Perhaps they were right to balk at LT Orlando Brown Jr.’s demands, but turning around and spending $20M per year on ex-Jaguar Jawaan Taylor, with apparent plans to move the former mid-tier starter to the left side, is risky. Adding electric LB Drue Tranquill is an underrated move for Steve Spagnuolo’s “D,” but they’re also still lacking juice out wide for Patrick Mahomes, with both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman landing elsewhere and only second-rounder Rashee Rice entering thus far.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney is one of the most electric and dangerous players in the league when on the field. However, he’s rarely on the field. The Chiefs desperately need someone to step up at the wide receiver position, and Toney is in perfect position to take advantage of this opportunity. If he can’t break out in 2023, it’s unlikely he ever will.
3. Smith was among the best pass-blocking tackles in the NFL in 2021.
The 29-year-old Smith is only two years removed from a dominant season in which he compiled the sixth-best Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade in the NFL (among tackles). Smith – who tallied 1,147 snaps at left tackle that season – surrendered just one sack on 784 pass-blocking snaps. In fact, Smith’s impressive grade was despite playing the most pass-blocking snaps of any left tackle in the NFL.
Additionally, among tackles to record at least 900 total snaps in 2021, Smith’s pass-blocking grade trailed only Andrew Whitworth, Charles Leno Jr. and Trent Williams.
Among the reasons the Chiefs were cap-strapped this offseason was Chris Jones’ contract. He is in the final year of his four-year, $80 million deal with Kansas City and has a $28.2 million cap hit for the 2023 season according to Over The Cap.
The best way to lower his cap number for at least the 2023 season would be to hand Jones, 28, a contract extension, which would give him yet another payday but would also push his cap hits down the road. Kansas City would eventually have to address those cap hits as it has to this off-season under Jones’ current deal. But an extension would provide cap relief for the team for the next year or two.
According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic on March 2, Jones wants a contract extension that makes him “at least” the second highest-paid player at his position. Based on the aforementioned deals among the top-paid interior defensive linemen, the type of deal Jones is pursuing would net him anywhere between $60-65 million in total guarantees.
No. 9 Brian Waters, G, 2000
The contributions of college offensive linemen don’t get overlooked much these days. They did at the turn of the century, never more so than when Waters wasn’t selected coming out of North Texas – hardly a fertile source for pros then. Once he mastered the blocking schemes with the Chiefs, Waters became a regular at the Pro Bowl (six times), with two All-Pro selections. He started every game he was healthy for from 2002-2011, the first nine seasons with the Chiefs, then one year in New England.
Waters’ name comes up in discussion for potential Hall of Famers, emphasizing his reliability, leadership – and overcoming not being drafted.
“Although he was undrafted coming out of college, Brian made the most of his opportunity here in Kansas City,” said Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, “and his work ethic, talent and toughness made him an undisputed leader on the field and in the locker room. Brian also has a tremendous heart of service, and his commitment to the Kansas City community earned him the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2009.”
My biggest complaint with having McKinnon back is that Pacheco will not get the opportunity to prove himself as a player who can replace McKinnon in the coming years. Pacheco is far from a tested backfield threat, with only 20 receiving targets and 26 pass-blocking snaps to his credit. That role turned into McKinnon’s and McKinnon’s alone down the stretch. Pacheco’s lack of experience in pass protection and third-down situations could prove costly for the Chiefs. Fans already know what Edwards-Helaire brings to the table in pass protection and on third down. But that might be the Chiefs’ emergency option in 2023 if McKinnon goes down, hardly a confidence-inspiring depth chart.
McKinnon will be 31 years old once training camp begins this summer, making him one of the oldest players in Kansas City. Some concerns about whether he can withstand another season of NFL action are understandable, especially given McKinnon’s history of injuries. (He missed the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons due to knee injuries.) Those injuries turned many suitors away from McKinnon, considering the physical punishment running backs take at their position. That age, injury history, and declining running game juice likely made McKinnon’s return in 2022 and 2023 possible for the Chiefs.
Around the NFL
The Jets have added four ex-Green Bay Packers — wide receiver Allen Lazard, quarterback Tim Boyle, tackle Billy Turner and receiver Randall Cobb, who signed a one-year contract Wednesday.
“It’s very common for new faces to want old faces, to come in and help accelerate the installation of an entire program,” Saleh said at the start of rookie minicamp. “Everything is pinned on the quarterback. It’s not just him.
“[Offensive coordinator Nathaniel] Hackett has something to say about it. He loves Lazard. He loves Randall. He took Billy Turner with him to Denver, and he wanted him here. Of course, you’re going to surround a coach with people who he feels like will plant the flag.
“That whole narrative — what people are trying to put on the quarterback — it’s tired. It’s common practice in the NFL.”
The Nick Foles era in Indianapolis is over.
The Indianapolis Colts released Foles on Friday, the team announced.
The 6-foot-6, 243-pound Foles, 34, was signed by the Colts a little less than one year ago. He appeared in three games (two starts) for Indianapolis last season, completing 25 of 42 passes for 224 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. The Colts lost both of his starts late in the season after cycling through Matt Ryan and Sam Ehlinger.
Win Line: 10.5
Super Bowl Odds: 9-1
The Buffalo Bills aren’t going to be a bad football team in 2023. They’ve won at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons, and they still have dynamic dual-threat Josh Allen at quarterback.
However, it’s hard to think that they will be dramatically better than they were a year ago. Two of their biggest needs remain unfulfilled through early free agency and the draft. Buffalo still lacks a reliable third receiver behind Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, and it did little to upgrade a pass rush that sank when Von Miller suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
Despite playing behind a banged-up offensive line, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked only once during last year’s divisional-round blowout win against Buffalo. Why, again, do the Bills have better Super Bowl odds than Cincinnati (11-1)? They shouldn’t.
And while Buffalo’s win line of 10.5 games isn’t outlandish, it’s important to remember how competitive the AFC East will be this season. The New England Patriots, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins all won at least seven games last season, while Miami made the playoffs. And the Jets just added four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Buffalo may get to 11 wins and claim a fourth straight AFC East title, but there will be attrition along the way. And until the Bills prove they can get past Cincinnati and the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason, they shouldn’t have the fourth-best odds to win it all.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Lucas Niang — the Chiefs’ 2020 third-round draft pick — started nine games in 2021 before being sidelined with a nasty injury until midway into the 2022 season. While he does have experience on the right side, his up-and-down play will likely cause him to have to play the best football of his life to come away with a starting job. It should be noted that in the Super Bowl — when Andrew Wylie had to leave the game for a play — it was Niang to came to fill in.
Wanya Morris was the Chiefs’ third-round draft pick this year — and while he brings an interesting blend of talent to the table, as I touched on in my film review of his game, he is still far too inconsistent with cracking into the starting lineup as a rookie.
Prince Tega-Wanogho was the team’s swing tackle last season and saw the field minimally. He is the most likely candidate to be cut.
Kinnard was inactive for most of 2022, and despite being an All-Conference tackle at Kentucky, his route to the field will be nearly impossible with the bodies the Chiefs have added. I expect him to transition to guard — his more natural position— and compete for a reserve role.
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