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Should the Chiefs trade Clyde Edwards-Helaire before the season begins?

Kansas City’s former first-round pick is fighting for a roster spot.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Less than three months after winning Super Bowl LIV, the Kanas City Chiefs drafted running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the 32nd overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

But after three seasons, it might be smart for Kansas City to trade him away.

What happened?

First-round pressure

There is always a certain amount of pressure that comes with being a first-round pick. The Chiefs may have increased that by revealing that Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes had agreed with general manager Brett Veach on the pick.

In the Zoom video of the call to Edwards-Helaire after his selection, Veach told his new running back that at about 4:00 p.m. on draft day, he had informed team owner and CEO Clark Hunt that Edwards-Helaire was going to be the team’s pick.

“And then when we texted Pat,” continued Veach, “I asked Pat. I said, ‘Give me a name’ — and I said, ‘Don’t think about it.’

And he said, ‘Clyde.’

“And I said, ‘Well, good. Good.’ We’re excited, man!”

The pressure got worse when it was reported that Reid thought his new running back’s film was better than that of All-Pro Brian Westbrook, whom Reid had drafted for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002.

Two years of inconsistent play and injuries

NFL: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the first game of his NFL career, Edwards-Helaire’s play lived up to the hype: he registered 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries against the Houston Texans. But he had only one other game with more than 79 yards that year: a 161-yard game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6. He totaled 803 yards rushing in his rookie season while missing three games with an injury — and another in the postseason.

Things were much the same in 2021. After turning in back-to-back 100-yard games, Edwards-Helaire suffered a sprained MCL in Week 5’s loss to the Bills. He appeared in just 10 games in his second year, collecting only 517 yards — and losing two fumbles that were big factors in two early-season losses.

Younger players become available

While he was healthy again in 2022, Edwards-Helaire now faced competition from a hungry seventh-round draft pick. Former Rutgers star Isiah Pacheco was saying he was “willing to take another grown man’s job.”

Pacheco did just that in Week 7, becoming the starter against the San Francisco 49ers. In the next four games, Edwards-Helaire accumulated just 46 yards on 12 attempts before he went down with a high-ankle sprain in Week 11, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season. He was finally activated from injured reserve the week before the Super Bowl — but was a healthy scratch in the championship game.

In April, things got worse. While the team didn’t draft a running back, it might as well have done so: Kansas City signed undrafted free agent (UFDA) Deneric Prince out of Tulsa. Right after the draft — with Prince in their pocket — the Chiefs declined Edwards-Helaire’s fifth-year option.

The team apparently foresaw what we are seeing in training camp: Prince runs hard and catches every pass thrown his way. But more importantly, he has impressed special-teams coach Dave Toub as a kick returner.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that this UDFA running back will make the team’s initial 53-man roster.

Edwards-Helaire’s future

NFL: JUL 23 Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Although Edwards-Helaire showed up to OTAs and training camp in great shape — and looking like the player the Chiefs drafted — Pacheco is still the nominal starter. The emergence of Prince (combined with the veteran presence and talent of 31-year-old Jerick McKinnon) makes Edwards-Helaire’s future with the Chiefs more cloudy than it has ever been.

With Pacheco, McKinnon and Prince looking like locks to make the 53-man roster, here’s the question: does Kansas City keep four running backs or move on from Edwards-Helaire? Pacheco has been making his way back from injury, so Edwards-Helaire has been getting most of the work as the first-team running back. But when Pacheco returns, Edwards-Helaire could end up being third on the depth chart.

I think that in the first two preseason games, the Chiefs should showcase Edwards-Helaire — to show he is healthy — and then trade him. He is still just 24, so he still has tread on his tires.

Trade Value

The value of a running back is difficult to gauge — especially one who is coming off their worst season. But since Edwards-Helaire is a former first-round pick with youth on his side, I think the Chiefs can find a trading partner. While big-name players like Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt and Fournette remain on the market, many teams might prefer making a trade to paying pay a lot of money for a free-agent back.

Trading Edwards-Helaire would save the Chiefs (and cost his new team) a little under $2 million against the cap this season — and if things don’t pan out, the new team could easily move on from him in 2024.

In return, the Chiefs could get a conditional draft pick somewhere between the fifth and seventh rounds — or perhaps a player that they need. That’s what they did by trading running back Carlos Hyde to the Houston Texans in exchange for tackle Martinas Rankin — or giving up guard Parker Ehinger to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for cornerback Charvarius Ward.

Potential trade partners

Indianapolis Colts Since star running back Johnathan Taylor has formally requested a trade — and his top backup Zach Moss has a significant arm injury — the Colts could use some veteran leadership in the room. Edwards-Helaire’s experience could be beneficial to the Colts.

Baltimore Ravens Starter J.K. Dobbins wants a contract extension. He is now holding out of camp. The Ravens may want to examine other options. Edwards-Helarie could prove to be a solid weapon for new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — After allowing Leonard Fournette to walk in free agency, Tampa Bay will depend on second-year running back Rachaad White, who finished 2022 with 481 yards and a touchdown on 129 rushes, averaging only 3.7 yards per attempt. The team also added Chase Edmonds in the offseason. If anything were to happen to White or Edmond before the season begins, the Buccaneers will be in the market for a running back.

The bottom line

Edwards-Helaire could use a fresh start. Whether it is through a trade this season or through free agency next spring, his time in Kansas City seems to be nearing its end.

If the Chiefs don’t plan to give Edwards-Helaire significant snaps this season, trading him could be the best option for them — and for him.


Should the Chiefs Trade Clyde Edwards-Helaire

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