On Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell finished his ranking of the league’s top offseasons, adding the top 16 teams to the bottom 16 he published last week. In his view, the Washington Commanders, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have turned in the best offseasons.
Barnwell ranked the Kansas City Chiefs seventh on his list, pointing out that many NFL teams with a franchise quarterback like Patrick Mahomes would have been “terrified” by the idea of losing left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and right tackle Andrew Wylie in free agency — and would have “settled for what they had” on the offensive line.
Instead, the Chiefs dared to get better — and probably got there. They originally signed former Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor, presumably as part of a move from the right side to an unfamiliar spot at left tackle. That seemed curious to me, but when Donovan Smith’s market failed to develop, they brought in the longtime Bucs tackle on a short-term deal to play left tackle. Smith committed too many penalties a year ago and wasn’t really ever a great left tackle, but neither was Brown.
With those two sandwiching a strong interior three of Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, the Chiefs have one of the league’s best lines on paper. That’s all Mahomes needs.
This seems like a fair take. While the original plan appeared that Taylor would move to the left side, the team now plans to use Taylor on the right and Smith on the left; that’s where each has the most experience. It’s probably safe to characterize Taylor as an upgrade over Wylie on the right — and while there are questions about Smith on the left, Barnwell is correct: it’s not as if he’s replacing the league’s top left tackle.
Still, Barnwell thinks the Chiefs could have done some things better during this offseason. After losing veterans Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap in free agency, he believes the team may still be one pass rusher short.
General manager Brett Veach went out and grabbed replacements. Charles Omenihu, one of the many Kris Kocurek projects in San Francisco, came over on a two-year, $16 million deal. Veach used his first-round pick on Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Last year’s first-rounder on the edge, George Karlaftis, will hope to break out in his second season.
Chris Jones is still here, but as he enters the final year of his deal, how much more can the Chiefs hope to get from their star defensive tackle? He tied his career highs with 15.5 sacks and 29 knockdowns a year ago and played his first full season since 2018. There’s no questioning what he can do on the interior, but if he does miss meaningful time, can the rest of what this team has on the line make up the difference? I suspect we’ll see Veach dip back into the market for one more veteran here, although it might be an in-season move.
Kansas City may indeed need one additional pass rusher, but it’s more likely to be a rotational player; it’s reasonable to think that Anudike-Uzomah will be able to adequately replace Clark at EDGE, which leaves only the rotational snaps that Dunlap provided in 2022. Will fifth-round defensive end BJ Thompson be able to fill that role, or will Kansas City look for a veteran?
Barnwell seems concerned that Jones will be unable to play a full season in 2023. While it’s true that Jones has missed games in recent seasons, they still add up to just seven over three years. Of greater concern right now is whether the team will choose to extend the 28-year-old’s contract before Week 1.
But Barnwell is likely to be right about one thing: it’s entirely possible that should the Chiefs acquire a rotational pass rusher, it could easily be a player acquired after the season begins.
What’s left to do: Shop in the distressed corner market. Veach has a long-standing habit of going after cornerbacks with low-cost, low-risk deals, which has yielded mixed results from Bashaud Breeland, DeAndre Baker and Mike Hughes. The Chiefs are set with L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, and Jaylen Watson in the starting lineup, but the guys behind them are Day 3 picks with limited or no experience.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they go after a highly drafted cornerback who either hits the waiver wire or comes up as a bargain trade candidate at the end of camp. Former first-rounders without starting jobs such as Noah Igbinoghene or Caleb Farley stand out as possible reclamation projects.
It’s hard to agree with Barnwell’s final take. One place where the team has plenty of depth is at cornerback. In 2022, Kansas City was confident enough in its rookie cornerbacks to trade away veteran cornerback Rashad Fenton. All of last year’s cornerbacks have returned for the coming season — and while Joshua Williams is indeed a Day 3 draft pick, he gained plenty of experience last year.
Has Bill Barnwell ranked the Chiefs’ offseason correctly?
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His ranking is too high
His ranking is too low
His ranking is just right