What should the Chiefs do at backup quarterback in 2018? Here are four strategies for the team to consider.
For the first time since drafting Todd Blackledge in the 1980s, the Kansas City Chiefs will have a first-round draft pick of their own selection starting under center to begin the season. Chiefs’ fans have been clamoring for this situation for quite some time and it is finally here in the form of Patrick Mahomes.
However, one burning question remains at the position. With the draft and free agency rapidly approaching, what should Brett Veach and the Chiefs do to solidify their backup quarterback position? I see four potential strategies to undertake.
Re-sign Tyler Bray
The first strategy is to simply re-sign Tyler Bray. The pros to this situation are that Bray knows Andy Reid’s system and he would likely be much cheaper, due to lack of interest, than signing someone in free agency. The cons to this are that Bray has never demonstrated the proclivity to win a game, even in the preseason.
At times, he has shown flashes of a strong arm and pocket presence. However, he has followed these instances up with awful throws and bad handoffs leading to costly turnovers. While he would be decidedly cheaper than most in free agency, this is a low value option for the Chiefs.
Sign a Veteran Free Agent
The second strategy is to sign a veteran free agent. The pros to this are obvious. A veteran with one or two contracts under his belt could be a tremendous asset for Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes when preparing for each game. Even more important, having a veteran in Mahomes’ ear would be beneficial when this year’s inevitable growing pains occur. The only major con to this is that a veteran free agent is going to be the priciest option for the Chiefs.
Two potential options for this strategy, according to some recent rumors, are Chase Daniel and Teddy Bridgewater. In Daniel’s case, he is extremely familiar with Reid’s system and Chiefs Kingdom. He is a backup quarterback that can win games for a team, having played well for the Chiefs in that capacity twice. It’s possible, as Daniel took a sizeable pay cut to return to the Saints last year, that he would do the same for the Chiefs. If not, you’re probably looking at a cap hit of $4 to $5 million for a player who could spend all year on the sideline. Given current team needs, this might not be a great value option.
In Bridgewater’s case, you have a seemingly high-character player with good potential. He is a quarterback Reid could be confident in if Mahomes goes down. Even more, he could be viewed as a possible developmental player and could be traded down the line for a mid-to-late round pick. But again, it’s likely that Bridgewater will command a premium as a backup, if he’d even be interested in the role. Given that, this might not be a great value option either.
Draft a QB
The third strategy is to draft the backup quarterback. In terms of picks, the Chiefs have a second, two thirds, two fourths, and a sixth rounder. Given current team needs, it’s likely they wouldn’t draft a quarterback until at least the fourth round.
The pros here are three-fold. First, this would be a cheap option for the Chiefs. If the drafted quarterback ends up being a great fit, you have a cheap backup for the next five years. Second, this makes Mahomes the unquestioned leader of the quarterback room, something the first two options could prevent. Given the sentiment regarding Mahomes’s leadership abilities, it seems the Chiefs are structuring moves with this in mind. Finally, this gives Reid another prospect to develop. In a quarterback hungry league, this draft pick could be recouped in a future trade.
The major con to this strategy is the lack of veteran leadership in the quarterback room. While this could be beneficial to Mahomes in some ways, it could be detrimental in others. We have yet to see how Mahomes operates on his own for an entire season. This makes this one of the riskier options for the Chiefs.
A potential fit for this strategy would be Tanner Lee from the Nebraska Cornhuskers. According to this report by Wesley Roesch and Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire/USA Today, Lee was one of three quarterbacks the Chiefs interviewed at the combine. While Lee had a somewhat rocky season in 2017, he displayed good arm strength and comes from an offense that liked to throw the ball. He’s not extremely mobile, but with the decline in number of runs from Alex Smith over the last couple years this doesn’t seem to be a priority. The best part is he will likely be available in the fourth or fifth round. This gives the Chiefs flexibility to either grab him in the fourth, or trade down to the fifth and pick him there.
Make a Trade
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This has several pros. First, the Chiefs would reportedly only be on the hook for a late round pick, making this the highest value of all four strategies. Second, according to Spotrac his cap hit over the next three years would be $1.1M, $1.3M, and $1.6 million making him an extremely cheap backup option for any team. Third, he already has a season under his belt. It was rocky, at best, but it could be a valuable experience for him to share with Mahomes.
Finally, he presents possibly the best option as a prospect. General sentiment was that Kizer had the potential to be a first-round pick, ultimately going in the second round. With Reid’s tutelage and his physical tools, he has the potential to be a solid NFL quarterback. This could give the Chiefs some trade opportunities in the near future.
The cons are similar to drafting a rookie. Kizer is young and struggled mightily with the Cleveland Browns last year. It is hard to say for sure where his mentality is at after a brutal year. Would he be a negative or a positive in the film room? It is hard to know for sure on these two factors, making this a somewhat risky play for the Chiefs.
Of the four strategies, the highest upside is trading for Deshone Kizer and the lowest risk is signing a veteran. If the Chiefs trade for Kizer, it is difficult to know what the safety net will be if Mahomes gets injured. But, he’d be the cheapest option and has the tools to be a solid backup. In contrast, if the Chiefs sign a veteran like Daniel they know what kind of safety net he provides. However, this could prevent Mahomes from fully taking the leadership role, of which the Chiefs seem eager.
With free agency and the NFL draft quickly approaching, the Chiefs are on the clock.