What if the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Shane Ray of the Denver Broncos?
By Matt Conner
Let’s make a hypothetical trade between two division rivals and bring over a hometown pass rusher to play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Right now, the general managers are the ones having all of the fun. The wheeling and dealing during the 2018 NFL Draft has me thinking about some deals myself. For the sake of some draft time fun, let’s talk about a hypothetical trade that I think has merit on all sides.
First, let’s be aware of this: a lot of veteran players will come available (or at least will have a loosened roster spot) after the draft once teams bring in their new players. The Oakland Raiders have already said wideout Seth Roberts is available after they traded for Martavis Bryant. Players in, players out.
So for our exercise and others like it, it’s important to look at what teams are bringing in players likely to push someone else out. One place with a now-crowded house (“Don’t Dream It’s Over” should be playing in your head, now) is the Denver Broncos, thanks to the treasure chest known as Bradley Chubb that fell into their lap at No. 5 overall.
We already wrote about Chubb’s addition to the Broncos and what it means for the rest of the division. The CliffsNotes: not good. Together with Von Miller, the Broncos are positioned to make life miserable for the offensive bookends of the AFC West. For half of a season, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are going to be up against Khalil Mack, Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
Here’s the thing: the Broncos already had a nice stable of pass rushers, or at least the potential for it. They invested a second round pick just last year in DeMarcus Walker, who will be asked to play defensive end but could stand up on the edge. Shane Ray was the team’s first round pick in 2015. Shaq Barrett, Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris are also players who can collapse the pocket. And let’s not forget the presence of Domata Peko or the potential of Adam Gotsis (depending on what happens with his alleged rape charge).
Now the Broncos could easily stand pat and just feature one of the NFL’s most loaded pass rushing stables—perhaps even the deepest overall. But they could also deal from a position of strength to enhance other parts of the roster. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of concerns for the Broncos even with such a strong pass rush.
So let’s talk hypothetical trades. And let’s keep it simple.
Chiefs trade: 2018 3rd round pick (No. 86 overall)
Broncos trade: Shane Ray
Before you immediately dismiss this for one reason or another, at the very least, let’s take a closer look:
Why Shane Ray?
For those who don’t know, Shane Ray is a local product, born in Kansas City. Oh yeah, he also got this tattoo across his entire back.
Ray was the Broncos first round pick back in 2015, so he’s still young (only 24-years-old) and on his rookie deal. He had 4 sacks during his rookie season in which he appeared in only 14 games, starting zero of them. In 2016, he had 8 sacks in 8 starts and showed that he could be an answer across the field from Von Miller. Unfortunately last year, he tore a wrist ligament early and missed half the season.
Why the Chiefs would consider this deal?
Because few things should be more important at this stage of roster building than freeing up Justin Houston to dominate as only he can. The Chiefs are hoping to build a pass rushing stable of their own and a nice bit of potential is there:
- Justin Houston remains one of the 10 best defensive players in the NFL.
- Tanoh Kpassagnon, last year’s 2nd round pick, was compared to Jason Pierre-Paul and Sean Jones coming out of the draft. We also knew he’d take some time.
- Dee Ford has led the Chiefs in sacks just 2 years ago with 10 and should be healthy.
- Andy Reid mentioned Ukeme Eligwe earlier this offseason as a player to watch.
- Chris Jones is a beast up front and will be a serious part of any pass rushing effort.
This group has a nice base of talent, including two game-changing players. They also have reason for hope. However, the idea of adding one more player to the mix would alleviate most concerns about the team’s pass rush and cement them for the rigors of a long season ahead without having to hope for so many best-case scenarios.
Also let’s not forget this: the Chiefs are thin in the secondary and there are two ways to combat this. First, you can simply add new players so it’s not so thin. Second, you can beef up the front seven so the secondary isn’t so exposed. Look at the Philadelphia Eagles last season for a model of what a souped-up front seven can do for a pass defense.
Adding Ray would bring in a 24-year-old pass rusher with plenty of pro experience already in hand as well as intimate knowledge of the entire AFC West. He’s proven to get after the passer yet suffered a down year in 2017 that could deem him expendable by the Broncos (more on this in a minute). Plus bringing home a player who so clearly loves K.C. would be some serious motivation (and a nice addition for fans, too).
Why the Broncos would consider this deal?
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Last year, Shane Ray had a single sack in seven starts. They haven’t even officially exercised his fifth year option, which shows that maybe there’s some internal decisions being made about committing resources to Ray’s future on the team.
For Denver, Ray is going to get much more expensive after this season. Given the presence of a breakout player like Shelby Harris or another nice young player in Shaq Barrett, why do you need a $9 million option who is nothing more than a rotational guy. More importantly, the Broncos are, even without Ray on the roster, one of the 3 to 5 best pass rushing units in the NFL.
If a team is offering a third round pick in response, do you not take it? The Broncos had official draft visits with WR D.J. Chark, CB Donte Jackson, CB Anthony Averett, OT Geron Christian, LB Josey Jewell, S Dane Cruikshank, RB Ronald Jones, OT Martinas Rankin and many more who could be targeted in this part of the draft.
Would Elway not at least think about spinning off a rotational pass rusher, one who is nearing the end of his contract, for the sake of a young answer at another position of need?
Ray is entering the final year of his rookie deal which makes his cap hit $2.9 million. He does, however, have a fifth year option that could be exercised for 2019 that would pay him around $9 million. But know this, a player with a team’s logo tattooed on his back and coming off of a down year could be ripe for a nice extension under market value at a position that’s a serious need for most teams. Does anyone really think that Shane Ray would play hardball with his hometown team?
Reasons to not make the trade
This part is easy because there are obvious concerns here. Division rivals often don’t want to trade with each other just because they’re rivals. Does Denver really want to face Shane Ray twice a year? Do the Chiefs really want to give a young asset to the Broncos?
There are question marks around Ray given his performance (or lack of it) last year. Then again, if he’d enjoyed a banner season without injury, the Broncos would have likely passed on Chubb and we’d never be having this conversation in the first place. Remember we’re able to even believe Ray could be traded due to his frustrating season.
Perhaps the Chiefs really do like the potential of the guys they already have in house and don’t feel the need to bring in someone else—or at least as big of an investment. Andy Reid said the roster is already game-ready with the talent they have in house, so maybe the team is good as is and pass rush isn’t the sort of huge need it’s been made out to be.
There’s also no reason to make this trade if you think that third round pick could produce a player as good as or better than Shane Ray. If the Chiefs love a player like Dorance Armstrong or Kemeko Turay, they’ll likely be able to grab him with that same pick and enjoy four low-cost years of control.
This is all conjecture, obviously, a 1,500 word exercise exploring what ifs between two teams that will likely never call the other. But when there’s a player with a back tattoo of the Chiefs logo, it’s hard to not want to go and claim him.
If it were up to me, it’s a deal I would at least consider. This year’s is a poor class for pass rushers and Shane Ray is pro ready. It’d be a great homecoming story at a position of need for a cost that, for me, is worth it.
Next: The best players waiting for the Chiefs in Round 2
What do you think, Chiefs Kingdom? Is this the dumbest thing you’ve read today? (Likely.) Do you agree? (Wow, that was unexpected.) Feel free to sound off in the comments.