2017 NFL Offseason: Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs (Last Year: 12-4)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB C.J. Spiller, TE Gavin Escobar, NT Bennie Logan.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Patrick Mahomes, DE/DT Tanoh Kpassagnon, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Jehu Chesson. Chiefs Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Nick Foles, RB Jamaal Charles, RB Knile Davis, WR Jeremy Maclin, DE/DT Jaye Howard, DE/DT Kendall Reyes, NT Dontari Poe.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Offense:
The Chiefs have been to the playoffs in three of Andy Reid’s four years with the team, but they haven’t won more than a single postseason contest in each of their January ventures. The previous two defeats have featured brutal offensive showings, with Kansas City averaging just 18 points per game in the losses despite not battling defensive juggernauts.

With that in mind, it’s understandable why Andy Reid traded next year’s first-round pick to move from No. 27 to 10 in order to select Patrick Mahomes. There were some in the league who considered Mahomes to be the top quarterback prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. With his massive arm and ability to make any throw, Mahomes has Brett Favre upside. However, he’s raw and will need to be developed for a season or two. Reid has a track record of grooming signal-callers, and Mahomes is smart and hard-working, so the future is bright in Kansas City.

The present, however, is pretty cloudy because Smith will have to remain the quarterback in 2017. He and his limited arm aren’t the only issues with the offense, as there are questions about the offensive line and running game. Overpaid left tackle Eric Fisher was partly responsible for the playoff loss to Pittsburgh, but Kansas City is giving him too much money to upgrade him this offseason, so they’ll have to endure his pedestrian play once again this season. There is also concern at one of the guard spots, as Parker Ehinger tore his ACL and won’t be ready before training camp. Zach Fulton, a liability in run blocking, will have to start there until Ehinger is ready.

The rest of the offensive line isn’t bad. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, center Mitch Morse and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are all solid, and they’re all relatively young. Neither Morse nor Duvernay-Tardif is even 26 yet, so both players could take a major step forward this year.

As for the aforementioned ground attack, Spencer Ware was considered the clear-cut starter prior to the draft in the wake of Jamaal Charles release. The Chiefs selected Kareem Hunt in the third round, so he’ll be able to challenge Ware, or at the very least, form a committee with him. Hunt is a quality receiver out of the backfield, though his running ability translating to the NFL is questionable. Ware was a quality runner last year for Kansas City until he wore down late in the season. He averaged more than 3.8 yards per carry in just one of his final five games.

The Chiefs at least have a couple of intriguing weapons in the passing attack. Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the NFL, while Tyreek Hill, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, showed some major explosion as a rookie. Hill scored nine touchdowns on offense and three more on special teams. He’s a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball, and he figures to improve in his sophomore campaign. However, he’s the only viable receiver on the roster with Jeremy Maclin gone.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Defense:
With the offense bound to be mediocre once more, the defense will have to carry the Chiefs until Patrick Mahomes is fully developed. As it stands now, the stop unit is powerful enough to have the Chiefs in playoff contention again.

The heart and soul of the defense is Eric Berry, whose story continues to amaze. Berry was fighting for his life when he was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and now he’s one of the top safeties in the NFL. He was rewarded with a 6-year, $78 million contract this offseason, and it was well deserved.

Berry is a part of a very talented secondary that features Ron Parker, a solid coverage safety, and Marcus Peters, a legitimate shutdown cornerback. The starting spot across from Peters was an issue most of last year because of Sean Smith’s departure, but that changed in December and January when Terrance Mitchell took over the spot and played well. It remains to be seen if this was a fluke or not, given that Mitchell was waived by the Cowboys the preceding summer. If not, he, Peters and Steven Nelson will form a pretty formidable cornerack group.

The secondary is helped by a tremendous pass rush. Justin Houston, like Berry, is one of the top defenders in the entire league. Houston played in only five games last year because of a knee injury, but was able to record four sacks in those contests. Houston notched a ridiculous 22 sacks in 2014, so the sky is the limit for him if he can fully recover. He, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford will combine to form a potent trio on the edge, though Hali, 34 in December, won’t be around much longer. Thus, it’s a good thing for Kansas City that Ford is budding into stellar player; he hit 10 sacks in 2016.

There were some question marks concerning Kansas City’s defense entering the free-agency period, however. One happened to be all the departures on the defensive line. Both Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe left the team, creating two substantial holes on the front next to the talented Chris Jones. Second-round pick Tanoh Kpassagnon will replace Howard, while Bennie Logan was signed to fill Poe’s spot. Logan is coming off a down year because of injuries, but happened to be a quality run-stuffer beforehand.

The other defensive concern still remains, as inside linebacker Derrick Johnson tore his Achilles late last season and may not be ready for the opener. As a 34-year-old coming off a horrible injury, Johnson may not be able to perform on a high level even when he returns to action. If not, all the Chiefs will have at linebacker is Ramik Wilson, as the other players at that position struggled in the wake of Johnson’s injury in 2016.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule and Intangibles:
The Chiefs needed to bring back the Arrowhead magic that existed prior to 2007. Since that year, Kansas City was a dreadful 20-37 as a host, heading into the 2014 campaign. However, Kansas City is now 18-7 at Arrowhead over the past three seasons.

Andy Reid had poor special-teams units in Philadelphia after John Harbaugh left for Baltimore. That was not the case the past four years for the Chiefs, as they’ve combined for nine return touchdowns. They scored three this past seasons, thanks to Tyreek Hill.

Kicker Cairo Santos had a mixed 2016 campaign. The good news was that he hit 31-of-35 attempts, including both from 50-plus. The bad news was that he whiffed on three extra points.

Pro Bowler Dustin Colquitt was 11th in net punting average in 2013 and moved up to eighth the season after. He held that spot in 2015, though he dropped to 12th in 2016. However, he’s a master at pinning the opposition inside the 20.

“The Chiefs have a brutal schedule, as five of their first nine opponents (Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys) are expected to contend for the Super Bowl this year. Even some of the “easier” games are against decent opponents: the Chargers, Redskins, Texans and Broncos. Things do get a bit more relaxing following the Week 10 bye.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Rookies:
Go here for the Chiefs Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Kansas City Chiefs Analysis: The Chiefs are a solid team that will once again contend for the AFC West crown because of their great defense and stellar special teams. However, it’ll be the same old story, as Alex Smith just doesn’t have what it takes to win multiple playoff games. Fortunately for the Chiefs, there is at least hope in the horizon, as Patrick Mahomes could be ready by 2018.

Projection: 11-5 (2nd in AFC West)

2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 12-4.

2017 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2017 NFL Season Previews

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: The Chiefs need to find a new quarterback because Alex Smith clearly isn’t the answer. He’ll continue to come up short in the playoffs. A signal-caller could be obtained at the bottom of the first round. A new running back and a No. 2 receiver are needed as well. Fortunately for the Chiefs, their defense is in pretty good shape and doesn’t need very much beyond a linebacker and a second cornerback.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Some former NFL players do a good job on TV, but the danger with having them as analysts is that they’re too close to other players and will be biased as a result. That is why it seemed like everyone went out of their way to defend Alex Smith in the wake of the Patrick Mahomes selection. The argument is that the Chiefs are so close that they need only a couple more pieces to win the Super Bowl. That’s true, but one of the needed pieces happens to be a quarterback. Smith has proven that he’s incapable of winning more than one playoff game per run because of his limitations, and Andy Reid finally recognized that.

Mahomes is the complete opposite of Smith. He has a low floor because of the system he played in at Texas Tech, but he also has Brett Favre-type upside. If he takes to Reid’s coaching – and I’m sure he will, given that he’s hard-working and smart – he could develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback. It’ll take some time, but it definitely can happen, and that’s why Mahomes was the only quarterback in this entire class I would’ve spent a first-round pick on.

That said, the Chiefs gave up a lot to get him, so it could backfire if they sustain many injuries in 2017 and drop from a playoff contender to a bottom-10 team, much like the Bengals did last season. However, I commend Kansas City for realizing that something had to be done to move the team forward, since it was just spinning its wheels and not really going anywhere with Smith at the helm.

Moving on, Kansas City did well elsewhere. Tanoh Kpassagnon was a solid choice in the second round, and he has the athleticism and potential to be a force on the defensive line. Kareem Hunt is a perfect fit in Reid’s system, and he could be the starting running back by the end of the year. Jehu Chesson was a bit of a reach, but the Chiefs moved down for him to acquire extra resources, and he could end up starting down the road anyway.

I’d say the Chiefs had a solid draft overall. I’ll give it a “B,” as I think the trade was risky, but it could really pay off. Aside from that, I gave the Chiefs just one grade worse than a “B” (Ukeme Eligwe – “D”) so they did a quality job with the 2017 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

10. Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: C+ Grade
This is a very tricky grade. I like Pat Mahomes. He’s the only quarterback in this class I would’ve chosen in the first round. He can make all the throws, so he’s basically the opposite of Alex Smith. I think he has to sit a year, but he can do that behind Alex Smith. So, I like that aspect of this selection. However, the Chiefs gave up a lot. A 2018 first-round selection is too costly. I know the Chiefs are getting a franchise quarterback in Mahomes, but there were going to be great quarterbacks available next year as well. I also don’t think the Chiefs had to jump the Cardinals to take Mahomes. Arizona, I was told, was not going to select him at No. 13.

59. Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE/DT, Villanova: B+ Grade
Tanoh Kpassagnon is a stout run defender, and he’s very big and athletic, but needs to be molded into a better, seasoned player. So, he’s about a year away from being a capable starter. Notice a trend here? Alex Smith can’t be happy about this pick either, but the Smith formula wasn’t working. The Chiefs are now looking to build for the future, and it makes sense that they would do so. Kpassagnon is a solid choice, as he could’ve gone a bit earlier with no complaints.

86. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo: A- Grade
I really like this fit, as Kareem Hunt seems perfect for Andy Reid’s offense. Hunt is a very skilled runner who is terrific at catching passes out of the backfield. He fits the range in the third round and fills a need. It would not surprise me at all if he’s Kansas City’s starting running point at some point in 2017.

139. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan: B Grade
Jehu Chesson was a mid-fifth-rounder in my mock draft. This is a bit early for him, but the Chiefs traded down to acquire him, so that helps. Kansas City had to find another receiver with Jeremy Maclin’s time coming to an end soon with the team. Chesson has the athletic upside to emerge as a starter one day, and he was also productive at Michigan.

183. Ukeme Eligwe, LB, Georgia Southern: D Grade
This is just a poor pick. Ukeme Eligwe is someone with character and injury concerns. He should’ve been a UDFA, so there’s no reason to reach like this, even if it’s at the end of the fifth round.

218. Leon McQuay, S, USC: B Grade
Secondary help is always welcome, especially in the form of an athletic player with upside. Leon McQuay has that, but he’s also going to frustrate with his poor tackling ability. Still, he’s worth a shot here, as he fits the range.

Season Summary:
Another home playoff game, another loss. The Chiefs haven’t been victorious at home in the postseason since 1993. Kansas City’s defense did all it could, but ultimately, the incompetence of Alex Smith and Eric Fisher did them in. Something has to change, but Andy Reid is stubborn, so it would be shocking if he made any drastic changes.

Offseason Moves:
  • Chiefs cut WR Jeremy Maclin
  • Chiefs cut DE/DT Jaye Howard
  • Chiefs sign TE Gavin Escobar
  • Chiefs sign NT Bennie Logan
  • Chiefs re-sign S Daniel Sorensen
  • Chiefs re-sign G Mike Person
  • Chiefs cut RB Jamaal Charles
  • Chiefs re-sign S Eric Berry
  • Chiefs sign RB C.J. Spiller

    Team Needs:
    1. Inside Linebacker: Derrick Johnson is a 34-year-old coming off a torn Achilles that he suffered in December. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be ready for the 2017 campaign, so the Chiefs need to find a new inside linebacker to play next to Ramik Wilson.

    2. Cornerback: Terrance Mitchell was terrific across from Marcus Peters to close out the season, but given that he had barely done anything in the NFL beforehand, it’s possible that he could regress. The Chiefs needed a new cornerback anyway after losing Sean Smith.

    3. Safety: Re-signing Eric Berry is obviously one of Kansas City’s top priorities this offseason. Re-signed Eric Berry

    4. Guard: Kansas City could stand to bolster one of the guard spots, as Zach Fulton happens to be the weakest link in the interior.

    5. Nose Tackle: Dontari Poe is another key free agent who will need to be retained. Signed Bennie Logan

    6. Edge Rusher: Given Tamba Hali’s age and Justin Houston’s injury history, I’m sure the Chiefs will attempt to find another player who can get to the quarterback.

    7. Quarterback: Alex Smith turns 33 this offseason, so it might be time to start thinking about a long-term solution at quarterback.

    8. Tight End: Andy Reid loves to utilize multiple tight ends in his offense, but the only effective player the Chiefs have at the position happens to be Travis Kelce.

    9. Wide Receiver: Chris Conley and Albert Wilson haven’t developed very well thus far, so the Chiefs may want to think about bringing in some competition.

    10. Offensive Tackle: The Chiefs are not going to address this early because they gave Eric Fisher an absurd extension, but Fisher is a pretty poor pass protector and would be upgraded in ideal circumstances.

    11. Running Back: Spencer Ware wore down the stretch, while Jamaal Charles can’t be counted on to stay healthy.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Bennie Logan, DT, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Chiefs

      Bennie Logan doesn’t put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but he’s a tremendous run defender. Logan has been excellent in past years, but struggled in 2016 because he’s been bothered by a groin injury since early October. Logan is likely to bounce back next year.

    2. Gavin Escobar, TE, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs
    3. C.J. Spiller, RB, Jets. Age: 30. — Signed with Chiefs

    Kansas City Chiefs Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $5.9M
    1. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Chiefs (6 years, $78 million)

      It’s astonishing that just recently, Eric Berry was battling for his life against cancer. Now, he’s one of the top safeties in the NFL. Berry should continue to perform at an All-Pro level for at least four more years, as he just turned 28.

    2. Dontari Poe, NT, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Signed with Falcons

      Dontari Poe had one of the worst seasons in his career in 2016, thanks to a back injury. Poe is still a monstrous presence in the interior of the defensive line, and he’ll only be 27 in August.

    3. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs. Age: 29.
      Signed with Ravens (2 years)

      Jeremy Maclin’s release from Kansas City on Friday night was surprising, to say the least. Maclin struggled in 2016 – he caught 44 balls for 536 yards and two touchdowns – but did so while injured. Maclin snatched 87 receptions for 1,088 yards the year before, and this was despite being paired with the pedestrian Alex Smith. Maclin hauled in 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia in 2014, so this is the sort of potential he has, if healthy. All indications are that he’s close to 100 percent. Maclin, just 29, is still a passable No. 1 receiver and an extremely strong No. 2 option. Teams that make the most sense for Maclin are the Redskins, Cowboys, Ravens and Bills. All four teams have solid quarterbacks and are in need of receiving help.

    4. Cairo Santos (RFA), K, Chiefs. Age: 25.
      Tendered by Chiefs

      Cairo Santos, only 25, is a very skilled kicker, having nailed 31-of-35 tries in 2016. He’s missed five extra points the past two years, however.

    5. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Signed with Broncos

      Jamaal Charles is a tough free agent to rate. He has played just eight games in the past two years because of dual knee injuries. He also turned 30 in December. However, when healthy, Charles is a dynamic player. He may have lost some explosion because of his injuries, but he can at the very least serve as a potent receiver out of the backfield.

    6. Daniel Sorensen (RFA), S, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Chiefs

      Daniel Sorensen played about half the snaps for the Chiefs this past season, but only because he was behind Eric Berry and Ron Parker on the depth chart. Sorensen, who is a very good cover safety, wouldn’t be a bad starter on some team.

    7. Jaye Howard, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Bears

      Jaye Howard was a solid rotational player prior to 2016 – he recorded 5.5 sacks the year before – but struggled this past season with a hip injury. Just 28, Howard should be able to rebound.

    8. Nick Foles, QB, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Signed with Eagles
    9. Albert Wilson (RFA), WR, Chiefs. Age: 25. — Tendered by Chiefs
    10. Kendall Reyes, DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 27.
    11. Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs. Age: 25. — Signed with Steelers
    12. Mike Person, G/C, Chiefs. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Chiefs
    13. Bryan Witzmann (RFA), OT, Chiefs. Age: 27.


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