National ESPN insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano recently “emptied their notebooks” from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and the article included several nuggets pertaining to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will have a difficult time keeping several free agents. They are bracing to lose receiver Mecole Hardman, who should have a sneaky-good market despite playing just eight games last season. Some teams believe he will hit a pretty good number on a per-year average. Safety Juan Thornhill should also do very well. Some teams are looking at him as the No. 2 safety, a viable option for those who can’t afford Jessie Bates III.
The expectation is the Chiefs will franchise-tag offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and attempt to re-sign receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but that will cost them. Some teams have running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire on their radar as a potential trade option, though I don’t believe Kansas City is actively shopping him. It could be more of a “we will listen” situation.
WR Mecole Hardman and S Juan Thornhill
As general manager Brett Veach has noted, building a championship roster comes with its challenges given the league’s salary cap. Sometimes, difficult decisions have to be made, and it sounds like there will be a question as to whether the Chiefs are able to retain the services of wide receiver Mecole Hardman and safety Juan Thornhill.
Kansas City drafted two players — wide receiver Skyy Moore and safety Bryan Cook — in the second round of last year’s NFL Draft. That could indicate the club is ready to lean into the now-second-year players rather than paying a premium for Hardman and Thornhill.
LT Orlando Brown Jr. and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
It hasn’t happened at the time of this writing, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Veach will opt to franchise-tag Orlando Brown Jr., and we will have to see if the two sides can come to an acceptable agreement this time around. Brown ultimately played on the tag last year after Veach and Brown’s team could not get a long-term contract done. The Chiefs have maintained they like wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as a compliment to tight end Travis Kelce. Despite his six years of NFL experience, the receiver is still only 26, which is in the age range of players Kansas City has agreed to deal with in the past (more on Smith-Schuster here).
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
For a while, it has seemed that running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire could be due for a change of scenery entering the final year of his rookie contract, especially considering the emergence of seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco. At this point, discussing whether Kansas City should have used a first-round pick on Edwards-Helaire is meaningless. Perhaps the Chiefs can turn the player into a conditional day-three pick from a team looking to bolster the depth of its running back room. And hopefully, Edwards-Helaire can thrive with a new group.