Chiefs likely opted to keep him here to prevent another team’s claim; it’s unlikely Kinnard will be active for most of the season. It is worth noting that the Chiefs hope to bring Austin Reiter back to the practice squad, giving them more depth at center behind Allegretti.

Defense (24)

Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, Khalen Saunders

The prevailing thought was that the Chiefs would keep five defensive tackles, deciding between Danny Shelton or Taylor Stallworth behind Khalen Saunders following his strong game. But the Chiefs have leaned into keeping two more defensive ends, which makes sense, considering we did see more mixing and matching inside from new defensive line coach Joe Cullen. Showing those types of looks would assumably allow the Chiefs to keep the 10 best athletes on their line, which it seems like they did.

Defensive ends (6): Frank Clark, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Mike Danna, Malik Herring, Josh Kaindoh

The top four defensive ends — Frank Clark, rookie George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap and Mike Danna — were always locks for the Chiefs’ initial roster. Building off the last point regarding defensive tackles, general manager Brett Veach and the team’s defensive coaching staff opted to keep both Malik Herring and Josh Kaindoh rather than choosing just one. Both Herring and Kaindoh showed progress during training camp and the preseason, likely pushing the club to keep them both.

Linebackers (4): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Darius Harris, Leo Chenal

We had wondered whether the Chiefs would release linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. — despite his guaranteed money. As we found out on Tuesday, the answer was, “Yes.” Carter played with the second team for the majority of training camp, and he could never break through. Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr. and Elijah Lee are the projected starters in the base defense, even with Lee being released here. As first reported by The Kansas City Star, Lee will rejoin the Chiefs following the team’s procedural move with Bell (as mentioned above). As the season carries along, I think Leo Chenal could work his way into that starting mix in place of Lee.

Cornerbacks (6): L’Jarius Sneed, Rashad Fenton, Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Chris Lammons

The Chiefs know their Week 1 starters, with Fenton and McDuffie projected for the outside with Sneed inside at the nickel. At least to start the year, McDuffie is likely to come off the field in the base defense as Steve Spagnuolo leans on his veterans. Behind the starters, the Chiefs like what they have seen from rookie fourth-rounder Williams and rookie seventh-rounder Watson, who are both a little longer than McDuffie. Lammons rounds out the room — mostly because of what he provides the Chiefs on special teams.

Safeties (4): Juan Thornhill, Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Deon Bush

The Chiefs like the top three players here in their three-safety looks. Bush, a key special teams player, provides some depth in case of injury. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub has said Bush will replace everything Armani Watts did on special teams for the Chiefs in 2021.

Specialists (3)

Placekicker (1): Harrison Butker

Punter (1): Tommy Townsend

Long snapper (1): James Winchester

There was never a question when it came to the Chiefs’ specialists. The backup kicker is in the safety room.

Under contract, not counted on active roster (2)

Reserve/Injured (lost for season) (1): WR Justyn Ross

Reserve/PUP (1): OL Lucas Niang

Removed from 80-man roster (25)

  • Waived: QB Dustin Crum, RB Tayon Fleet-Davis, WR Aaron Parker, LB Mike Rose, OL Vitaliy Gurman, S Devon Key, S Zayne Anderson, OL Mike Caliendo, WR Cornell Powell, LB Jack Cochrane, TE Jordan Franks, LB Azur Kamara, CB Dicaprio Bottle, DT Matt Dickerson, RB Jerrion Ealy, S Nazeeh Johnson, DE Kehinde Oginni
  • Waived/injured: TE Matt Bushman
  • Released: OL Roderick Johnson, WR Josh Gordon, DT Taylor Stallworth, DT Danny Shelton, WR Daurice Fountain, LB Elijah Lee, LB Jermaine Carter, Jr., WR Corey Coleman, OL Austin Reiter
  • Traded to another team: None
  • Placed on Reserve/Non-Football Injury: None
  • Placed on Reserve/Physically-unable-to-perform: OL Lucas Niang
  • Placed on Reserve/Injured (ending season): WR Justyn Ross
  • Claimed on waivers: None
  • Free agents signed: None
  • Acquired through trade: None

Practice Squad (up to 16)

The Chiefs will not be able to begin building most of their practice squad until 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Wednesday, which is the deadline for waived players to be claimed by other teams; most players who will fill the practice squad will have previously been waived from the Chiefs’ 80-man roster, so they must clear waivers first. But under the rules in place for the 2022 season, up to six of the 16 players each team can carry on its practice squad may have any amount of league experience. So it’s possible the Chiefs could sign some practice-squad players from the pool of veteran players just released by other teams — who will not have to go through waivers — before Wednesday’s deadline.

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