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Chiefs free agency plus-10 progress report

10 days after the 2023 league year began, where does Kansas City stand?

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

When military leaders devise a battle plan, they typically have goals that are to be met before a specific amount of time has elapsed. These time stamps are given names like “H-Day plus-5” or “D-Day plus-10.”

NFL free agency began on Wednesday, March 15. So let’s see where commanding general Brett Veach’s 2023 battle plan for the Kansas City Chiefs’ stood on Saturday, March 25 — otherwise known as “F-Day plus-10.”

2022 players

The Chiefs went into the offseason with 23 potential free agents: three exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs), three restricted free agents (RFAs) and 17 unrestricted free agents (UFAs).

All three of the ERFAs — tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, tight end Jody Fortson and Shane Buechele — have been re-signed to one-year contracts for 2023.

Two of the three RFAs — punter Tommy Townsend and defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton — have been re-signed. Linebacker Darius Harris was not given an RFA contract tender. On March 15, he became the team’s 18th UFA.

Three of those — tight end Blake Bell, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and interior offensive lineman Nick Allegretti — have been re-signed.

Of the 15 remaining UFAs, eight have signed contracts with new teams.

This leaves seven UFAs who remain on the open market.

  • LB Darius Harris
  • RB Jerick McKinnon
  • WR Justin Watson
  • DE Carlos Dunlap
  • DT Brandon Williams
  • S Deon Bush
  • QB Chad Henne

Another free-agent player — wide receiver Marcus Kemp — was signed by the Washington Commanders, but ended 2022 on the practice squad.

New players

Kansas City has signed 21 new players to the roster. 13 of them were on the team’s practice squad in 2022.

  • TE Kendall Blanton
  • CB Dicaprio Bootle
  • TE Matt Bushman
  • G Mike Caliendo
  • LB Cole Christiansen
  • RB Jerrion Ealy
  • DT Phil Hoskins
  • QB Chris Oladokun
  • RB La’Mical Perine
  • WR Cornell Powell
  • C Austin Reiter
  • DT Danny Shelton
  • WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette

All of these former practice-squad players (except for Hoskins, who was signed as a free agent on Friday) were signed to Reserve/Future contracts after the Super Bowl. They moved onto the roster on March 15.

Three more players who were with other teams last season — wide receivers John Ross and Ty Fryfogle, along with defensive tackle Daniel Wise — were also signed to Reserve/Future deals and activated to the roster when the league year began.

Finally, the Chiefs have signed five UFAs who finished 2022 on another team’s active roster.

Where the roster now stands

Kansas City began the offseason with 33 of its 2022 players on the roster. One of those — defensive end Frank Clark — was released before the league year began. 12 former practice-squad players — and three between-season acquisitions — became active on March 15. Since then, eight of the team’s free agents (and another former practice-squad player) have been re-signed. Finally, five UFAs from other clubs have joined the team.

That’s how the Chiefs arrived at the current roster of 61 players. Including all known signings at this writing on Sunday morning, Kansas City has between $3.6 million and $5.5 million in cap space — probably very close to $4.9 million.

What’s next

Although the majority of significant, big-name free-agent signings are now behind us, teams across the league will continue to be active in free agency right up until the regular season begins. Even so, there will be quiet moves over the next few weeks (and months) that will end up making significant differences in the 2023 season.

For example: Running back Jerick McKinnon scored 10 of Kansas City’s 59 touchdowns last season but wasn’t signed until June 13. Although defensive end Carlos Dunlap didn’t sign with the Chiefs until July 28, he played half of 2022’s defensive snaps, collecting four sacks, eight passes defended and a forced fumble. Back in 2019, Kansas City didn’t trade for Frank Clark until April 23. The trade for Orlando Brown Jr. wasn’t made until April 23 of 2021.

And it’s distinctly possible that some of the quiet moves that have already been made will have a bigger impact than we now realize.

Wide receiver Justin Watson was an unknown Tampa Bay Buccaneers special-teams player when he was signed to a Reserve/Future contract less than a week after Kansas City lost the 2021 AFC Championship to the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2022, he played 43% of the team’s 2022 offensive snaps, earning 315 yards and two touchdowns — and he may yet be re-signed for 2023.

Andrew Wylie first joined the Kansas City practice squad in December of 2017. He’d already been with three teams, but had never played a single NFL snap. He started 10 games for the Chiefs in 2018 — the first of 59 he would start over five seasons in Kansas City. He just signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Commanders.

It’s fair to be concerned about roster holes that remain unfilled. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Chiefs haven’t yet finished building their 2023 roster — and it might be that they’re farther along than it’s possible for us to see.

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