As you are probably already aware the Chiefs fell at the final hurdle in their race to Super Bowl 53 last season. Losing to the Patriots in that fashion was an absolute heartbreaker but it did beg the question: where can we improve for next time? It’s obvious that the team is on the brink of something special just by looking at how well we played last year. So now is the perfect time to make sure that the right steps are taken to give us the best chance possible to make 2019 our year.
The front office made plenty of moves in the first part of the offseason (what I like to call the pre-draft phase). As well as welcoming new players it was also time to say goodbye to some familiar faces. But with the draft just under 2 weeks away, it’s time to see how much these moves have impacted our chances of going all the way next season.
I placed each pre-draft move on a scale between -5 and +5 based on how much (or little) it will improve the team. To rank them I’m going to be looking at how good the player is that we’ve gained/lost as well as the financial burden they have/had on the team. From there it should help paint a picture about how prepared the Chiefs are heading into the 2019 NFL draft.
I’m more than likely going to be referencing my previous articles so it’s probably best to read them as you go. I’ll let you know what article I’m referencing when I do. If you want to find all my previous articles head to the web address below:
1) LOSS – ERIC MURRAY S – Score +2
I gave Murray’s departure a +2 simply because of what we received in exchange for him.
Eric Murray had a good year in KC and my ‘Safeties 2018 Season in Review’ article goes into more detail if you want to check out just how well his season panned out. Although it will leave the safety position weak in terms of personnel I feel like this move will definitely play out in our favour.
He was sent to the Browns in a trade in exchange for defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. Pass rushers is something of a huge need for the team since we cut Justin Houston and traded Dee Ford earlier in the year. Therefore, having a young player like Ogbah join the team will help us in the long run. Plus I feel like safety is a position that we have the ability to improve so its not my biggest worry heading into the 2019 season.
2) LOSS – ERIC BERRY S – Score: +1
This is tough coming from one of Eric Berry’s biggest fans. He’s one of the main reasons why I started supporting the Chiefs in the first place as I’ve not been interested in the NFL for a particularly long time (I started watching the league in 2015).
It was amazing to see him come back from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to win the 2015 AP Comeback Player of the Year award however it seems like his recent injury was just too hard to overcome. After Berry injured his heel in week 1 of the 2017 season he has only played in 4, out of a possible 35, games over the last 2 years. I delve into his recent performance in more detail in my Safeties Season in Review article (sorry for all the shameless self-promotion but it will help you to get a better understanding on why this decision was made).
So after everything that’s happened over the last 2 years the Chiefs decided that it was time to cut the 5 time pro-bowler and 3 time all-pro safety. The move saved the team $9.5 million in cap space for 2019 alone and will help to kick start this new era of the Chiefs’ defence that we’re all praying for.
This is the main reason why I ranked the loss of Berry as a +1. Although he was a great player who will always have my respect, his performance recently just doesn’t match with how much cap space he was taking up. It sucks that the league is this cruel but, as we approach the new season, I feel like the team will be a lot better off without the legendary Eric Berry on the roster anymore. One thing’s for sure though, his locker room presence and natural leadership skills will be hard to replace
3) LOSS – STEVEN NELSON CB – Score: 0
I feel like this may be one of the fans’ favourite moves this off season. Nelson was consistently criticized by the Chiefs Kingdom, mainly due to the amount of times he looked burnt in coverage and gave up big gains. However he did make a few good plays over the season, such as that pass breakup down the left side of the field against the Rams in week 11.
Despite his tendency to give up a few big plays I still think he received an unfair amount of criticism. People fail to remember that he led the team in interceptions last season and set a career high in tackles (again, go look at my Cornerback Season in Review article to get the full picture).
The Steelers signed him after his 2018 season and it’ll be fun to watch him go against the Chiefs offence in the preseason, unfortunately we don’t play Pittsburgh in the regular season.
4) LOSS – CHRIS CONLEY WR – Score: -1
I put the loss of Conley as a negative simply due to him being a wide receiver. He had a good season with Kansas City in 2018, with a 61% catch percentage and a career high 5 touchdowns. However, I’ll leave it to you you to decide how much of that was because of Mahomes’ brilliance.
The main problem with the team, like I’ve said time and time again, is depth. Losing a receiver in the early stages of the off season leaves the position fairly sparse. Aside from super star Tyreek Hill (who’s currently going through some legal issues involved with his son) the team has Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter and Sammie Coates.
Hill is a great player who will be after a big contract after the 2019 season and has some off field troubles to work through, Watkins is good but missed several games last season due to injury and Robinson and Dieter both need some work to really become starters in the NFL (although Mahomes does seem to bring out the best in them). Coates is another story, seeing as he’s a recent acquisition and will need time to dissect the playbook before I can make a judgement on him.
Losing a player like Conley, who’s been working with the Kansas City scheme for the past 4 years, is definitely going to leave us at a disadvantage. However I have hope that we’ll be able to fill that hole later in the offseason (possibly in the draft), which is why I didn’t put the rating of this move too low.
Conley going to Jacksonville should work in his favour though as the Jaguars seemed very weak at the receiver position last year and therefore could do with a reliable target.
5) LOSS – DEE FORD LB – Score: -2
After franchise tagging Dee Ford earlier in the offseason (before the team announced Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator) it seemed like he was going to stay. However, a change of system clearly led to a change of heart about the 5 year linebacker.
The loss of a good player like him is obviously going to bring about a negative score. He was solid in 2018 setting career highs in multiple categories (sacks, tackles, forced fumbles and tackles for a loss). Despite the crippling offside foul in the Championship game it was always great watching him on the field and it’ll be hard to find such a consistent, and young, talent.
However, I didn’t give the move a lower score because it was necessary and the returns were favourable. Shifting from a 3-4 under Sutton to a 4-3, with Spagnuolo now at the wheel, required changes on the field and, unfortunately, Ford’s playing style just didn’t suit the new system. So, if we kept him, we might have even seen his performance regress next season due to the lack of fit he has in the new defensive gameplan. The Chiefs also received a 2020 second round pick from the 49ers in exchange for him which I would consider a good deal in order to gameplan for the future. I talked about Ford’s impact on the team last season a bit more in my Linebacker Season in Review article.
6) LOSS – DEMETRIUS HARRIS TE – Score: -2
Harris’ negative score came about for a similar reason to Chris Conley’s; depth. However this time the tight end position is even more thin than the wide receivers. As good as Travis Kelce is, and he’s very good, he can’t be expected to carry the entire position. Hence why Harris was a good back-up as he showed that he could both run-block efficiently and could also catch the odd ball or 2.
The 2018 season saw him boast a career high 3 touchdowns (again this may be largely because of Mahomes). However, on the other hand, Harris also had a career low 48% catch percentage; catching only 12 of his 25 targets.
I feel like a tight end may be a good way to go in the latter rounds of the draft (much like receiver) as the current depth chart looks very worrying. Harris has found a new home in Cleveland where it seems ex-Chiefs GM John Dorsey wanted a familiar face to fill the backup TE position at the Browns, behind starter David Njoku.
7) LOSS – JUSTIN HOUSTON LB – Score: -3
Houston was a great player on the team last season; he was 3rd in the team for sacks (after Chris Jones and Dee Ford) and has always been a staple in the Chiefs’ defence. Like I mentioned in my Linebacker Season in Review article, I feel like Houston’s release was more down to a change of scheme rather than his regression as a player.
The Chiefs’ defence was in need of a huge revamp after last season’s performance and that obviously meant getting rid of some beloved players such as number 50. Although his stats have declined a little since his prime (2012-15), I feel like that’s just natural for a player of his age; he’s been in the league 8 years and is now 29 years old.
Houston signed for the Colts after his release and I wish him all the best in Indianapolis. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get anything in return for Houston like we did with Ford. But, having said that, we are still expected to save a considerable amount of cap space over the next 2 years ($31.5 million) by cutting him. This can then be used to keep younger stars on the team such as Jones, Hill and Mahomes, who will all be looking for contracts in the near future.
The reason why I gave Houston’s release a lower score than Ford’s trade was due to the role Houston played on the team as a leader. As a veteran he was looked up to by a lot of the younger players on the team (both on the offence and defence) so losing such a strong locker room presence is going to be a bit of a morale hit. As well as this, other than freeing up cap space, we didn’t receive anything in return for his departure which definitely affected my ranking.
8) LOSS – MITCH MORSE OL – Score: -4
Mitch Morse was an unrestricted free agent heading into the offseason. Despite his performance in 2018 the team didn’t feel as though it was worth offering him a large enough contract to keep him around. The 4 year veteran played in 11 games this season (sitting weeks 7-11 due to a concussion) and only picked up 4 penalties on the year (3 for holding and 1 for a false start). It was a good performance this year from number 61, especially because his time off was nothing long-lasting.
This is mainly why I decided to put his loss as such a low score. The offensive line as a whole is looking quite thin with his departure and is definitely something that needs addressing. In week 10, when both Duvernay-Tardif and Morse were out, the team had its worst offensive line performance of the year. Mahomes was sacked a total of 6 times and the running backs mustered 5.1 yards per attempt against the Cardinals.
It’s clear that he’s a great player and I wish him all the best in his new home in Buffalo. However, the Chiefs need to find his replacement as I don’t think that Austin Reiter, the current starting centre, will be able to fill Morse’s shoes. All we can do is hope that this loss doesn’t come round to bite us in the backside.
LOSSES – OVERALL – SCORE: -2
- Eric Murray
- Eric Berry
- Steven Nelson
- Chris Conley
- Dee Ford
- Demetrius Harris
- Justin Houston
- Mitch Morse
With the players leaving it seems like the Chiefs have taken a step back. Losing centre Mitch Morse to free agency was the definitely the biggest loss considering his health and the depth at the entire o-line looking flakey. Losing Houston was bad due to his personality and natural leadership (although I think that Ford’s departure will prove to be a bigger loss of talent in the long run).
On the flip side though the team has been able to free up plenty of cap space by removing some weaker links on the team (such as Berry) and there are some others who will be easy enough to replace; and that’s exactly what we’re about to move onto.
1) ADDITION – TYRANN MATHIEU S – Score: +5
The Honey Badger is in KC! Arguably the biggest offseason signing for the Chiefs was free agent Tyrann Mathieu. The 6 year NFL veteran has been a force to be reckoned with his whole career totalling 13 interceptions (2.1 per season) and only missing 14 out of a total 96 regular season games. He’s also started in his last 32 regular season games.
Health definitely isn’t an issue and neither is his personality. All it takes is one scroll through his Twitter page (@Mathieu_Era) to see his energy and commitment towards the game. He’s always been considered a huge locker room presence and leader which is just what we need after the loss of both Houston and Berry.
As you can probably tell, I love this signing.
To get the full scope on how he’ll impact the team come 2019 go check out my Safeties Season in Review piece.
2) ADDITION – EMMANUEL OGBAH DE – Score: +3
Like I said before, I’m a fan of the Ogbah – Murray trade with Cleveland. Ogbah is definitely the better of the 2 players and the trade has helped to fill a need at run defence. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a starter as he has started in every single game he’s played so far in his career.
Over this 3 year period he’s racked up a whopping 122 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss, and 12.5 sacks. It’s clear that he’s been a serious problem for opposing offences and is still very young which is always good when a team is looking to rebuild a defence. I’m excited to see what he’s capable of for the Chiefs this upcoming season.
Oh did I mention that he also had 8 defended passes at the defensive end position last season, that’s a huge number for an edge rusher.
3) ADDITION – CARLOS HYDE RB – Score: +2
Just like I predicted, a cheap free agent running back is what the Chiefs need coming into 2019. After losing Kareem Hunt the team was in desperate need of a replacement. Damien Williams performed well in the latter half of the season but I didn’t think it was a long term solution.
I said that running back by committee was a must in KC and the team has done just that. The big bodied Hyde is coming in on a 1 year deal to run alongside Williams (the more elusive of the 2) and it may prove to be a deadly combination.
Although he didn’t had the best 2018 campaign (averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt at Jacksonville and Cleveland) it will definitely help having the weight taken off his shoulders by the other backs on the roster.
I see Hyde being utilised as a third down power back and redzone steam roller to secure us first downs and touchdowns. Williams will still carry the main load but it’ll definitely help to have a little extra muscle in the trenches.
4) ADDITION – ALEX OKAFOR DE – Score: +2
Alex Okafor joins the Chiefs for his 7th season after spending his first 4 at the Cardinals and following 2 at the Saints. He’s totalled around 3.5 sacks per season during his time in the league (but he only played 1 game in his rookie year). Last season he played, and started in, every single regular season game and had 4 sacks, 9 QB hits, 36 tackles and 5 tackles for a loss.
Okafor will be of use in Kansas City after losing both Dee Ford and Justin Houston, who were both top 3 pass rushes for us last year. However I feel like this free agent pick up will simply help to cover all bases as we approach the draft. He looks like a solid player and has played well his whole career, however I also don’t think he’s going to solve all of the Chiefs’ pass rushing problems.
5) ADDITION – BASHAUD BREELAND CB – Score: +2
After losing Steven Nelson in free agency, signing Bashaud Breeland on a 1 year deal is a perfect hole filler in my opinion. He’s a proven athlete at the pro level and now joins his 3rd team of his 5 year career.
But Breeland is already familiar with 1 of the Chiefs’ defensive starters; fellow cornerback Kendall Fuller who joined the team last year after playing his first 2 seasons at the Redskins.
They spent 2 seasons together with Breeland as a full-time starter and Fuller being used as a back-up. They were quite the tandem too as, between them, they totalled 8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 3 forced fumbles and 168 solo tackles.
That’s quite an impressive stat line for 2 corners who are now set to be starters on the same team again. In the new look defence it appears as though Breeland will be placed out wide which would give Fuller the opportunity to come inside to defend the slot at nickel-back (a position which is considered his speciality).
One thing I am a bit concerned about is Breeland’s health. After signing with the Packers last season he didn’t play in the first 7 games of the season. Despite coming back to nearly full health later on, it’s still something to consider when evaluating how useful he will be to the Chiefs.
That’s not to say I don’t like the pick-up because, especially considering the duo are now reunited, I am a fan of it. However something tells me that the Chiefs aren’t finished building the cornerback position just yet, I guess we’ll have to wait until the draft to find out.
6) ADDITION – DAMIEN WILSON LB – Score: +1
It appears that chemistry is going to be something of a trend going forward for the Kansas City Chiefs defence. Not only are Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller former teammates, Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson also used to play alongside each other in Dallas.
The 2 have started on the field together 13 times across 2 years and so Wilson should find no problem fitting in straight away. It also seems that the system will be fairly similar to what he’s used to which is always a good sign.
Adding linebacker depth is a win in my books regardless of talent. It’s the position that I’m most worried about heading into 2019 so this signing is a good start.
However, I’m not going to score the move higher because I don’t feel like Wilson is a good enough player to solve all of our worries at the linebacker position. He totalled 37 tackles last season and started in 7 of the 16 regular season games. On top of this, he’s only had 1 forced fumble his entire career (which came in 2018) and 2.5 sacks.
His lack of usage is probably due to the Cowboys depth being so strong at the linebacker position. With breakout rookie Leighton Vander Esch coming 2nd in the league for tackles last season, as well as Sean Lee and Justin March-Lillard on the roster, who are both good contributors on Dallas’ defence, it would’ve been hard for him to find his place. Hopefully the Chiefs have uncovered a diamond in the rough with Wilson.
The 4 year veteran was also utilised a lot on special teams with the Cowboys; he was on the field for 345 snaps on that phase of the ball last season (89% of total special teams snaps).
OVERALL – ADDITIONS – Score: +3
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Emmanuel Ogbah
- Carlos Hyde
- Alex Okafor
- Bashaud Breeland
- Damien Wilson
As a whole I like the guys who the Chiefs have brought in at the start of this offseason. Each signing has helped fill a much needed hole on the depth chart and, although the team isn’t 100% ready for the 2019 campaign, it certainly is a good start.
Having said that, I still have some concerns about the wide receiver, offensive line and linebacker positions. I’m not saying that the roster has to be perfect but there is still work to be done in order to iron out the creases. But that is just what the draft is for.
OVERALL SCORE: +1
I simply put the overall additions score and the overall losses score together to reach a final conclusion on the pre-draft offseason as a whole, and I’m pretty happy with the result.
I feel as though the additions outweigh the losses in this one. Although we took some big hits at offensive line and linebacker (with Mitch Morse, Justin Houston and Dee Ford all finding new homes) the moves that have been made to bring guys into the franchise shows the start of the process of preparing the team for a deep 2019 run.
It’s also early in the offseason which means that there is still plenty of time. So don’t despair too much about the offensive line and run defence just yet.
Now I bet you’re wondering what my mock draft is looking like. Well I’m due to release that soon so stay tuned. In the meantime I’d strongly advise flicking through the ‘KC Draft Guide’ that the Arrowhead Pride guys put together a few months back. It’s a great read and will definitely help familiarise yourself with some of this year’s draft prospects.