Breaking down the Kansas City Chiefs signing of David Amerson

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: David Amerson
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: David Amerson /

The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off another move in the secondary to bring aboard former Raiders CB David Amerson. Here are some thoughts on the deal.

Free agency won’t begin for another few weeks. The NFL Combine is still several days away. Yet the Kansas City Chiefs have already made a couple moves to completely reinvent their secondary. On Friday night, they announced the signing of former Oakland Raiders cornerback David Amerson.

Amerson was released two weeks ago and had visits set up with the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers at least. The Chiefs were a surprise contender, but it turns out that general manager Brett Veach was working behind the scenes to make it happen.

The signing of Amerson comes three weeks after the trade of Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins, which also brought in another cornerback in Kendall Fuller.

So what should Chiefs Kingdom think about the signing of David Amerson? Here are some thoughts:

2017 is a mulligan

Let’s be clear: one look at anything related to David Amerson from this last year is going to depress you. In fact, you might be clamoring for Terrance Mitchell or Kenneth Acker instead. So why sign Amerson?

Well, just know that this last season was basically a mulligan for Amerson. He’s had multiple concussions over the last two seasons. Then there’s a lingering foot injury that kept him out the final 9 games of the season (think Dee Ford’s back). The end result was a pitiful six game performance with only 4 passes defended on the year.

Any evaluation of Amerson has to take this in mind. He’d have to pass a physical in order to join the roster, which means the Chiefs feel good about the foot, the concussions and his ability to put a bad year behind him.

A familiar face

Remember that Amerson played the last three seasons for the Oakland Raiders, which means that the Chiefs brass has gotten a good look at Amerson, in person and on film, over the span of time. They’ve seen the ups and downs. They’ve plotted on how to create mismatches against him, and yet they still want him on their team.

That means that the Chiefs believe his strengths outweigh his weaknesses and that they’ve recognized specifically how they can employ him in a way that takes advantage of what he does well while masking any negatives.

This is not just some free agent flyer. This is the acquisition of a very familiar face for whom they have a very specific plan.

Everything in moderation

If the whole thing falls apart, if Amerson cannot return to form at all but instead remains plagued by injuries or poor play or both, the reality is that this is a reported one-year deal with a base salary of just over $2 million. That’s peanuts in today’s salary cap with zero impact on the future. Amerson’s best (and we’ll get to that) is higher than any player to whom the Chiefs are (potentially) waving goodbye—Kenny Acker, Terrance Mitchell, Steven Terrell, Phillip Gaines.

For the sake of comparison, Marcus Cooper is making $5.5 million in 2018. Sean Smith’s cap hit is at $8.5M this year if the Raiders decide to keep him. Even Neiko Thorpe is making $2.1 million.  Just know that signing a CB to a base salary of $2.5 million is nothing outrageous and a one-year deal is a franchise’s dream most of the time.

Motivation to reach the ceiling

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Let’s look back at Amerson’s ceiling for a second. In 2015, he set the Oakland Raiders franchise record for passes defended with 26. He also had 4 interceptions that year, and he was duly rewarded with a $34 million extension over the next four years.

The set-up for that extension was that Amerson’s back was against the wall. He’d been released by the team that drafted him, the Washington Redskins, despite being a former second round pick in 2013. If he hadn’t performed well for the Raiders, he could have been released again, searching for his third team in three seasons. Instead, he rebounded, rose to the occasion and made millions in the process.

Once again, Amerson is on the outs. He’s been given a one-year deal to prove himself in a new environment. He’s been plagued by injuries, poor play and comes with a reputation to turn around. So far, it’s easy to point to Amerson and think, “There’s a guy who had one good season and the Raiders fell for it.” But he’s proven that he can be a disruptive, physical asset in the secondary in these same circumstances in the past. That’s worth a bet that he can do it again.

Veach is all over the secondary

Just like he focused on linebackers in the preseason with the additions of Josh Mauga, Reggie Ragland and Kevin Pierre-Louis, general manager Brett Veach has made cornerback a target of his laser-like focus. Darrelle Revis is out. Several more contracts are set to expire in a few weeks as mentioned above. Kendall Fuller is in and now Amerson, too.

Even before free agency or the draft, consider the difference in the Chiefs core of corners. At season’s end:

  1. Marcus Peters
  2. Darrelle Revis
  3. Steven Nelson
  4. Terrance Mitchell/Kenneth Acker/Phillip Gaines

Now the Chiefs have a new look after Peters:

  1. Marcus Peters
  2. Kendall Fuller
  3. David Amerson
  4. Steven Nelson

It’s important to also note that Veach is not done remaking this unit. Expect the safeties to be addressed, further youth to be added in the draft and maybe even the addition of another free agent given how deep this market will be at the position. Given how often the Chiefs play in dime packages, it makes sense to add another dependable option even if it seems like much.