OFFSEASON REVIEW: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
By Alex Bartlett
As one season ends and another one begins, 32 NFL franchises put 2020 firmly in the rear view mirror and gear up for another tilt at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The hard work starts here, and for many has already begun; general managers and head coaches are finalising their staff and looking ahead to turning their rosters into potential challengers.
In this series we identify the key components that go into building a winning team, and what each franchise needs to do to be in the mix come the playoffs next January. We continue our team by team offseason review with a look at the Kansas City Chiefs:
What a difference 60 minutes of football can make. Coming into Super Bowl LV the Kansas City Chiefs were on the brink of becoming only the second team this millennium to repeat as world champions. Instead, a day that began with dreams of back-to-back titles for Head Coach Andy Reid and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes ended with a 31-9 dismantling at the hands of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It may well have been the day that the world learned that even the masterful Mahomes isn’t invincible. The ferocious Bucs pass rush pressured him more than any other quarterback in Super Bowl history, had a total of three sacks and picked him off twice to boot. The Chiefs were held without a touchdown, and Mahomes was handed the most lopsided loss of his NFL career, on the game’s biggest stage. The loss – highlighted by the breakdown in the trenches – left a dark cloud over an otherwise faultless title defence.
The Chiefs offensive dominance continued throughout the regular season guiding them to a 14-2 record. Travis Kelce had one of the best receiving seasons for a tight end of all time with 105 receptions, 1,416 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. Tyreek Hill was at his speedy best, most notably, putting up 200 yards in one quarter against that same Tampa Bay defense that halted the Chiefs in the big game.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, with Reid and Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs are going nowhere anytime soon.
The biggest headline is the news that offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, tipped for a head coaching gig the last two offseasons, once again missed out on a job. His misfortune is a tale for another day but the Chiefs Kingdom certainly won’t be complaining about the highly touted play caller’s return to Arrowhead.
However, the potential emotional impact of losing linebackers coach Britt Reid, son of Andy, is yet to be seen. Reid was dismissed following a car crash that left a 5-year-old with life-changing injuries on Thursday of Super Bowl week. How much his absence impacted his father and the rest of the team in the big game will remain unknown and his locker room presence will surely be missed moving forward.
State Of The Roster
Despite the obvious holes on the offensive line the Chiefs remain the team to catch in the AFC heading into the 2021 offseason. With Mahomes, Hill and Kelce running the show, the offense was able to overcome the frailties up front for most of the season and it is hard to envisage anything different come September. Adding another weapon to accompany the triplets along with Mecole Hardman and promising young running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darell Williams would be a shrewd move.
Now to that offensive line. Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, and Kelechei Osemele are all on the wrong side of 30 and dealing with rather severe injuries. The return of COVID-19 opt-outs Lucas Niang and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff will hand the Chiefs line a significant boost and a couple of additions in free agency and the draft will have them eyeing another Super Bowl run.
On the defensive side of the ball fourth-round pick L’Jarius Sneed showed a lot of promise in his first year as part of a talented secondary including Tyrann Mathieu. However, in general, they need to get more athletes – mainly at linebacker – to be able to compete against other elite offenses. The Chiefs already tried to address their lack of athleticism in the linebacker corps this offseason by adding Willie Gay Jr, who flashed potential before getting hurt in Week 17.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has valued players like Ben Niemann, Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens, all of whom possess a limited athletic upside but are praised as smart players.
The Chiefs have 26 players hitting the free-agent market this offseason and are one of the 13 teams currently projected to be in the red for cap space in 2021, so several players will likely have played their final snaps for the 2019 world champions. Sammy Watkins’ limited production in 2020 has raised a lot of questions about whether he will re-sign with the team that rejuvenated his career.
Safety Daniel Sorensen will be a big priority for GM Brett Veach and Reid to bring back having become a household name in Kansas City as a versatile defensive back. Sorensen has shown these past two seasons that he is a productive member of the secondary and led the team in tackles with 95 and forced two fumbles last term.
Kelechi Osemele was looking to be a substantial addition to the Chiefs’ interior offensive line until he went down with two torn ACLs in Week 5. While the injury was severe and leaves a long road to recovery for the veteran guard, bringing the former Raider back on a prove-it year type of deal would be beneficial to both parties.
Salary Cap & Cut Candidates
Eric Fisher has had a storybook career in Kansas City. The stalwart left-tackle may have played his final game in a Chiefs uniform after tearing his Achilles in the AFC Championship. Fisher is entering the final year of his contract in 2021 and could save the Chiefs $12 million in cap space if he is cut.
Right-tackle Mitchell Schwartz is coming off of a big injury and is also entering the final year of his contract with the Chiefs. With the two veteran tackles financial futures somewhat uncertain, as well as being liabilities health-wise, the team could look to move on and get younger at the position in April.
Alongside the probable casualties noted above, one or two prominent players such as Tyrann Mathieu, Tyreek Hill or Frank Clark may restructure their deals to open up the remaining cap space needed to fill the few holes this roster has.
While it may seem like a large dose of recency bias has been applied, the obvious answer to the Chiefs few problems is to get help on the offensive line. Protecting Mahomes will be the number one priority and with the 31st pick in the draft, it is hard to see them going anywhere else. With needs across each position upfront, Veach can pick the best available lineman.
Wyatt Davis out of Ohio State or Tennesse’s Trey Smith would both be solid interior additions and if the Chiefs want to address the tackle spot, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield or Samuel Cosmi from Texas make a lot of sense if they fall to the back end of the first round.
Elsewhere as Devin White and Lavonte David wreaked havoc from sideline to sideline for the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, the Chiefs linebacking core struggled. Kyle Van Noy, recently released by Miami would be a nice free agency pick up at the right price if the front office can make room for some acquisitions. The defending AFC champions might also look to find a replacement for free agent Austin Reiter and that could come in the form of recently released Saints center Nick Easton.
FORMERLY THE EDITOR OF THE SPORTS GAZETTE, ALEX IS AN EXPERIENCED SPORTS JOURNALIST CURRENTLY SPECIALISING IN FEATURE WRITING. A LIFELONG EAGLES FAN, HE PLAYED THE GAME FOR THREE YEARS AS AN OUTSIDE LINEBACKER FOR THE LEICESTER LONGHORNS AND IS DESPERATE TO SEE THE DELAWARE WING-T OFFENSE TO RETURN TO COLLEGE FOOTBALL.