Coby Fleener could make an interesting addition for the Kansas City Chiefs
By Matt Conner
Veteran tight end Coby Fleener could be on the outs in New Orleans, and he could be the sort of veteran addition at tight end the Chiefs were looking for.
Forget about Coby Fleener, first round pick. That player no longer exists.
Fleener is now on the verge of turning 30. He’s suffered a dislocated shoulder and several concussions. He gave his best years to the city of Indianapolis, and he’s now been released by the New Orleans Saints, which means he is searching for his third franchise.
So when we talk about Fleener as a potential acquisition, visions of a 1 and 1A with Travis Kelce in dynamic two tight end sets should immediately vanish. Even Fleener himself might laugh at such an idea.
So if the visions of Fleener Past are inaccurate, what is he today? Fleener is, at least, an interesting player for the Chiefs to consider—if Brett Veach was indeed looking for some tight end help (as illustrated by Benjamin Watson’s recent visit). The Chiefs didn’t add a single tight end prospect via the draft, and no franchise will avoid bringing in a veteran because an undrafted free agent looks good after a two-day minicamp.
Consider this: Fleener is 6’6, 250 lbs. That’s six inches and 50 lbs over most defensive backs.
Consider, also, this: Fleener ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the Combine. That’s impossible for linebackers of similar size to keep up with.
If Fleener sounds like the ideal blend of size and speed, you would be correct. Even years after his NFL Combine performance, Fleener is still an excellent athlete who can create such mismatches over the middle. Even more, Fleener has excellent hands with excellent body positioning, which means he knows how to use his frame to attack the ball while shielding the defender from making any play on the pass.
That sort of combination is why the Saints believed Fleener would be the perfect substitute for Jimmy Graham after they traded the tight end to Seattle. New Orleans signed Fleener to a five-year, $36 million deal just two years ago. Next year, for example, Fleener was set to make only $1 million less than Travis Kelce. The difference in production last season? 743 yards and 6 touchdowns less than the Chiefs Pro Bowler.
Why not Fleener?
This would be all about two things:
Speaking of the former, Fleener finished last year on injured reserve due to his fifth concussion, and it’s possible that a pro like Fleener simply calls it quits instead of trying to find another team after being released by the Saints. Even if not, will a team want to really invest much of anything in a player who could be so close to another head injury? That’s a risk to consider for sure.
As for the latter, the size/speed combination combined with the first-round pedigree that comes with Fleener might still be enough to convince a general manager to give Fleener decent money, even if he can’t come close to his big money splash of ’16. Would a GM go three years at $15 million? If so, it’s too rich for the Chiefs who are already hurting for cap space and would likely want to go 1-2 years at most.
As illustrated by two free agent visits of Benjamin Watson and slot receiver Kendall Wright, it’s clear that the Chiefs are still kicking the tires of potential offensive additions. When Patrick Mahomes takes the field during Week 1, he’s going to see myriad playmakers all around him, which means the team is likely not done. Would they replace Demetrius Harris with Fleener? If the price is right, it would make sense.
But if Veach is sold on Harris as the No. 2 moving forward, it doesn’t make sense to also bring in Fleener. A third tight end needs to be cheap in this offense given the luxuries already on board. Harris, then, is the key, which means it depends on how Veach views Harris. John Dorsey clearly favored him as his back-up, but we’ve yet to see/hear proof from Veach one way or another and that—and we might have to wait until the preseason is nearly over.
Would Coby Fleener take a one-year contract to prove himself before checking out free agency again? Does he have enough leverage already to avoid that sort of scenario? If the planets aligned in the right way—financially, primarily—a backup tight end like Fleener could work wonders in an offense where Travis Kelce is already a matchup nightmare. Fleener could do some serious damage underneath as defenses key in on other areas. Then again, it’s all about interest, fit and money.