Key addition: DE Charles Omenihu
I was very ready to count the Chiefs out last offseason following the Tyreek Hill trade. Well, that was silly. Point is, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes deserve to be No. 1 on this list as the reigning Super Bowl champions, even if Kansas City hasn’t dominated in free agency.
General manager Brett Veach made an aggressive move to sign former Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor in free agency, and reports indicate he’s going to be moved over to the left side. Orlando Brown Jr. clearly took offense to this, and signed with the rival Bengals. How Taylor fares on the opposite side will be something to watch in 2023.
Kansas City also lost wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, offensive tackle Andrew Wylie and safety Juan Thornhill, but did pick up former 49ers pass rusher Charles Omenihu, Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards. Mecole Hardman is still searching for a new deal, but I’m interested to see what Kansas City does at receiver moving forward.
Kansas City Chiefs
Will McDonald IV
Iowa State · Edge · Senior (RS)
McDonald is an elite bender coming off the edge. The Chiefs moved on from Frank Clark this offseason and need to add more firepower to their pass rush.
And it’s the chance to play for Bill Belichick that was a driving force in Smith-Schuster signing with the New England Patriots this offseason.
“To be honest, it was Belichick, man,” Smith-Schuster told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand on Tuesday, via NBC Sports.com, on why he chose to become a Patriot. “Just the want and the need. And, you know, the position that I can fill there really caught my attention. And I felt that like that feeling wanted in a place. He’s a head coach I have a lot of respect for. And I just think that that goes a long way.”
3. Tranquill can do a little bit of everything, and he’s particularly impressive in coverage.
The 27-year-old Tranquill is a jack-of-all-trades at the linebacker position who possesses a varied skillset that will benefit the Chiefs in a number of ways. He can be an effective pass-rusher, as evidenced by his five sacks and seven hurries on 70 pass-rush snaps in 2022, but his coverage ability is also impressive.
In fact, Pro Football Focus assigned Tranquill the seventh-best coverage grade among all linebackers with 900+ total snaps last season. For further context, that grade would have led all Chiefs linebackers (regardless of snaps played). Here’s more from the folks at PFF:
“Perhaps most importantly in today’s NFL, Tranquill followed up his 74.6 coverage grade in 2021 with a career-high 75.4 mark, with his 18 stops in coverage a top-20 figure among off-ball linebackers. He also made the absolute most of the occasional blitz, tallying 15 pressures, five sacks and three more quarterback hits on 70 pass-rush snaps.”
It’s worth noting that Tranquill was a safety early in his college career, so he’s a natural fit as a hybrid, coverage linebacker.
Mazi Smith DL
MICHIGAN • SR • 6’3” / 323 LBS
At some point, they have to get a power player inside to help the run defense. Mazi Smith is that type of player and would really upgrade what they have inside. They also could go for a tackle here to upgrade the line.
But Brown didn’t find the deal he was looking for, and his price dropped—substantially. A big part of free agency, for teams and players alike, is having a plan B, C, and D. Teams go into the offseason with goals of what they want to accomplish. But the market can be unpredictable, and teams that are able to adjust can find an edge. In Brown’s case, according to The Athletic, it was actually his agent who approached the Bengals about a potential deal. The two sides agreed to terms on a four-year, $64.09 million deal ($16.02 million per year) with $31 million fully guaranteed. That makes Brown the NFL’s 10th-highest-paid left tackle. The deal looks even better for the Bengals after Laremy Tunsil reset the market on Monday with an extension from the Texans that will pay him $25 million per year.
Around the NFL
Trading Hopkins and cashing in on his trade value would be a sensible decision.
On March 12, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported the Cardinals “want hefty compensation,” which translated to “a premium Day 2 pick and more.”
The MMQB’s Albert Breer examined the situation in January and posited Arizona’s return realistically might be a Day 2 pick. Breer also listed all of the factors that combine to hurt the team’s leverage.
Hopkins has the biggest cap hit among receivers, which is undoubtedly a consideration for any team interested in his services. He’ll turn 31 in June as well, and a decline can come rather rapidly for even elite pass-catchers.
According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, things are escalating for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Per multiple sources, a representative for Jackson has contacted more than one team in an effort to spark negotiations aimed at a possible offer sheet,” Florio wrote. “The representative is not certified by the NFL Players Association.”
The NFL had issue with this last season when then-Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith was allegedly being represented by Saint Omni, who was “allegedly contacting teams.” The NFL specifically instructed teams to not negotiate with non-certified representatives in a memo back in August 2022.
“Mr. Omni is prohibited from negotiating player contracts or discussing potential trades on behalf of any NFL player or prospective player or assisting in or advising with respect to such negotiations,” the memo explained. “...Clubs are reminded that, under Article 48 of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, Player Contracts may only be negotiated with the player, if he is acting on his own behalf, or with the player’s NFLPA certified agent.
Newton, 33, threw in front of scouts at a pro day event Tuesday at Auburn, where he won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the 2010 season.
The 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player was invited to throw at Auburn by his younger brother, Caylin — a former quarterback at Howard who finished his collegiate career as a wide receiver at Auburn and William & Mary.
“This was him showing love to me,” Caylin Newton said of his older brother. “He doesn’t owe anybody anything. He has had an amazing journey, an amazing career in the NFL. He has nothing to prove to anybody. ... He came to show his ability, show he still has it.
“I think, for him, this was a selfless act. But it was also to show and prove to everybody he’s not sitting around. He’s still got it. Whatever organization wants to get a winning quarterback, his number’s still open and available.”
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Former Chiefs Juan Thornhill, Andrew Wylie, Khalen Saunders, and JuJu Smith-Schuster: We should appreciate the contributions of these guys, who all had significant roles in bringing championships back to Kansas City. Each would have been welcomed back with open arms but found paydays elsewhere instead. Wylie got a three-year, $24 million deal with Eric Bienemy and Washington. Thornhill landed a three-year deal with the Browns for $21 million. Saunders signed a three-year contract worth up to $14.5 million, and Smith-Schuster finally got his multi-year deal with the Patriots — even if it seems less lucrative than we thought. We had a feeling many of the unrestricted free agents would leave for more money, and for the most part, they did. Congratulations to each of these guys for getting their respective bags.
A tweet to make you think
active NFL playoff streaks (seasons)— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 20, 2023
2: Eagles, Bengals, 49ers, Cowboys