Disclaimer: I love Willie Gay. I don’t want to see him traded. Pending the cap situation, I’d love to see him stay in KC long term. At the same time I think it’s most likely that he leaves as a free agent after this year (and another ring?).
Brett Veach is ALWAYS looking for ways to make the Chiefs better, not just this year, but for the next 5-10 years. He does like to cover all his bases with redundancy plans for when things go wrong. That said, last year the Chiefs only averaged 1.9 LBs/snap on defense. This year the Chiefs are have 4 starter-level LBs:
· Nick Bolton: #2 in NFL in tackles last year with 180. He is untouchable with 2 years left on his rookie deal.
· Leo Chenal: draft pick last year. 9.99/10 RAS score. #1 PFF college pass-rushing grade for all LBs in his draft class. Chenal still has 3 years on his rookie deal, and stepped up late last year.
· Drue Tranquill: starter for LAC last year with 146 tackles (#12 in NFL), 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Tranquill is a joker, capable of playing any role on the 2nd level of the defense.
· Willie Gay: #2 LB on Chiefs last year with 88 tackles and a 68.1 PFF grade.
That's all without mentioning UDFA's Jack Cochrane, Cam Jones, and Isaih Moore who could all end up as depth/special teams players. That leaves Willie (who I love) as the odd man out. Only 1 year left on his deal and can’t play with the green dot.
Trade Partner Criteria
Who could be a good trade partner? Well, let’s say they need to be:
1. Playoff contenders
2. With bad LB situations
3. Preferably in the NFC
4. Who can offer at least a 3rd round pick equivalent in compensation because Willie could be worth a 4th or 5th round compensatory pick if the Chiefs keep him all year and then let him walk in free agency.
Where could Willie go?
1.1. Playoff contender? GB was a week 18 loss to the Lions away from making the playoffs last year. They’ve switched from all-time great Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love at QB. They act like this is a step up. What if Jordan Love is the real deal and GB comes out hot? They should be in contention this year for the NFC North crown, but to deal with SF and PHI, they need to upgrade their…
1.2. Bad LB situation. Quay Walker had a PFF grade of 51.9 his rookie season. It’s possible he’ll make a jump in his sophomore campaign, but what if he doesn’t? On top of that, they’ll be facing Bijan Robinson, Alvin Kamara, Jahmyr Gibbs, Josh Jacobs, Javonte Williams, Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Austin Ekeler, and Saquon Barkley. They’ll also be facing TEs Kyle Pitts, Travis Kelce, and Darren Waller. Yikes.
1.3. NFC North
1.4. What could they offer the Chiefs besides a 3rd rounder?
1.4.1. DT Kenny Clark: This would probably require the Chiefs to give up some draft capital or an additional player. Still, that’d be quite the running mate for Chris Jones, wouldn’t it?
1.4.2. DE Preston Smith: If they’re ready to move on to Lukas Van Ness, this could give them help at LB without much of a downgrade at edge rusher.
2.1. Playoff contender? Yes. They were a Wild Card last year after Geno had a Comeback Player of the Year performance, and they knocked the draft out of the park. Metcalf and Lockett are studs. Now they’ve added Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Devon Witherspoon. Their one weakness?
2.2. Bad LBs. Jordyn Brooks (52.8 PFF grade) and Devin Bush both looked mediocre last year. Bobby Wagner is a stud, AND he’s 32 years old. They face Gibbs, Saquon, Mixon, James Conner, Nick Chubb, JK Dobbins, CMC, Tony Pollard, Derrick Henry, and Najee. They also face Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson. And they face Kittle twice at TE.
2.3. NFC West
2.4. What could they offer the Chiefs besides a 3rd rounder?
2.4.1. WR DK Metcalf: This would require the Chiefs to give up some draft capital of their own, but it’d give them a crazy good, young WR.
2.4.2. CB Tariq Woolen: I don’t think the Seahawks would offer this, but it would give the Chiefs an outstanding trio of young CBs this year. It’s another situation where they’d probably have to give extra because Woolen has 3 more years on his rookie deal. Still, it might be worth it. Veach loves collecting DBs.
3.1. Playoff contender? Yes, even in a tough division where the other 3 teams all made the playoffs last year they finished 8-9. Sam Howell might be the real deal, and has a very low bar to clear to be better than what went on for them at QB last year. If he can be worth 3 points/game, they will easily have a winning record. In the NFC, that makes the playoffs. But they should be concerned about their…
3.2. Bad LB situation: Projected starter Cody Barton had a 56.6 PFF grade last year. Jamin Davis 62.9. Willie Gay would come in as their #1 LB. They play Philly, Dallas, and NYG twice each. They also play Josh Allen and the Bills along with the 49ers. They could use more solid LB play.
3.3. NFC East
3.4. What could they offer the Chiefs besides a 3rd rounder?
3.4.1. DE Chase Young: They turned down his 5th year option. Business decision. Maybe another business decision would be to trade one of their many D-linemen for a stud LB.
3.4.2. S Jartavius Martin: WAS just drafted Martin in the 2nd round, but he’s not even expected to start this year. He is very athletic, but if they want more athleticism on the field this year, they could trade for Willie and put him out there nearly 100% of the snaps.
3.4.3. WR Terry McLaurin: I don’t think WAS would part with Scary Terry after extending him last year, but if the Chiefs sweeten the deal with a pick or a 2nd player, that could do the trick.
4.1. Playoff contender? With a healthy TJ Watt, the Steelers were 8-2 last year. They finished the season 9-8, just shy of the playoffs. Another year of seasoning from Kenny Pickett, a new OC, and some upgrades on the O-line all point to a better record this year. That means playoffs, and maybe more if they fix their...
4.2. Bad LB situation. Elandon Roberts had a 55 PFF grade last year. Not great. Willie would be a nice addition. And with the stud RBs and TEs plus Lamar Jackson in their division, they could use an uber-athletic LB like Willie.
4.3. They’re in the AFC, but in the North with CIN. I’d rather face Pickett than Burrow. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
4.4. What could they offer the Chiefs besides a 3rd rounder?
4.4.1. WR Diontae Johnson: His extension last year is similar to McLaurin’s. He has had some injuries in recent years, but when he’s on the field, he’s a true X. He has had some issues with drops. Still, he’s a solid upgrade for KC.
4.4.2. WR George Pickens: A starting WR on a rookie contract is gold. I don’t think the Steelers would want to lose him, but they’re so good at developing young receivers, maybe they have pass-catchers to spare. The Chiefs would probably have to send a day 3 pick to even things out.
5.1. Playoff contender? The Giants surprised a lot of people with the quick turnaround brought about by their new coaching staff. They not only made the playoffs, but beat the Vikings before getting rolled by the Eagles. The Eagles will take a step back with all they lost in free agency. Dallas is treading water. If the Giants pass-catchers can stay healthy, this could be another step up except that they have a…
5.2. Bad LB situation. Projected starter Jarrad Davis had a 57.5 PFF grade last year. They’re in a division filled with athletic QBs, stud RBs and high-quality TEs. They could use an upgrade if they want to take the next step in the…
5.3. NFC East
5.4. What could they offer the Chiefs? Draft Capital: The Giants have all 7 of their picks. I don’t see a single player that they could realistically trade for Willie. They’re either cornerstones for them or they don’t move the needle for KC.
6.1. Playoff contender? The Falcons were a game away from winning the NFC South last year at 7-10. Arthur Smith is an amazing coach. Desmond Ridder is an ascending QB. Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson are all high-end young skill-position players. They’ve got beasts all along their O-line. If even half the new additions on defense pan out, they could be a surprise division winner, especially if they improve upon their…
6.2. Bad LB situation: I don’t think Mykal Walker is bad, but PFF gave him a 58.7 last year. He’s a plus athlete, but not on the level of Willie Gay. This year they face Aaron Jones, Jahmyr Gibbs, Travis Etienne, Dameon Pierce, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, James Conner, Alvin Kamara (twice if he’s not in jail), and Jonathan Taylor. That’s a lot of top-notch RBs.
6.3. NFC South.
6.4. What could they offer the Chiefs? Draft capital: As a team struggling to get over .500, I don’t think there’s much the Falcons would offer the Chiefs in terms of players this year, but they have an extra 3rd and an extra 6th next year.
Will anyone offer a 3rd round pick for a one-year rental? Maybe not… unless they are convinced it’s the one missing piece to a playoff run. From that perspective Seattle and Pittsburgh might be the best fits followed by NY. Washington’s new ownership group may want to make a push this year to get things rolling with their fanbase. Atlanta and Green Bay could both surprise with young QBs in relatively weak divisions. If they need a boost to get into the postseason, a young, fiery, athletic LB with playoff experience could be just what the doctor ordered. Will Veach trade Willie Gay? I doubt it, but it’s an interesting theory, don’t you think? Is there anything you’d highlight, add to, or tweak about what I said above? I’d love to hear from you. I love thinking about and talking about the Chiefs.
All the PFF grades and starter projections are taken from their early roster rankings.