Despite the Kansas City Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl next week, general manager Brett Veach is likely hard at work on the 2020 season.
Veach and his staff are always looking to improve the current roster while working towards the future. It is especially crucial this week with the Senior Bowl being played down in Mobile, Alabama. It is the kick-off for the off-season in the NFL. With that in mind I’m going to go through the moves I’d make if Veach asked my opinion leading up to the NFL Draft.
The first thing I would do is not a popular thing. It would be hard to do, but I would franchise tag and trade, Chris Jones. Yes, he is a great player and an awesome teammate who I would love to have going forward, but I can’t pay everyone. Like the Chiefs did with Alex Smith, I would do what I could to trade him to somewhere he would like to play. I believe the Chiefs could get a first and two second-round picks for Jones. I’m confident enough in Veach’s drafting that he’d get at least two solid starters with those picks.
The next level I’m going to look at is players the Chiefs can move on from to build up my cap space to use on more valuable players. Sammy Watkins is the obvious first cut I would make if I was Veach. The Chiefs can save $14 million towards the cap by releasing Sammy and that is money they need. Next, I would add another $4 million to my cap space by releasing Cameron Erving. When you can walk away from a backup player and save $4 million with no penalty you have to make that move. My final cap saving move would be to convince Dustin Colquitt to retire. It would save the Chiefs $2 million at a position that is easily replaceable for the league minimum.
With those moves, I’ve given the team right around $40 million in cap space to play with. The Chiefs have multiple players up for free agency and I’m going to walk on the majority. LeSean McCoy, Demarcus Robinson, Matt Moore, and Chad Henne are players I would not look to bring back at all. Kendall Fuller, Andrew Wylie, and Emmanuel Ogbah are players I would give offers to, but I think other teams will offer more so we’ll lose them.
I would prioritize signing two of our free agents back and that’s Bashaud Breeland and Mike Pennel. I believe a solid contract for Breeland would be in the range of three years for $23 million. For Pennel, I would like to see him sign a deal in the range of two years at $6.5 million. That would lock down a starting corner and starting defensive tackle for multiple seasons.
Patrick Mahomes will be eligible for a new contract after the Super Bowl, and I wouldn’t wait long to give it to him. I would give him a six-year $240 million deal with $150 guaranteed. That works out to $40 million per year average and the highest contract in NFL history by a wide margin. I would structure the contract so it’s team-friendly year one when our cap situation is the thinnest.
Now that I have all the current players figured out it is time to look at bringing in guys from the outside. After Mahomes, Breeland, and Pennel re-signings I don’t think the Chiefs will have the funds to look at any big names, so they will need to find some diamonds in the rough. Thankfully, the Chiefs won’t have any major holes to fill in 2020. In free agency, I would be looking to fill some depth spots with solid low-cost veterans.
I would like to look at some offensive line depth with a player like Evan Boehm or Joey Hunt. Wide receiver is another position that will need depth help with the departures of Watkins and Robinson. Cody Latimer is a name I’d like to see coming to the Chiefs on a small contract, with Randall Cobb being a good target at a higher price.
I’m really not going to go to much deeper than that in free agency before the draft. I’m expecting to find a couple new starters in the draft and free agency being used solely to snag depth.
That is what I would do if I was Veach leading up to the draft. With Mahomes making his salary Chiefs’ fans will need to get used to free agency being more of a quiet time than we are used to. The draft will be the key to each off-season needing to hit on that cheap high upside talent.