With all three preseason games in the books, it’s cutdown week. The Kansas City Chiefs must trim their roster from 90 to 53 players by Tuesday, August 29, at 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time.
I’m not sure this final projection is all that different from 3.0 sans a few notes. As always, it’s based on things I’ve seen, heard and hypothesized.
Let’s dive in:
Quarterbacks (3): Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert, Shane Buechele
To Buechele’s credit, he successfully made the backup quarterback position a battle. Following his 10-for-10 effort in the Chiefs’ second preseason game, head coach Andy Reid said Buechele was “close” to Gabbert. Because of that, he earned reps as the No. 2 rather than the No. 3 headed into the third and final preseason game.
Unfortunately for Buechele, he struggled to find his Game 2 form against the Arizona Cardinals in Game 3 against the Cleveland Browns — and I think Reid stays safe at the No. 2 role by leaning into Gabbert and his 12 years of experience.
As mentioned in previous projections, the league’s owners approved the “emergency quarterback rule,” allowing each club to put a third quarterback in should the first two quarterbacks be out of the game due to injury. The third quarterback must be on the 53-man roster, but he would not count on the active 47 (or 48)-man game-day roster.
After the game, Reid said he and general manager Brett Veach would still be “counting the numbers,” but he likes the rule. Buechele ends up sticking around as that emergency QB.
Running backs (4): Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, La’Mical Perine
IN: La’Mical Perine
OUT: Deneric Prince
It was quite the fall from grace for undrafted rookie Deneric Prince. In June, I called him a “good bet” to make the 53-man roster — but as the preseason went along, the opinion among the Chiefs’ decision-makers changed. Following the first preseason game, Prince was buried behind Perine and Jerrion Ealy — another roster hopeful.
I’d imagine Kansas City wants Prince to get a year of seasoning in terms of playbook retention, pass protection and vision. The good news is he will likely make it to the practice squad and we’ll see him in 2024.
Perine, a 2020 fourth-round draft pick, earned the role with his preseason tape when he led Chiefs rushers with 16 rushes for 97 yards (6.1 yards per attempt). He also caught four passes for 50 yards, including an impressive 20-yard touchdown.
Reid saying goodbye to the fullback is almost officially official.
Wide receivers (7): Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Richie James, Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross
In the weeks after a report suggested that the organization feels Toney will be ready for Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, Kansas City has been noticeably cautious when discussing his timetable. But when asked about Toney on Saturday, Reid described him as “day by day,” noting he could “possibly” return to practice this week.
Could that mean Toney will actually be good to go? Our Dakota Watson still has his doubts. If Toney were to make the roster and then be placed on short-term injured reserve (IR), who (not making the team on this projection) could be added?
I would look in the direction of a defensive tackle such as Danny Shelton or Daniel Wise. Or I’d consider a cornerback such as Dicaprio Bootle, Ekow Bowe-Doe or Kahlef Hailassie — maybe even a tight end such as Matt Bushman.
Another layer here is Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who led Chiefs receivers in the preseason with nine catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Do the Chiefs trade Smith-Marsette before the cut? Do they trade one of their receivers to make room for him?
For Veach, it’s the classic “good problem to have” at the back of this room.
Tight ends (2): Travis Kelce, Noah Gray
I continue to believe the Chiefs move on from Blake Bell for 24 hours, allowing the club some wiggle room to make procedural moves with Toney and/or offensive lineman Nick Allegretti.
As mentioned in previous projections, Kansas City could have a handshake deal to release Bell at the deadline just to sign him back the next day. At the roster deadline, only veterans with four or more accrued seasons are released rather than waived, which means none of the other 31 teams could claim Bell.
Bell will be with the Chiefs in 2023, whether this happens or he just makes the initial roster from the jump on Tuesday.
Offensive linemen (10): LT Donovan Smith, LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Jawaan Taylor, Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho, Wanya Morris, Darian Kinnard, Mike Caliendo
IN: Mike Caliendo
OUT: Lucas Niang
We have not seen Chiefs offensive lineman Nick Allegretti since injuring his shoulder in mid-August. I think he may get the 53-to-IR treatment I have been suggesting for Toney.
In this scenario, I’m trading Niang to another club for a conditional Day 3 pick in the NFL Draft. Wanogho is the swing tackle as the rookie, Morris, uses the year to develop under offensive line coach Andy Heck.
I noticed Mike Caliendo on the field with the starting field-goal unit against the Browns — and with Allegretti injured as the season begins, I believe he is the backup for the Chiefs’ interior offensive line.
Defensive tackles (4): Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Keondre Coburn, Turk Wharton
The Chiefs are in a strange place with Jones, who did not show up for any of the offseason workouts, training camp practices or preseason games. The NFL does have a Reserve/Did Not Report list — but at the time of this writing, the team has not used this with Jones.
Perhaps that changes. If does, that could open a spot for Danny Shelton, who lost weight coming into 2023 — and has been knocking on the door all preseason. With more than four accrued seasons (like Bell above), Shelton would be released rather than waived, so maybe Veach works some magic to add him to the roster in the days to follow.
Shelton made it clear that he does not want to watch football from the practice squad this season. If Kansas City has liked what it saw during this preseason, making Shelton available to other teams does come with a slight risk.
Defensive ends (5): George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Malik Herring, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, BJ Thompson
Based on my looks this preseason, the top four defensive ends in this room are safe. I considered the Chiefs keeping Joshua Kaindoh or Truman Jones after BJ Thompson’s quiet preseason, but cutting fifth-round selections comes with some danger.
Still, Kansas City felt comfortable doing it with wide receiver Cornell Powell a couple of years ago — and he is still in the organization. So maybe there is hope for Kaindoh or Jones here.
Linebackers (5): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Drue Tranquill, Leo Chenal, Jack Cochrane
This position group has not changed since our first projection. Let’s make it 4 for 4.
Cornerbacks (5): Trent McDuffie, L’Jarius Sneed, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, Nic Jones
Reid confirmed that rookie Nic Jones did not need surgery on his hand, which translates to Kansas City’s medical staff allowing it to calm down before an imminent return. I have already mentioned Bootle, Boye-Doe and Hailassie as possibilities — and I would not be surprised to see all three stick around on the practice squad.
Safeties (5): Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Chamarri Conner, Mike Edwards, Deon Bush
Once again, no change at the safety position for this projection. Bush had 317 special-teams snaps in 2022. It’s also worth noting that he fits under the Bell/Shelton category, where Veach could temporarily release him as he works the roster.
Placekicker Harrison Butker, punter Tommy Townsend and long-snapper James Winchester
Is Butker suddenly in trouble with Justin Reid kicking again!?
This is a joke — no.
Under contract, not counted on active roster (3)
Reserve/Injured (out for season): Jody Fortson, Nazeeh Johnson
Suspended list: Charles Omenihu (six games)
Position quantities at the 53-man cutdown since 2013
Here’s a look at position quantities throughout the years since Andy Reid took over the Chiefs:
Chiefs’ offensive roster by positions
Chiefs’ defensive roster by positions
*Eric Berry had a roster exemption at the 53-man roster cutdown in 2016 and was included in most cutdown listings.
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