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Chiefs’ undrafted free agents set to push last season’s reserves

Frequent game-day inactives from 2022 may have their work cut out to stay in Kansas City.

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Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs followed their seven selections in last month’s NFL Draft by aggressively signing a seemingly strong group of undrafted free agents.

In the week between the draft and last weekend’s rookie minicamp in Kansas City, guaranteed salary for some of the undrafted signings leaked. The Chiefs guaranteed more than $200,000 to at least two players. Let’s take a look at where the Chiefs spent money after the draft — and how these players can push the bottom of Kansas City’s 2022 roster.

Pass rusher

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs put returning defensive ends Joshua Kaindoh and Malik Herring on notice by selecting BJ Thomson of Stephen F. Austin in the fifth round of the draft. Though both were on the roster all of 2022, neither appears to have made a case to stay in Kansas City.

Kaindoh — a former fourth-round selection with only three career game appearances — last saw game-action came on October 3, 2021, when he left a Week 4 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles with an ankle injury.

Herring appeared in seven games for the Chiefs last season after spending 2021 recovering from a torn ACL. His usage coincided with an injury to third-year player Mike Danna — and Herring was scratched for every game after Week 9.

After selecting Thompson, the Chiefs put even further pressure on returning players by signing Harvard’s Truman Jones after the draft.

After reportedly hosting Jones on a top-30 visit, the Chiefs appear to have signed him to the most lucrative undrafted free-agent contract in team history. While the Ivy League to the NFL is a major jump, expect Jones to push Kaindoh, Herring, and possibly even Thompson in training camp and the preseason.


Los Angeles Rams v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

For only the second time leading the team, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach did not use a Day 2 draft selection on a linebacker. Within hours of the seventh round’s conclusion, however, Indiana’s Cam Jones and Isaiah Moore of North Carolina State had joined the Chiefs. Dane Brugler of The Athletic listed both among his top 300 prospects.

Jones also received a sizeable salary guarantee.

Four linebackers — Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Leo Chenal, and Drue Tranquill — appear to be roster locks. Jones and Moore should compete with Jack Cochrane — an undrafted signing a year ago — to be the team’s fifth (and likely final) linebacker.

Cochrane was cut at the end of camp last season and joined the practice squad. He was promoted in Week 3 — as Gay began a four-week suspension. Cochrane appeared on special teams in 15 games and the entire postseason — with no defensive snaps recorded.

Without substantial defensive improvement in his second camp in St. Joseph, Cochrane could lose his special teams role to one of the newcomers.

Defensive back

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs continue to find ways to make the secondary more competitive. After using Day 3 selections on Virginia Tech safety Chamarri Conner and Ball State cornerback Nic Jones, the Chiefs added seven undrafted defensive backs — though two have since been waived.

New cornerbacks include Western Kentucky’s Kahlef Hailassie — whom the team hosted on a top-30 visit. In addition, the Chiefs guaranteed a modest salary to Purdue’s Reese Taylor.

Pressure is on Nazeeh Johnson — a 2022 seventh-rounder — to step up in his second campaign. Johnson did not initially make the team in 2022 — but carved out a special teams role after being promoted at the end of September.

Using the 250th selection to take Jones — the star of rookie minicamp — hardly shields him from fighting to stay on the roster. The Chiefs likely had agreed with most undrafted free agents before their final pick. Jones’ draft status may simply imply the Chiefs wanted him in camp and were not confident of reaching an undrafted contract with him.

Taylor’s experience as both a punt and kickoff returner could add a new wrinkle to the battle for the last couple of defensive back slots.

Offensive line

NFL: Scouting Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Among an unbelievably successful draft class, 2022 Chiefs fifth-round selection Darian Kinnard underwhelmed as a rookie. Though instantly hyped as a contender to start at right tackle, Kinnard was frequently lined up with the deep reserves at training camp.

Kinnard only dressed for three games as a rookie — seeing a mere six special teams snaps. Veach recently conceded the Kentucky product might be better suited for guard, though that position may not be any less competitive.

The Chiefs added former Tennessee guard Jerome Carvin after the draft. The former college teammate of Chiefs starter Trey Smith and third-round selection Wanya Morris brings experience playing both guard positions — as well as center.

Kinnard’s athletic pedigree, which made him a two-time All-SEC selection, should give him an edge over the newcomer. That said, do not be surprised if Carvin’s versatility allows him to push for the roster.

Other notables

The Chiefs reportedly guaranteed $231,000 to Tulsa running back Deneric Prince. Knowing how the competition for backfield snaps will look without more clarity about starter Isiah Pacheco’s injuries is difficult.

Wide receiver Nikko Remigio brings ample experience returning both kickoffs and punts, giving Kansas City another option to round out its offensive weapons.

The bottom line

Eye-dropping financial guarantees often make priority undrafted free agents appear destined for the final roster.

Evan Brennan, an NFLPA-licensed agent with UA Sports, recently explained why large base salary guarantees are not necessarily as significant as perceived. The amount is usually offset by any salary the players earn in the league — be it on a 53-man roster or a practice squad.

These players are highly likely to at least be on someone’s practice squad, minimizing financial risk in cutting them.

Aggressively pursuing top undrafted talent is an investment in a competitive training camp. The Chiefs appear to have targeted high-floor options to push the bottom of last season’s roster to show growth — or risk losing their place on the team.

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