Year to year, NFL roster turnover is common. It is happening in Kansas City, as we've seen several familiar faces depart from the Super Bowl champions in free agency.
Some of those former Chiefs have already been replaced already by Kansas City's own free-agent signings, but a few staple roles are available on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football.
No, it's not nearly as dire of a roster-building situation as the biggest pessimist might suggest on his or her Twitter account or at the water cooler of your workplace. But the Chiefs' roster isn't ready to go on another 20-plus week Super Bowl run in its current state, either.
Let's examine some of the critical areas of need that remain:
Wide receiver depth
Emphasis is placed on the word, depth, here, because the situation at receiver isn't as bad as many might believe. This month, reports out of Kansas City have suggested that the coaching staff really believes in Kadarius Toney's ability to become a top receiver in the offense. They value Marquez Valdes-Scantling's role as a field-stretching speed merchant. It also seems they like Skyy Moore — a player they invested a second-round pick in just last spring.
The injury history thus far with Toney means they absolutely must bring in at least one more receiver who is a capable starter; what it doesn't mean is that they must bring in a proven No. 1 wideout. Quite frankly, it would be a conflict of interest for general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid. It might hold back the development of Toney and Moore dramatically if they are supplanted by a clear-cut primary target, such as Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
What's most likely to happen now is we see Veach either draft another young playmaker in the first three rounds of the draft to come in and be third or fourth on the depth chart initially or, after the draft, he could elect to sign a veteran who is capable insurance for possible injury to Toney, Moore or Valdes-Scantling.
If they do go the route of trading for Hopkins, it will be very fascinating to see how it impacts the snap counts of the receivers on the roster already.
If Toney and Moore get large roles next year and either approach or eclipse 1,000 receiving yards, why the Chiefs have slow-played this broad receiver market so far will make much more sense. It's a risk — but one worth taking if they genuinely feel they have cheap, young legitimate starters at the position already.
No one knew former Chief Tyreek Hill would be a true No. 1 receiver before 2017, either, but the Chiefs believed in him, and it paid off tremendously. Patience is required to see how this one plays out next year.
Running back No. 2
For the past 12 to 18 months, the soon-to-be 31-year-old Jerick McKinnon has excelled as the Chiefs' primary running back in the passing game. He makes some of his greatest plays as a receiver within screen plays, especially, and is the best pass-blocking back the Chiefs have had for two seasons now.
Depending on how his free agent market is playing out, he may return to the Chiefs. He might be waiting until the draft is over to identify where he is needed most. Kansas City could also want to see if they acquire another rookie running back before committing any specific dollar amount to McKinnon.
Nine 2022 receiving touchdowns by McKinnon is a lot of production to replace. Running back Isiah Pacheco is expected to see an uptick in his own role in 2023, but McKinnon's return could be something to watch in the coming months.
While the Chiefs did sign a capable, versatile starter in defensive end Charles Omenihu to ease the departure of former Chief Frank Clark, they still have snaps available to be had along the defensive line.
Defensive ends George Karlaftis and Mike Danna will eat a large chunk of snaps, but Kansas City is mostly loaded right now with players who can rush the passer best from the interior of the line. Whether it be a draft pick in the first two rounds or signing an older veteran post-draft like the Chiefs did with Carlos Dunlap last year, they could use another dynamic rotational player to go up against opposing offensive tackles. Versatility is currently a strength of the defensive line. It would be nice to see some added speed vacated by Clark's departure.
While it's true that the Chiefs re-signed defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi to another one-year contract, that alone isn't enough big, run-stuffing bodies along the interior. Khalen Saunders is now a member of the New Orleans Saints, and veteran tackle Brandon Williams remains a free agent.
The defense needs at least one more reliable, big player they can rotate with Nnadi to help combat the top-flight rushing offenses they'll face in 2023. You never want to be the team that can't stop the run whatsoever — it's a sure recipe to get bounced from the playoffs against physical, sound offenses.
With a pretty strong defensive tackle group in the upcoming draft, expect the Chiefs to try to find a long-term solution that eventually replaces what Nnadi has brought to the defense for the past five seasons.
The bottom line
At this stage of the offseason, front offices like the Chiefs have shifted their focus to filling open slots through the draft with cheap, young solutions. This year, the Chiefs are set to have 10 draft picks in Kansas City. A trade-up or two to select priority players is expected, but regardless, the means are there to do much of the heavy lifting this roster needs during the draft period.
Beyond that, any leftover roles or newfound needs due to unsuspected injuries will be addressed via free agency or trade later in the summer.
No matter what additions Veach makes between now and training camp, one fact will stay the same — the reigning Super Bowl champions will remain the odds-on favorite to win it all again next year, too.