It's time to put away the pool noodles and tell your dad to take off his Hawaiian shirt — because with the release of the Kansas City Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster, summer is officially over. We are just over a week away from the Detroit Lions stepping on to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for the season opener.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I could do what general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid had to do. Cutdown week would give me an ulcer. Some just-released players will end up on the team’s practice squad or catch on somewhere else. But for a great many more, Tuesday was the end of the line. I’m not sure I would have the spine to look 37 guys in the eye and tell them, “It’s over.”
We spent countless hours prognosticating what the initial 53-man roster would look like — and just like we expected, we got some things wrong. The roster will look somewhat different when the Chiefs kick off on September 7 — and it will continue to evolve throughout the season.
But let’s take a moment to consider five things that stood out about initial 53-man roster.
1. The Chiefs only kept two quarterbacks
Last season, head coach Andy Reid opted to keep three quarterbacks for the first time since coming to Kansas City. There was a lot of speculation that he would do the same in 2023. By all accounts, the backup quarterback battle was still raging as late as the second half of Saturday’s final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
Unfortunately for Shane Buechele, it appears that the team considered Blaine Gabbert to be the better man — and Buechele’s roster spot would be better spent on something other than a third-string quarterback.
But going with two quarterbacks isn’t without risks. I mean, what are the Chiefs going to do if Gabbert gets injured — and all they have left is Patrick Mahomes?
It seems to me that Reid is playing with fire.
2. No fullback — sort of
I’m not going to lie: back in the spring, I felt a pang of nostalgia when we first reported that Reid had finally realized it was time to move on from his long-term bromance with fullbacks.
While it’s true that the team doesn’t have a true fullback, that hasn’t stopped Reid from flirting with the same concepts. Just consider Kansas City’s first drive of the preseason against the New Orleans Saints. On a fourth-and-1 play at midfield, Reid called a direct snap to tight end Blake Bell.
Bell failed to pick up the first down, but that’s beside the point. For all intents and purposes, Bell’s position on this roster should read “TE/FB.”
Reid might refuse to admit it on the depth chart, but it looks like he still doesn't know how to forge ahead without a fullback.
3. Keeping seven wide receivers— and trading one
A year ago — in this exact same spot — I wrote, “General manager Brett Veach has quietly assembled one of the deepest receiving corps that the Chiefs have had in recent memory.”
A year later, I would now argue that Kansas City’s current wideouts would blow last year's group out of the water. The team lost JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman to free agency, but has added Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross to the mix.
At this time in 2022, we were wondering if Daurice Fountain and Corey Coleman were going to make the team. This year, the Chiefs traded Ihmir Smith-Marsette to avoid losing him for nothing,
While Kansas City has never kept this many wide receivers, there was simply too much talent (and too many targets for Mahomes) to avoid it. While this target-sharing may spell doom for a given receiver's fantasy outlook, it’s going to be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
4. Six linebackers!?
A casual fan might think is a photo of some random Bitcoin bro who sold off his NFTs to pay for an NFL fantasy camp.
But real fans know this is 2022 undrafted free agent linebacker Jack Cochrane, who just made the Chiefs' 53-man roster for another season. He’s now joined by fellow UDFA Cam Jones.
Considering that Kansas City kept just four linebackers a year ago, it’s easy to see why the team couldn’t retain Buechele — and just how much sway special teams coordinator Dave Toub has over roster decisions.
The Chiefs could also be thinking that without star defensive tackle Chris Jones in the fold, they will need as many bodies as possible at the second level to stop the run.
5. Five defensive tackles — and still missing one
I realize you’re sick of hearing us talk about Chris Jones. I’m tired of writing about him.
But until he reports for duty, it’s our job to do so — especially when you consider the barren cupboard of bodies that remain at his position.
That isn’t meant to be a dig at Farrell — or Derrick Nnadi, Turk Wharton or anyone else in the room. They are all fine players.
But we’re not exactly talking about a group like the 1969 Chiefs had, either. That squad had Curley Culp and Buck Buchanan lining up across from the center.
What are your thoughts about the roster? What questions do you still have?