A way too early look at the upcoming Chiefs offseason

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Alex Smith /

The Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming offseason could be full of tough decisions on popular and well known names.

Even though we’re not even halfway through the 2017 regular season, we still wanted to take a way-too-early look at the Kanas City Chiefs upcoming offseason, as many well-known names may be ushered out the door to make way for new faces. For a team facing a serious salary cap crunch at this moment (the Chiefs already exceed the 2018 salary cap), there will undoubtedly be some tough decisions.

First, let’s look at players not likely to return to the Chiefs next season. Alex Smith is the first on the list. Due to count $20.6 million against the cap in 2018, the Chiefs can save $17 million by moving on from the veteran signal caller after the 2017 season. With the slew of teams that appear likely to be in the market for a new quarterback for the 2018 season, it certainly appears likely from a distance the Chiefs will be able to move Smith for a solid return.

Tamba Hali is next on the list. There is about zero chance Hali is with the Chiefs in 2018, and it wouldn’t surprise some (perhaps I’m on an island) if Hali’s time has already come to an end—either released or kept on injured reserve for 2017. Releasing the veteran pass rusher will free up $7 million against the Chiefs 2018 cap.

Allen Bailey is next on the chopping block. A release of the veteran lineman saves the Chiefs $6 million against the 2018 cap. Combine that with the development of Chris Jones and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and the needed move back to defensive line of 2017 second round draft pick Tanoh Kpassagnon, the Chiefs will have all the depth they need. (Why in the world are the Chiefs trying this kid, all 6-7, 290 pounds of him, at edge rusher? Waste of time and development.) Perhaps a team like the Indianapolis Colts would be wiling to part with a late selection or two in the next draft. They run a 3-4 defense and former assistant Chiefs GM Chris Ballard is the general manager in Indy. Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub is also the whispered front runner to replace current head coach Pagano, should a change happen. With the growth and development of other players, the time has come to get younger and cheaper.

Next on the list is Demetrius Harris. While his savings are not as significant as the previously listed (the team saves $2 million with his release), the Chiefs have other options they can bring in to backup Kelce and drop passes. It’s unclear if his offseason arrest will affect his guaranteed money, but regardless, it’s time to save money to find a different option in 2018.

The last name mentioned here is Derrick Johnson. Sadly, it appears father time is starting to catch up with the veteran linebacker, and it showed in the Steelers game as the middle linebacker was not quite able to catch up to the runners on the edge. Due a 2018 cap number of over 10 million dollars, D.J.’s release would save the Chiefs $8 million in cap space. The organization has been planning for this moment, as the drafting of Ukeme Eligwe, trading for Reggie Ragland, as well as keeping Terrence Smith, Ramik Wilson and Kevin Pierre-Louis. I can see the organization approaching Johnson about a pay cut, but if he says no, it would be time for the organization to move on.

For those counting at home, based on these five players being released, the organization would free up a staggering $40 million in cap room. Combined with the likely acquisition of draft pick or two for an Alex Smith trade, this team with limited draft picks and no cap room can suddenly replenish some picks and create enough cap room to continue to compete going forward.

2018 Mock draft

Since we’re talking about draft picks, let’s also look at a way-too-early mock based on the current Chiefs selections. They traded away their first round pick to move up to select Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, traded their fifth round selection for Cam Erving and traded their own seventh round pick for Kenneth Acker. However, they acquired seventh round picks in trades of Marcus Cooper to Arizona in 2016 and David King to Tennessee this preseason.

2nd Round – Lorenzo Carter, OLB/EDGE, Georgia
Chiefs need help at pass rusher. Houston is not getting any younger and the Chiefs will have a decision to make on Dee Ford after the 2018 season. Carter has become a solid edge player for Georgia this season after something of a disappointment in years previous. Regardless, the front seven will be an area addressed extensively this upcoming off season.

3rd Round – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
While my instincts say he likely is gone before the Chiefs select in the third, Alabama defensive front seven players have a tendency to fall lower then you’d expect on draft day. I will point towards Jon Allen and Reuben Foster in the last draft as prime and recent examples. Kansas City will likely need to add depth at the nose tackle position as both nose tackles, starter Bennie Logan and backup Roy Miller are both free agents after the 2017 season. Rakeem Nunez-Roches is a restricted free agent after this season, and Chris Jones is going to cost a lot of money to resign when that day comes, which will be soon enough.

4th Round – Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State
Phil Gaines, Kenneth Acker and Steve Terrell are unrestricted free agents after this season and Steven Nelson is a restricted free agent. Depth at the corner position will need to be addressed, and Harris is a physical player that flashes athleticism. While he may never be a true starter at the corner position, he is willing to tackle on the edge and has some good ball skills. Could be a nice developmental depth piece going forward. Terrence Mitchell is a restricted free agent after this season.

6th Round – Adam Brenman, TE, UMass
Athletic tight end and highly sought high school product ended up at UMass after initially going to Penn State. With Kelce cemented at starter, Breneman is able to come in and compete with Ross Travis to be the backup tight end. Combined with the likely new starter at the QB position in 2018, having multiple tight ends can aid in development.

7th Round – Ebenezer Ogundeko, EDGE, Tennessee State
Former Clemson recruit edge rusher has found a home at Tennessee State. Developmental pass rusher depth is something vital for the Chiefs this season, and Ogundeko has flashed pass rush ability at the lower levels. Compete with 2016 draft pick Dadi Nicolas (assuming he’s healthy next season) for playing time or a roster spot in 2018.  Should he or Nicolas (or Carter) flash as an immediate impact pass rusher, could impact Ford’s 2018 status.

7th Round – Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
Colquitt is a free agent after this season and despite previous moves to free up cap space, spending a lot of money on a punter is not likely the best long term move. With the aforementioned Jones, center Mitch Morse and cornerback Marcus Peters facing likely expensive price tags on extensions, team may have to save a little bit of money at punter. Townsend is one of the top punters in college this season and could replace much of Colquitt’s production, though replacing Colquitt’s ability to pin teams deep will be difficult.

Despite their loss to Pittsburgh, the Chiefs certainly appear to be the top team in the AFC currently, as long as they don’t have to play Pittsburgh. However, it certainly appears changes are afoot for 2018 season and beyond.