The 2022 season has just ended, and as of March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agents to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Kansas City Chiefs.
With 2 titles in 5 years, many franchises would already be very happy with this result. But these Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes have already announced it, they want to write history and establish themselves as one of the dynasties of this sport.
For that, it will again be necessary to succeed in the off-season to perfect a team of champions and finally to get the double that the league has been waiting for for more than twenty years now.
1- Patrick Mahomes (QB)
2- Travis Kelce (TE)
3- Chandler Jones (DT)
How not to name the best quarterback and player in the league? Since his tenure, it’s 3 Super Bowls played, 5 conference finals played and 2 MVP titles. No one has done better in that time and perhaps no quarterback has had such a career start in history. Inevitably, he is the captain of this team and the one through whom the objective of making this team a “dynasty” is embodied the most.
Of course, Mahomes can count on high-level lieutenants. The first of them is none other than Travis Kelce. The one who is already establishing himself as one of the best tight ends in history, is the privileged target of his quarterback and in the first year “post Tyreek Hill”, he showed that he was the real number 1.
In defense, Chandler Jones is the squad boss. A talented player, the defensive tackle has again gained in consistency in 2022 and his ability to make big plays will once again make him the cornerstone of Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive system.
With Frank Clark’s recent cut, the Chiefs got rid of the team’s main “unwanted” contract. At first glance, there are no other savings so obvious. That said, if the Chiefs really need to make room in the wage bill, they can look to Harrison Butker (K) and Marques Valdes-Scanting (WR).
The first comes out of its worst season on foot and parting with it would save 4 million. Not an insignificant sum for a kicker, but Butker is a veteran of the team and his field goals from the playoff win could give him another chance.
Cutting Valdes-Scanting could net 9 million. A significant saving for a rotation receiver. But with Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman’s free agent situation, coupled with the fact that 2022 was his first season in Kansas City, the receiver will likely be retained.
The summer man
Orlando Brown Jr.
The young player will undoubtedly be the man to follow during this off-season. Arrived from Baltimore two seasons ago, Orlando Brown is again free of any contract. Kansas City chose not to put a second franchise tag on him. The choice reduces the possibilities for the franchise to just two: find an agreement to extend it or see it go.
While not the most talented left tackle, Orlando Brown will undoubtedly be the most coveted player on the offensive line in free agency. Able to play in several offensive systems, he is solid and has all the assets that will delight any team.
His departure or not, will condition the rest of Kansas City’s free agency and draft. Continue to protect Mahomes for titles or seek money elsewhere? In Orlando to choose.
The main free agents
1. Orlando Brown (T)
2. Juju Smith-Schuster (WR)
3. Juan Thornhill (S)
4. Andrew Wylie (T)
5. Jerick McKinnon (RB)
The other important free agents: Mecole Hardman (WR), Carlos Dunlap (DE), Derrick Nnadi (DT), Nick Allegreti (G)
Beyond the Brown case, mentioned above, the Chiefs will also have to look into the case of Andrew Wylie. The lineman showed his importance by taking the starting place from an injured Lucas Niang. By letting him go, the Chiefs could lose their 2 tackles in the same offseason. In addition, he is an important element for the depth of the workforce. And when you know how injuries can accumulate in a season…
On the “skills players” side, the defending champions will have a lot to do with the Smith-Schuster and McKinnon files. The first comes out of a good season with 78 receptions and 933 yards (1st among team receivers) but he did not necessarily show that he could be a real number 1. In a weak free agency at the post of receiver, Smith-Schuster could find better than the 10 million that Kansas offered him in 2022. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs aligning themselves with a much higher contract for him.
The second was extremely valuable in the rotation as a runner, but also in the passing game and finished the season with 12 touchdowns. With such a rebirth thanks to the franchise, it is easy to imagine McKinnon and the Chiefs finding a “friendly” agreement to extend the adventure.
In defense, it is especially the case of Juan Thornhill who is to be watched. Drafted in the second round by the Chiefs, the player never reached the expected level without disappointing. A reliable and quality player, the Chiefs will want to retain him, but may not have the means.
The top 5 needs
2. Defensive end
3. Defensive tackle
Of course, the need for the position of tackle will only be effective if Kansas City fails to retain Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie. If this is the case, this need becomes the priority of the Chiefs and given the means of the team, it is undoubtedly towards the draft that it will be necessary to turn for this need.
With Franck Clark’s cut and the probable departure of Carlos Dunlap, the Chiefs find themselves without defensive end number 2 and 3 (Karlaftis being the natural 1). In a league where the pressure put on the opposing quarterback is imperative and with a defense coached by Steve Spagnuolo, impossible to imagine the team being satisfied with that. Kansas City therefore needs to strengthen on the defensive line. Draft and free agency will be used to fill in the gaps, including getting a veteran hungry for a ring.
Still on the defensive line, the defensive tackle position will also become a priority, with Derrick Nnadi and Kalen Saunders becoming free this offseason. While it’s not impossible that the franchise will be able to keep both players on convenient contracts, neither is the loss of both. From then on, the team will only have 2 players in the squad for this position. Impossible to start the 2023 season in this situation.
Although Mahomes can count on Travis Kelce and gimmicks like Sky Moore and Kadarius Tooney next year, the possible departures of Smith-Schuster and Hardman have the Chiefs considering the receiver position. The franchise could afford to try a new contract “proven yourselves” over 1 year to attract a receiver via free agency and get a nugget at the post at the end of the Draft.
Finally, with the retirement of Chad Henne, the team no longer has a strong backup quarterback. As we have seen, Mahomes’ game sometimes involves minor injuries causing him to leave occasionally. Andy Reid must therefore have a replacement on the bench capable of executing his game plan.
It seems important for Kansas City to strengthen its pass-rush with the early departures of Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap.
At free agency, the Chiefs could choose to get Yannick Ngakoue. Author of 9.5 sacks with the Colts in 2022, the young defender cannot stabilize in a workforce with 4 franchises in two seasons. A “fidgeting” which could be linked to its behavior and lower its price. However, the player remains effective with at least 8 sacks made in each of his seasons.
The new blood
If the team brings in an edge rusher via the market and Brown and/or Wylie jump ship, then Brett Veach could take advantage of the 1st round to get a rookie on the offensive line.
As such and holder of choice 32, the franchise could then turn to Anton Harrison. The Oklahoma player showed some potential during his college years. At 21, the lineman is athletic, strong and endowed with real game intelligence. Harrison also has a footwork that allows him to be quite effective against most moves by opposing pass-rushers. On his first year, the player could also be aligned on the right before taking power on the left.