With more misses than hits in free agency, the Chiefs are still a team in need. Several positions lack a solid starter (i.e. left tackle) along with positions that lack depth. Again, tackle comes to mind along with WR, EDGE, CB, and several positions that could benefit from quality depth additions.
With the draft still weeks away and certainly a place where the brain trust expects to fill some of these needs (do we want a rookie protecting PM15’s blindside?) let’s look at who still left on the shelf in the free agency that the front office should consider.
With the injury to Eric Fisher and the Williams deal a painful miss, the market is void of great long-term options. The draft will certainly include attention to an OL that has been under construction since the disaster known as the Super Bowl. Here is who is left for consideration.
A former first-round pick (#6 overall), the 11-year veteran is still out there and the best available at a position of need for the Chiefs. With the disappointment of the Trent Williams miss, Okung could fill in and help groom an heir apparent to the spot held down by fellow former first-rounder Eric Fisher for the last seven years. Okung has a PFF grade of 73.0 and only three sacks allowed, a solid potential addition that would bring some experience to Mahomes’ blindside. However, a 32-year-old who will turn 33 in the middle of next season is not a long-term solution to a very important position to keep Patrick upright.
Another seasoned veteran, Villanueva is still available. Surely a consideration, again, given the importance of the left tackle spot, but the same age as Okung. So, again this could be a short-term, one-year deal solution. Both Okung and Villanueva would bring experience to potentially mentor a draft pick given their years in the league. Grading out with a 74.6 PFF grade and with three sacks allowed, similar to Okung in many ways, but not considered as highly coveted, perhaps the price could be right.
Getting the band back together seems to be a Chiefs thing, Dan Sorensen anyone? So, perhaps as Fisher’s recovery timeline from his Achilles injury suffered in the AFC Championship game becomes more clear Fish returns? The upside to a reunion tour with the Chiefs stalwart left tackle is, at 30-years -old he is younger than the first two options on our list.
In addition to knowing the system he has played in since 2013, he boasts a PFF grade of 80.0 with three sacks allowed. The downside is he is unlikely to be ready for the early part of next season and at what point of the season, if at any point, will he truly be 100%? Finally, who would the Chiefs depend on to protect Mahomes until Fisher was ready? A reunion would provide some unanswered questions, but if he is healthy, it could be a possibility.
The Chiefs missed out on several quality cornerbacks early in free agency as they were distracted by the OL situation. With many available free agents on the wrong side of 30-years-old and others on the wrong side of PFF rankings, the CB market is not flush with top-end talent at this point of free agency. Regardless, a position the Chiefs have previously filled with short-term signings and fingers-crossed late-round draft picks, here is who we have available.
Let us open the bidding at another position of dire need with yet another former member of the band formerly known as the Super Bowl Champions, Bashaud Breeland. Chief fans have a love/hate relationship with Breeland, who has had some poorly timed P.I. penalties. Breeland certainly would fill the position he has held down for the last two seasons and the Chiefs would know what they are getting by resigning him. Breeland has not lit up the PFF scores with an overall 67.7 and he has proven frustrating for fans at times. The Chiefs could do worse depending on a late round draft pick as the earlier picks seemed earmarked for other needs.
……Just kidding, no.
Poole is the same age as Breeland at 29-years-old and would offer similar value. Although at that age, signing Poole to a long-term deal would not be reasonable at this point of his career, another stop-gap solution to a position of need could suffice short-term. Grading out slightly higher than Breeland in PFF at 77.1, Poole isn’t a lockdown corner that the Chiefs would like to have, but again serviceable and possibly a slight upgrade to resigning Breeland.
The former Seahawk teammate of Jarran Reed had a respectable 2019 season. However, Dunbar regressed in 2020. Signing Dunbar is a stretch, but given the available talent left on the CB market and the fact the Chiefs have generally ignored the opportunities to upgrade with a high draft for several years, the Chiefs have kicked the tires on worse. Dunbar’s name is interchangeable with several lesser valued names still available, you could easily replace his name with several other currently available CBs. Do the Chiefs need another body in the secondary, yes. Will they take a chance on an older or lower-tier serviceable player, time will tell.
With the Chiefs recent acquisition of Jarran Reed, the interior defensive line gets some much-needed depth and reinforcement. The addition suggestions the possibility of Chris Jones moving around in different formations as we have seen previously. However, a truly formidable Edge rusher opposite Frank Clark would afford the Chiefs some much-needed QB pressure that eluded them against the Bucs in February. Again, it seems reasonable that Veach could use an early-round draft pick on a rookie pass rusher, but some intriguing names remain available.
Oh, the mystery that is Clowney. A former number one overall pick in 2014, Clowney never fully developed into the player that was anticipated. Clowney, also, seems to overvalue his worth and is no strange to the one-year deal. He has again found himself without a team after a mediocre 2020 campaign with the Titans ending the season with a PFF grade of 74.9. Another one-time Seahawk, at 28-years-old Clowney is one of the youngest free agents available and could be worth a look. Could pairing Clowney across from Frank Clark motivate the former three-time pro bowler? Seems like a one-year incentive-laden deal might be worth the risk.
“Memories…like the corners of my mind” or the edge of the defensive line in this case. Former fan favorite Justin Houston is available after his two-season stint on the Colts. At 32-years-old, Houston nears retirement no doubt, but not unlike Clowney, could benefit from playing across from Frank Clark. North of 30-years-old doesn’t scream for anything outside of a one-year deal for the former Chief.
At some point the Chiefs need to draw a line on one-year deals for older veterans and Houston is probably considered on the wrong side of it. However, the Chiefs could do worse as a stop-gap as they potentially (and hopefully) address edge in the upcoming draft. Houston didn’t exactly light it up in 2020 with a PFF grade of 63.5, but nor did he burn the bridge that leads back to K.C. from Indy. Here’s looking at you Steven Nelson.
The oft-injured Okafor hasn’t earned an offer to return for the 2021 season from the Chiefs after signing in 2019. There certainly is a reason why the Chiefs didn’t look for him to return with a PFF grade of 57.6 in 2020. His tenure with the Saints in 2017 and 2018, saw a stronger performance than during his two seasons in K.C. Still, if the Chiefs continue on the road of getting the band back together a cheap one-year deal, however unlikely, could at least add depth. The two previous names on this least seem, on paper, to have more promise than another year of Okafor. There are worse options though and I haven’t heard of Okafor being wooed by any other offers.
The last stop on our list of needs for the 2021 season. With the loss of Sammy Watkins to Baltimore (if he plays every game this season, I’ll be really pissed) and the decision to bring back Demarcus Robinson, wide receiver isn’t as dire as the proceeding positions we analyzed. However, with Watkins missing multiple games the last two seasons and Mecole Hardman’s development in question, the Chiefs need a true #2 threat opposite Tyreek Hill to take pressure off of double teams. Do any available free agents fit that role? In reviewing who is still available, I would have to say, no.
I would take a pass on Antonio Brown, simply too much baggage. Larry Fitzgerald will be 39-years-old when the season starts and then there are question marks surrounding Dez Bryant. So, when we analyze the need, which is a true #2 receiver, that need cannot be met with the current free agents available.
There was a total of eleven wide receivers signed through free agency this off-season, the Chiefs had their opportunity. With potential targets like Kenny Golladay and Will Fuller on the market initially, not to mention an opportunity to resign Watkins the Chiefs were not linked to any receivers in the opening of free agency. This would suggest the Chiefs have a plan or are looking to see further development with their current roster. Perhaps another early-round draft surprise from Brett Veach?