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Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster for 2023 revealed after cuts

Instant analysis of Kansas City’s initial 53-man roster.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers

The Kansas City Chiefs have made their cuts to get the team's active roster down to 53 players before the NFL's deadline.

It's likely that this will not be the exact roster that will begin the season against the Detroit Lions a week from Thursday. Some players will likely be removed during the coming days to make room for other Chiefs players who were previously removed — or players from other teams who are now available. This is just the starting point for 2023.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (2): Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert

If you read my 53-man roster projections, you'll know I maintained that I thought it would be wise for the Chiefs to keep three quarterbacks on the roster considering 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 caveat is that the third quarterback would have to be on the 53-man roster. Asked about it after the Chiefs final preseason game, head coach Andy Reid noted that he and general manager Brett Veach would still need to "count the numbers," indicating that they wouldn't necessarily keep a third quarterback just because of the rule. After counting those numbers, Reid and Veach decided to prioritize keeping veterans at positions other than the emergency QB.

Running backs (3): Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon

With the Chiefs keeping seven wide receivers and 10 offensive linemen — which we will get to in a minute — Veach had to borrow spots from other position groups. The running back and tight end rooms kept three players apiece. In the running back room, young up-and-comers Deneric Prince and La'Mical Perine were waived — as was Jerrion Ealy, who signed on with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft. I think all three have a shot at the practice squad. Kansas City keeping Edwards-Helaire — a popular hypothetical trade candidate — speaks volumes. Especially earlier in the season — when the Chiefs budget snaps for McKinnon — expect Edwards-Helaire to garner touches as the change-of-pace back.

Fullbacks (0)

The end of an era is now official.

Wide receivers (7): Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Justin Watson, Richie James, Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross

In my preseason projection, I assumed that Ross would be on the outside looking in simply because the Chiefs had never kept seven wide receivers at the deadline since Reid took the helm in 2013. But Ross' talent won out — and history was made on Tuesday afternoon. We now wait for an update on the health of Toney, who hasn't been seen at practice since the opening minutes of training camp. Reports continue to say that Kansas City remains optimistic about Toney's Week 1 status.

Tight ends (3): Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

It was always an uphill battle for Matt Bushman, whom I would guess remains with the Chiefs on the practice squad should he make it through waiver claims.

Offensive linemen (10): LT Donovan Smith, LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Jawaan Taylor, Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho, Lucas Niang, Mike Caliendo, Wanya Morris

I found the offensive line position to be awfully crowded when I sat down to do my final projection — and Kansas City agreed, as seen in the waiver of a fifth-round draft pick from a year ago: Darian Kinnard. The Chiefs initially thought Kinnard could play tackle before transitioning him to guard during this training camp. I believe there is a good chance Kinnard makes it through waivers and jumps on the “Cornell Powell Developmental Path” on the practice squad. Allegretti’s status is a point to watch; the team keeping Caliendo makes me wonder about the status of Allegretti, who has been out of the mix due to a shoulder injury. Caliendo projects to be the next man up at both guard positions and center if Allegretti is still injured in a week's time. It’s likely that with the disastrous end to 2020 in mind, Kansas City decided to keep two talented tackles: Wanogho and Niang. Morris is not ready and will likely use 2023 as a developmental year on the active roster.

Defense (25)

Defensive tackles (5): Derrick Nnadi, Turk Wharton, Keondre Coburn, Matt Dickerson, Neil Farrell

The Chiefs finally waved the white flag (of sorts) when it came to the negotiations regarding defensive tackle Chris Jones. With a 90-man roster, they could save his roster spot. But when it was cut to 53, they couldn't do it any longer. Jones heads to the Reserve/Did Not Report list, opening up a spot for former Las Vegas Raider Neil Farrell, who was acquired by trade. With Jones out, Dickerson rotated with (now waived) Daniel Wise to fill in for his position at training camp. Nnadi and Wharton project as the Week 1 starters in the base defense — that is, if Wharton's knee holds up.

Defensive ends (5): George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Malik Herring, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, BJ Thompson

The Chiefs traded one project for another by keeping 2023 fifth-round pick BJ Thompson, over 2021 fourth-round pick Josh Kaindoh. Should Kaindoh make it through waivers, perhaps Kansas City will keep him around on the practice squad. Herring had a good camp and preseason — and the rookie, Anudike-Uzomah, showed some juice late. Without Jones, Kansas City has bulked up inside and will lean into defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who will create mismatches by using these defensive ends inside and outside.

Linebackers (6): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr., Drue Tranquill, Leo Chenal, Jack Cochrane, Cam Jones

We always felt like the Chiefs would keep five linebackers. The sixth — undrafted free agent Cam Jones — is a bit of a surprise. He showed both defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo — and more importantly, special teams coordinator Dave Toub — enough to stick around.

Cornerbacks (5): Trent McDuffie, L'Jarius Sneed, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, Nic Jones

The Chiefs' cornerback room may have been the easiest to predict. So long as Sneed and Jones are healthy (and the indication is that they will be OK), Kansas City is quietly deep here. It's a shame because it would have been even deeper had Nazeeh Johnson not suffered his season-ending ACL injury.

Safeties (4): Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Chamarri Conner, Mike Edwards

The only safety missing is Deon Bush — whom I would guess is a procedural cut. Stay tuned.

Specialists (3)

Placekicker (1): Harrison Butker

Punter (1): Tommy Townsend

Long snapper (1): James Winchester

None of the three Chiefs' specialist positions faced any competition this preseason.

Under contract, not counted on active roster (4)

Reserve/Injured (lost for season) (2): TE Jody Fortson, CB Nazeeh Johnson

Reserve/Did Not Report: DT Chris Jones

Reserve/Exempt: DE Charles Omenihu

Removed from 90-man roster

  • Waived: DB Dicaprio Bootle, TE Matt Bushman, RB Jerrion Ealy, WR Ty Fryfogle, WR Izaiah Gathings, WR Juwan Green, OT Chukwuebuka Godrick, OT Anderson Hardy, DB Lamar Jackson, DE Truman Jones, G Darian Kinnard, DB Duron Lowe, DB Isaiah Norman, WR Cornell Powell, WR Tyrone Scott, DT Chris Williams, TE Kendall Blanton, RB La'Mical Perine, CB Kahlef Hailassie, DT Daniel Wise, RB Deneric Prince, OT Sebastian Gutierrez, QB Shane Buechele, QB Chris Oladokun, LB Cole Christiansen, S Anthony Cook, CB Ekow Boye-Doe, CB Reese Taylor, DE Joshua Kaindoh, DT Phil Hoskins
  • Waived/injured: G Jermone Carvin, LB Olakunle Fatukasi, WR Nikko Remigio
  • Released: C Austin Reiter, DT Danny Shelton, S Deon Bush
  • Traded to another team: WR Ihmir-Smith-Marsette
  • Placed on Reserve/Non-Football Injury: None
  • Placed on Reserve/Physically-unable-to-perform: None
  • Placed on Reserve/Injured (ending season): TE Jody Fortson and S Nazeeh Johnson
  • Placed on Reserve/Did Not Report: DT Chris Jones
  • Placed on Commissioner's Exempt List: DE Charles Omenihu
  • Claimed on waivers: None
  • Free agents signed: None

Practice Squad (up to 16)

The Chiefs will not be able to begin building most of their practice squad until 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Wednesday, which is the deadline for waived players to be claimed by other teams; most players who will fill the practice squad will have previously been waived from the Chiefs' 90-man roster, so they must clear waivers first. But under the rules in place for the 2023 season, up to six of the 16 players each team can carry on its practice squad may have any amount of league experience. So it's possible the Chiefs could sign some practice-squad players from the pool of veteran players just released by other teams — who will not have to go through waivers — before Wednesday's deadline.

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