The Kansas City Chiefs have won the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, but now it is time to think about how they will defend their title. This offseason will be a monumental time for the Chiefs to evaluate their roster, and look to improve their team on both sides of the ball. What is hard to think about right now, since the Chiefs just celebrated their title on Wednesday, is that this team still has room to improve. This team was not a perfect product, however that is why there is so much excitement about the future of the Chiefs. With just a few moves this offseason, the Chiefs can become even more of a powerhouse next season and beyond.
End of a Road for Sammy Watkins as a Chief?
The Chiefs have a few tough decisions to make, and this is one of them. Receiver Sammy Watkins is currently under contract through next season, and his price tag sits at $14 million. None of this money is guaranteed which is why the Chiefs may feel that cutting Watkins is the best move for the team. Watkins’ stats definitely do not warrant a $14 million payday. Watkins finished the regular season with 52 receptions for 673 yards and three touchdowns. Not to mention that all three of those touchdowns came in week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. When comparing these numbers to receiver Demarcus Robinson, who is an impending free agent this offseason, there is not that much difference. Robinson caught 32 passes for 449 and four touchdowns. Although Watkins’ stats seems to be better, and while he did excel in the playoffs, his price tag does not match up to his production. The Chiefs could re-sign Robinson for a much cheaper price, and have more cap space to re-sign other key players.
What to do with Chris Jones?
There is no doubt that Chris Jones is a star on this defense, and arguably, he is the Chiefs best defensive player. The issue is Chris Jones is an impending free agent and is looking for top dollar. The Chiefs could be willing to pay him, but if his asking price is too much, the Chiefs could look to tag and trade the defensive lineman for a first round pick. Jones sat out during OTAs last offseason, seeking a new contract, but the Chiefs were reluctant to pay him. Instead, they acquired and paid Frank Clark $105 million over five years. That created issues for the Chiefs to retain Jones because of how much money they dished out to Clark. Although the Clark trade worked out and helped the Chiefs win the Lombardi trophy, the move left the Chiefs with little money to pay Jones. If the Chiefs are able to lock up Jones, they will have a defensive force who causes havoc on any offense for the foreseeable future.
Add some Offensive Line Depth
We saw what happens when injuries add up on an offensive line, and backups have to come in and play for multiple games. There was a stretch in September and October when it looked like the Chiefs would never have a fully healthy roster. Patrick Mahomes was constantly under duress, and frequently getting banged up. Mahomes was arguably never fully healthy until week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. His injuries began in week 1 when his offensive line was pushed back into the pocket, and his ankle was rolled up on by Jacksonville’s defensive lineman Calais Campbell. This seemed to be something that occurred in multiple games during the first quarter of the season. This offseason, the Chiefs have to clear as much cap space as possible so they can re-sign players like Chris Jones, and most importantly get Patrick Mahomes his extension done sooner rather than later. What the Chiefs may have to do is release offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, and save $5 million in the process. This would leave a hole in the Chiefs offensive line, which the Chiefs could address in the NFL draft. The Chiefs have to make some sacrifices to keep players under the cap space.
Get Help on the Defensive Side of the Ball
Kansas City has a lot of work cut out for them for this year’s upcoming NFL Draft in April. The Chiefs still have a couple of glaring holes they must fill in order to improve their team to another level. Some positions that need to be filled on the defensive side for the Chiefs include linebackers and cornerbacks.
Linebackers have been an issue for the last couple of seasons, and the Chiefs may want to look for a young player who can offer run stopping abilities. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens is currently on a 5 year/$53 million contract, and he struggles at times. Linebacker Reggie Ragland is also not the answer for the future. If the Chiefs can find a consistent player, who is able to penetrate running lanes consistently, its defense can continue to improve.
The cornerback position has been up and down for the last couple of years for the Chiefs and is something that the Chiefs need to address. Right now, the only starting cornerback under contract for next season is Charvaruis Ward. Both Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are free agents, and it is uncertain if the Chiefs will retain them next season. This draft has some very special players at the cornerback position, and the Chiefs are in a prime position in the late first round. A lot of teams will be looking to draft franchise quarterbacks and star-studded receivers in the early part of the draft, which will allow some good defensive players to slide in the first round.
Add Some Talent in the Backfield
Running back is another hole for the Chiefs. Damian Williams is a fine running back, but the Chiefs need someone that can run through tackles, and close out games. Williams, at times, struggled to find holes in the running game, and when your quarterback is your team’s leading rusher for two playoff games, it may be time to find a running back who can consistently be a workhorse. The Chiefs could address the position through free agency or the draft. Two free agents that pop up are Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida. Ekeler stepped in for the Los Angeles Chargers when starting running back Melvin Gordon sat out and produced fantastic numbers. Ekeler totaled 557 yards on the ground with three rushing touchdowns, and caught 92 passes for 993 and caught eight touchdowns.
Matt Breida was part of a running back committee in San Francisco, and showed flashes at times during the season when he was the starter. Breida averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and was a very efficient runner. The 49ers did not use him in the playoffs, and his lack of use and production in the playoffs could lower his stock dramatically. Both would be upgrades over Williams, and are relatively cheap in comparison to other free agent running backs.
If the Chiefs turn to the draft as their source to find a running back there is one name that the Chiefs could look at if he slides in the draft. That is former Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is currently the RB2 in this year’s draft, but may slide to the second round due to lack of need at the position. During his three years at Wisconsin, Taylor totaled 5,745 yards on 852 carries, averaged 6.7 yards per carry, and scored 49 touchdowns. If the Chiefs have an opportunity to grab Taylor in the back of the second round they may pull the trigger on the 5’11 219-pound monster.