At the start of the NFL league year on Wednesday, friend-of-the-site Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest reported that the Kansas City Chiefs had tendered quarterback Shane Buechele and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho as exclusive rights free agents — while declining to place a restricted free agent tender on linebacker Darius Harris.
LB Darius Harris was the only Chiefs free agent with fewer than four accrued seasons who did not receive a qualifying tender offer. He can sign with any team, including KC.— Matt Derrick (@mattderrick) March 15, 2023
KC’s exclusive rights free agents all received tender offers: Fortson, Buechele and Prince Tega Wanogho.
QB Shane Buechele
The Chiefs signed Buechele — who split his college career between Texas and then SMU — as an undrafted free agent following the 2021 NFL Draft. He opened the 2021 season on Kansas City’s practice squad but was promoted to the active roster midway through the season.
The Chiefs reportedly signed him to the 53-man roster because the Arizona Cardinals were poised to poach him from the practice squad. Buechele spent the entire 2022 season on the Chiefs’ active roster, but he was a healthy scratch for each contest and the whole postseason.
Chad Henne, the primary backup quarterback to Patrick Mahomes for five seasons, retired immediately after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII. The only other quarterback on the roster is former South Dakota State product Chris Oladokun — a 2022 seventh-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers who spent last season on Kansas City’s practice squad.
While Kansas City has plenty of time to add a veteran backup for Mahomes, Buechele’s two seasons learning the offense likely make him the early favorite for the position in 2023.
OL Prince Tega Wanogho
Wanogho dressed for each of the Chiefs’ regular and postseason contests — with the bulk of his work coming when right tackle Andrew Wylie left Week 10’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars with an injury.
With Wylie now a member of the Washington Commanders — and the Chiefs apparently planning on transitioning new acquisition Jawaan Taylor to left tackle — Wanogho may compete to start at right tackle in 2023.
As exclusive rights free agents, the Chiefs will offer Buechele and Wanogho a league minimum salary — $940,000 for players with two accrued seasons. They are not permitted to speak with other teams and are essentially under Kansas City’s control for the 2023 season.
LB Darius Harris
Harris joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2019 — though he spent his first season on the non-football injury list due to a shoulder injury from college. The Middle Tennessee State product played in every game for the Chiefs in 2022 — totaling 291 defensive snaps and 178 more on special teams.
The Chiefs always appeared unlikely to tender Harris due to the $2.6 million cost for a restricted free-agency offer. It would not be surprising if the Chiefs bring him back at a number closer to $1.01 million — the league minimum for players with three accrued seasons.
With these moves, we estimate the Chiefs to have between $1.2 million and $3.2 million in salary cap space — most likely $2.2 million.