7 Guys who I expect will get paid
1. Orlando Brown Jr.: As I’ve written elsewhere, seems to me there are 3 options
1.1. Option 1: Tag him for $20M and let him play
1.2. Option 2: Negotiate a long-term deal after tagging him using the tag number as a starting point unless…
1.3. Option 3: He is "not the guy you traded for" in which case shop him or let him go a la Marcus Peters. (It pains me to say this, but I understand the importance of culture. If a guy is toxic in the locker room and/or huddle, you’ve got to let him go.) It is likely a trade would give the Chiefs another massive haul of draft picks and set them up for second big influx of young, inexpensive talent in ’23 or ‘24. Letting him go in FA likely nets a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2024 so any trade talks should have that as their floor, right?
2. Juju Smith-Schuster: Probably going to have to let him walk if he gets offered "Christian Kirk money" elsewhere as I expect. Could perhaps keep him for $10M/year, especially if it’s incentive-laden.
3. Mecole Hardman: He’s not the Cheetah. He’s not DK Metcalf or Diontae Johnson or Terry McLaurin (all drafted after him). He’s still a crazy-fast young WR with playoff experience who made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. When Mahomes targeted him this season, magic happened. And he’s about to enter his prime. I think someone is going to offer him $10-15M/year, maybe more. I don’t think the Chiefs would match an offer like that with MVS, Toney, and Skyy already on the roster (assuming MVS isn’t cut as some are suggesting). If his most recent injury keeps other teams away, perhaps the Chiefs could bring him back on a Juju-type, high incentive deal.
4. Juan Thornhill: A young player with a lot of talent and playoff experience. He’s shown flashes but hasn’t put it together consistently in the form of a great season. Probably have to let him go elsewhere on a $8M+/year deal. Already have Brian Cook in the fold waiting to take his place.
5. Andrew Wylie: a starting RT playing for near-veteran minimum money. If the Chiefs want to keep him even for depth, they’re probably going to have to raise his salary. Would $3M/year be enough? $4M? OTC put his value this year at $7.9M. Unless Veach & Co. find an upgrade in the draft, free agency, or already on the roster - Niang, Kinnard, or Wanogho - how can they let him go?
6. Nick Allegretti: A late-round find by Veach & Co. with positional versatility and starter-level strength and skills from a championship-winning team. Hard to imagine someone doesn’t want him to help rebuild their interior O-line and their culture, particularly if they’re from the Andy Reid coaching tree or Brett Veach front office. If the Chiefs can keep him for $3M/year, great. My hunch is he goes elsewhere to start for $7-8M/year, and the Chiefs become eligible for a compensatory pick.
7. Carlos Dunlap: played at a high level getting his 100th career sack. His 8 batted passes tied for the league lead among defensive linemen this year. High character guy who has helped the young guys in the locker room. Would he be willing to stay in KC again for $3M? Is somebody out there who’s seen he can still play ready to offer him more? I wouldn’t be surprised. Then again if he gets a ring, maybe he retires?
9 Guys who could come back on relatively cheap deals
1. Derrick Nnadi: This year he played for $2.75M. I think that’s the ceiling for his next deal because…
2. Khalen Saunders has emerged. Between the two, I’d rather have the guy who’s younger and healthier. I don’t know if he’s caught anyone else’s eye, but I think the Chiefs would be happy to keep him around on a Nnadi-type deal, perhaps even longer term.
3. Ronald Jones: He’s getting $1.5M in 2022 mostly as an insurance policy and sometimes as a short-yardage or garbage-time back. He’s had a 1,000-yard season. Does he want to come back to KC and stand on the sideline? I like him as a player and I’d like him to stay, but I could see him looking for a place that will give him a chance to see the field more, don’t you think?
4. Brandon Williams: A quality player. I love that we have him. I’d love to keep him. Could a nice post-season run entice him to stay on a team-friendly deal?
5. Blake Bell knows how to block. He’s one of those guys you need situationally, especially on a team that will not run a sneak with its starting QB and struggles in short-yardage situations. Will he be healthy? If not him, who?
6. Michael Burton: Andy loves his FBs. He’s a triple threat: running, catching, and blocking. He’s always ready and willing to play special teams. On the downside, he had his first ever "and 1 stuff" this year. If not him, who?
7. Deon Bush: this guy can ball on special teams. Still, wouldn’t be surprised if he goes somewhere he can be on the field for more defensive snaps like Hamilton did this past year in AZ.
8. Jerick McKinnon has been everything the Chiefs could have asked for and more. OTC has him being almost 4x more valuable than his contract. He is a 30-year old RB, but it looks like there’s still plenty of tread. He gets the scheme. He gets Pat. He gets his assignment. He blocks better than any other RB we have. He catches well. Given his role, he finds the end zone better than anybody not named Austin Ekeler or Jamaal Williams. Same question as for Bell and Burton: If not him, who?
9. Justin Watson has made some big plays, has had some bad drops. He has plenty of speed and talent. If he were consistent, he’d be in line for a huge payday. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. He’s not there yet, but if he gets there, he’s Cooper Kupp lite.
2 Cut Candidates
1. Frank Clark: I get it. He hasn’t lived up to his mega-contract outside the playoffs. He’s had off-the-field issues. He’s struggled to stay healthy. He’s still better than a lot of other DE’s out there, and my hunch is he could come back on a restructured deal: $10M in salary + $18M in NLTBE bonuses. That would basically cost the Chiefs zero against the cap compared to cutting him and signing someone for the league minimum. That means it would save them money if they brought in a veteran or drafted a guy in the first 3 rounds. It might also incentivize him to stay on the straight and narrow, stay healthy, and contribute to another run.
2. MVS: I know he’s struggled with drops and may have struggled early to learn the offense. He’s still got a boatload of talent and speed. And he came through big time in the AFC Championship against Cincinnati. I don’t see this happening. Assuming Juju and Mecole sign elsewhere, the Chiefs will already be thin at WR unless both Ross’ take off and Skyy blossoms. Even then, MVS is a nice 4th WR who’s been in the system a year.
What do you think?