There is a multitude of directions the Kansas City Chiefs could go this offseason as they look to improve their team for the future. They can address short-term holes, long-term problems — or do both. Either way, there are obvious positions that need to be addressed ahead of 2021.
The team needs
• a second wide receiver
• a defensive end
• an offensive tackle
• a center
• a capable cornerback
Some of the positions can be taken care of with re-signings, but all could use a new face or two before next season.
(Author’s note: I personally don’t think linebacker is as immediate or as prominent a need as many believe it is.)
I went through those positions of need and determined if free agency or the draft would be the best way for the Chiefs to address it this offseason.
Second wide receiver
The Chiefs need a more reliable option for their second wide receiver — and they need it immediately. As of right now, the only two returning wide receiver contributors from 2020 are Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman; re-signing restricted free agent Byron Pringle isn’t enough for 2021.
They need a bigger-bodied, short-to-intermediate area playmaker at receiver — similar to a healthy Sammy Watkins — and drafting one wouldn’t be a safe bet for short-term impact. Although the 2020 rookie wide receiver class was top-to-bottom impressive, it won’t be like that every draft — especially where the Chiefs are selecting. The immediately-capable players get picked closer to the top of the first round.
It would be smart for the Chiefs to invest in a receiver sometime in the draft, but they can’t expect to find a go-to, third receiving option for 2021. I believe that needs to come from a veteran, free agent signing — hopefully on a team-friendly contract.
Verdict: sign a free agent
Behind Frank Clark, the Chiefs only have Mike Danna and Tim Ward under for contract for 2021 — although Demone Harris is signed to a reserve/future deal after contributing during the 2019 season.
No matter how much faith the team has in Danna or even Ward — who did look good during his career debut in Week 17 — there needs to be another player or two in the mix. I believe re-signing Taco Charlton as a situational rusher would be a smart move, but there’s still room for an edge defender that can be trusted on early downs and against the run.
I think this position is one that needs to be addressed with an early-round draft selection. He wouldn’t be thrown into the fire: Danna looked like a capable, all-around defensive end in his 2020. His ability can help ease in a rookie, but the Chiefs need more talent at that position — and Clark’s contract nudges the team in the direction of inexpensive options.
Verdict: draft a player in the first three rounds
It wasn’t long ago that the two starting offensive tackle spots were as secure as any on the Chiefs roster. Now, the team is scrambling to find a replacement for one and maybe both positions before the 2021 season-opener. Currently, there are four unproven options on the roster.
They may have used a top-100 pick on one last season with Lucas Niang — but the Chiefs need to strongly consider using another high draft selection on an offensive tackle. The 2021 class has excellent value for selecting a tackle later in round one and in round two. If there isn’t an intriguing defensive end prospect, offensive tackle might be the next best choice at the top of Kansas City’s draft.
The potential rookie may not be trusted to start from day one, but he’d still represent the most capital spent at that position behind Fisher and Schwartz. Between the rookies, Niang, Martinas Rankin, Yasir Durant and Prince Tega Wanogho, the Chiefs should have enough talent for both short-term help and long-term development.
Verdict: draft a player in round one or round two
Unless you count 2020 undrafted free agent signing Darryl Williams — who is signed to a reserve/future contract — the Chiefs have no centers signed for 2021. Left guard Nick Allegretti could be considered for the position change, but next year’s starting center could very likely be a new face.
I’ve long dreamt of the Chiefs finding their next Rodney Hudson or Mitch Morse: a top-50 draft pick that’s capable of starting right away. A defensive end or one of the impressive offensive tackles in this top-heavy class may be a smarter pick in terms of positional value — but there are a few prospects that could be the exception.
Alabama center Landon Dickerson or Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey could make sense as the team’s first pick depending on how the board falls. Even if a center option is drafted later, that — or an in-house alternative — is more sensible than the team spending money on a free-agent center.
Verdict: draft a player
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has refused to address the cornerback position with top-end capital — whether that’s a big-name free agent or a draft pick in the first 100 selections. It’s worked out well so far: an inexpensive free agent like Bashaud Breeland has been a key starter, while day-three draft selections like L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton have made important contributions.
His method makes sense to continue for another year. While Sneed and Fenton are technically the only cornerbacks returning, restricted free agent Charvarius Ward could be back while DeAndre Baker is signed to a reserve/future deal as he recovers from his broken leg.
As they use one more season of Sneed and Fenton to evaluate what they have for the future, they should bring in an inexpensive free agent that can start at boundary cornerback.
Verdict: sign a free agent
Of those listed, what is the Chiefs’ greatest position of need?
a second wide receiver
a defensive end
an offensive tackle
a capable cornerback
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