The Kansas City Chiefs defense played great down the stretch last season. During the playoffs, they were able to shut down their opponent late in games. In fact, if not for the defense’s heroics in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, the outcome of that game might have been different. But there are key players on the defensive side of the ball that may not return to the team next season. Two position groups that will need attention this off-season are the linebackers and cornerbacks.
Kansas City has two starting LBs that played well this season, Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. Each had north of 90 tackles in the regular season and playoffs last year. Both are under contract next season and are clearly the best players at the position on the roster. But after these two guys the water gets a little murky.
Reggie Ragland played well at times but had a hard time getting onto the field. He is a Free agent this off-season and based on how reluctant the Chiefs were to put him in the game it is hard to imagine them bringing him back. Ben Niemann saw the field more than Ragland and almost doubled Reggie’s tackle numbers. In all fairness though, Niemann was on the field almost twice as much as Ragland. Niemann was the first LB off the bench when a starter needed a breather or due to defensive package. He is under contract for next season so he will at least enter training camp with the team.
Darron Lee is a player the Chiefs brought in last off-season and had high hopes for the former Jet. But he was inactive for the entirety of the playoffs. He is an unrestricted free agent and will not be back next season. And then there is Dorian O’Daniel. He played mostly special teams but did see some snaps on defense towards the end of the season. He is under contract through the next two seasons but will likely spend most of his playing time on special teams.
Likely to return: Hitchens, Wilson, Niemann, O’Daniel
Probably gone: Ragland, Lee
The play at CB greatly improved last season. Charvarius Ward continues to grow and had a fantastic year. Ward is under contract for next season and will be a restricted free agent the following year. If he continues to improve as he did last year, look for the Chiefs to offer him an extension. Bashaud Breeland was the starting corner on the opposite side of Ward. He had an impressive 2019 as well but is currently a free agent. Breeland expressed interest in re-signing with the team recently in a radio interview but he will most likely command a high salary to do so. I personally would love to see the Chiefs bring him back, but it is unknown if the two sides can reach an agreement.
Kendall Fuller started the season as the slot corner but played more snaps at safety later in the season. This may have been mostly due to injury, but it is possible that the coaches preferred him at that spot. He made some big plays at the safety position, including the game sealing interception in the Super Bowl. Fuller is a free agent and there are rumors swirling that Washington is interested in bringing him back. Chances are good that Fuller will not be with the team next season.
Rashad Fenton had a great rookie season. He saw a lot of snaps at the slot cornerback spot as the year progressed and made some big plays. Again, this was mostly due to injury, but Fenton really impressed at the position. He is under contract through 2022 and if he continues to build on his performance as a rookie, he should be with the team for the next few seasons.
Morris Claiborne didn’t make much of an impact in 2019. He only played in eight games and it is hard to see him back next year. Alex Brown was promoted from the practice squad late in the season and played in only three games. He will be back for camp next year and will have another chance to make the team.
Likely to return: Ward, Fenton, Brown
Probably gone: Claiborne, Fuller, Breeland?
While both positions need to be addressed this off-season, CB is currently the bigger need. There are four LBs on the roster and three of those players played the most snaps at the position last year. Essentially, the best three LBs will be returning. That doesn’t mean the position shouldn’t be improved, but the need at CB is greater. There are currently only three CBs on the roster and one of those players spent most of the year on the practice squad. Now, if the Chiefs can persuade Breeland to return on a contract that makes sense for the team, then the situation at CB is less dire. But if that doesn’t happen before the draft in April, look for the Chiefs to address the CB position with one of their first two draft picks.