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3 potential trade targets for the Chiefs

Who are some players the Chiefs may add before the trade deadline?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few years, the NFL has become increasingly active around the trade deadline. The Kansas City Chiefs have been among the teams that have been fairly active, trading for wide receiver Kadarius Toney in 2022 and defensive end Melvin Ingram in 2021.

For acquiring teams, in-season trades can be a little tricky. For the Chiefs, the first issue is cap space. We currently estimate that the team has $5.3 million with which to work — while other sources give an even lower figure. Another issue is the unknown value of future draft picks — where a team will pick in 2024 (or in the years after that) can only be guessed. Then there is the possibility that teams would be willing to absorb some of a player’s salary to get better draft picks — similar to 2021’s Von Miller trade.

Team needs

Despite having only limited draft capital (and the salary-cap restraints that come from having a top-of-the-market quarterback contract), Kansas City general manager Brett Veach has done an excellent job of assembling a nearly complete roster. While the team has had many needs over the past few years, the roster now has very few holes.

It could be argued that one of them is wide receiver. While there is depth — and some reasons for optimism — it feels like the team does not possess an elite wideout. Without one, the offense feels like it is entirely dependent on superstar tight end Travis Kelce.

There isn’t exactly a hole at running back, but the team is more or less relying on Isiah Pacheco to remain healthy all year. While Jerick McKinnon has been excellent in his limited role, he does not need to be overexposed — and this season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has not clearly demonstrated he is up to be a starting back.

Who are some players Kansas City might consider?

1. Philadelphia Eagles running back Rashaad Penny

An elusive runner with breakaway speed, this former first-round pick has — at times — been one of the best backs in football. Like Pacheco, he’s not much of a pass-catcher — so adding him would create a perfect thunder-and-lightning duo while still keeping McKinnon’s role intact. So far, Penny has had just nine carries in Philadelphia. With D’Andre Swift, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell on the Eagles’ roster, Penny has been a healthy scratch several times.

Now earning an NFL minimum salary of $1.08 million, the Chiefs could afford Penny’s salary — and probably would not carry a high price in draft compensation. The biggest concern would be keeping him healthy; he was available for just 18 games during his last three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

2. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen

Things haven’t gone well for the Panthers’ new coach and quarterback. While the 33-year-old Thielen is a veteran who is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he’s been pretty impressive in an offense that struggles to leave an impression. With 509 yards and four touchdowns so far this season, he would be the Chiefs’ top pass-catcher in both categories. Adding him to the current receiver rotation would certainly raise the group's floor.

Thielen is also playing for an NFL-minimum salary of $1.17 million (plus a $28,000 per-game roster bonus) in 2023, so he would also fit under the Chiefs’ cap this season. His contract would keep him in Kansas City for 2024 (at $5.5 million, with $4.5 million guaranteed and a $2 million roster bonus due in March) and 2025 ($4 million, with a $1.5 million roster bonus in March). The Panthers, however, would still have to carry his $8.3 million signing bonus against their cap; they’d probably want substantial draft compensation.

3. New York Jets wide receiver Mecole Hardman

With only three targets (and one catch) for the Jets over five games (he was inactive for Week 5 against the Denver Broncos), Hardman is an obvious choice. He has a clear history with the Chiefs. Without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Jets are struggling to stay competitive. Hardman clearly doesn't fit what the Jets are looking for — and he might be on the way out.

While Hardman might not be the bright star Chiefs fans might be hoping to acquire, there is an argument to be made that he could raise the floor of the group. He is playing on a one-year, NFL-minimum deal at $1.08 million (plus a $25,000 per-game roster bonus) and some incentives he’s not likely to reach. He would only leave the Jets with about $3 million to cover against their cap, so his deal could be quite doable.

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