ESPN’s Louis Riddick said on NFL Insiders Monday night he’s heard the Chiefs are “very excited” about A.J. Jenkins. Jenkins, who the Chiefs traded Jon Baldwin for in August, caught eight passes for 130 yards in limited action this season.
It would makes sense for the Chiefs to say they are “excited” about him because they really have no choice but to keep him for 2014. Jenkins is one of five players on the Chiefs roster for 2014 who would not save the Chiefs money if they cut them. According to Over the Cap and Spotrac, Jenkins has a salary cap number and dead money figure of $1,021,594, which means the Chiefs would save no money by cutting him.
Next year could be different for Jenkins. His cap number for 2015 is still low, $1,337,390, but he will not have any dead money attached to him. This means Jenkins will not cost anything against the cap in 2015 if they choose to cut him. It makes sense to give Jenkins another year to see if he can figure it out from a salary cap standpoint.
Kansas City may also need to keep him around if Dexter McCluster leaves via free agency. Jenkins was McCluster’s primary replacement in the second half of the season, and showed an ability to run some of the same plays McCluster runs out of the backfield. A full offseason to learn the playbook and prepare with Alex Smith could see Jenkins ready to take over for McCluster if he leaves. If not, Kansas City has a solid and affordable second option behind McCluster.
One question to ask yourself is whether or not Jenkins can be a guy who returns kicks and catches 50 passes for 500 yards by running a bunch of underneath routes. If the answer is yes, then you’ve agreed to McCluster’s production from this past season. It isn’t unreasonable to think Jenkins could succeed in the McCluster role. He has good size at 6-feet, 200-pounds to go along with his 4.39 speed, has experience returning kickoffs in college, and showed potential as a possession receiver with 90 catches in his senior season. The raw skills are there if Kansas City can find a way to unlock them.
There is a reason why Jenkins was taken in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, there is talent there. Whether or not the Chiefs are the team to unlock it is the question. Andy Reid and John Dorsey apparently feel like they can.