Kansas City Chiefs in 2020: A closer look at cornerbacks

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13: Steven Nelson
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13: Steven Nelson /

Cornerback used to be one of the strongest positions on the Chiefs roster. Fast forward a few years and it looks like it could be the weakest.

Just a few seasons ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were set at the cornerback position going forward. With the signing of Sean Smith and the eventual drafting of Marcus Peters, the secondary was starting to look like the Chiefs biggest strength. Add in two elite pass rushers in Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali made Kansas City’s defense terrifying for opposing quarterbacks.

These factors were a significant reason why the Chiefs defense was considered one of the best in the league during those years. Unfortunately nothing last for very long in the NFL. Heading into the 2018 season and beyond, the secondary looks very different for the Chiefs.

The cornerback position took the biggest hit this offseason when it comes to roster turnover. Last season, the Chiefs utilized Peters, Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Kenneth Acker, Darrelle Revis, and Keith Reaser at cornerback, but only two remain just months later. Losing all of these players suddenly made Nelson the most experienced corner on the Chiefs defense. This is an insane amount of turn over, and it only gets worse as we go forward.

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As stated last week when talking about the quarterback position in 2020, the Chiefs will have a little more than $61 million in cap space to begin the season. Along with that, Kansas City will have 19 free agents that include big-name players like Kendall Fuller, Chris Jones, and Tyreek Hill.

At this point, if Fuller were not on the roster, the only corners the Chiefs would at the beginning of the season two years from now will be Tremon Smith, D’Montre Wade, Arrion Springs, and Step Durham. While we have heard some good things about both Smith and Springs during minicamp this year, that’s not a good foundation for the future.

With so much uncertainty at the position, can Kansas City afford to let Fuller walk out the door? While the trade of Peters may have fixed the supposed “locker room issues,” it has left the Chiefs with very little in the way of overall talent at the position.

There are still two drafts to go before this becomes a much more pressing issue, but for the sake of argument let us say they start the 2020 offseason with these corners on the roster. How much would it take to keep Fuller? If Kansas City is looking in the short term, the franchise tag for Fuller would be somewhere in the $19 million range. It all depends on how much the franchise tag rises from this seasons $14.975 million.

If the Chiefs are looking at a long-term contract, they may find it to be much more beneficial. If Fuller continues to play at an elite level over his next two years in Kansas City, he will be looking for a top ten contract. If we average out the top deals, we can find that they have an average of $66,965,000 million, and with an average of 54.34% of those contracts guaranteed, we can see that the Chiefs would likely be on the hook for about $36,388,781 million. All of that will bring Fuller’s cap hit at just under $11.2 million per year if it is spread out over a six-year contract.

If we are objective, that is not very much per year for a top corner. Something to keep in mind is that this is spreading the money evenly over a six-year contract. Most NFL contracts do not work this way, Josh Norman for example only made $8 million in the first year of his deal but made $20 million in his second. The league is also starting to shift further away from these long-term contracts; we are seeing the younger players trying to take on more three year deals with the hopes of cashing in one more time before they hit the dreaded age of 30.

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Even with all this uncertainty, Kansas City is in a good spot to upgrade this position going forward. The Chiefs are done missing out in the first round now that they have their quarterback, which gives them a better shot at being able to snag a top corner moving forward. Add in having two second-round picks in next year’s draft and Kansas City has enough firepower to move around as much as they want to get their guy. Hopefully, we see Brett Veach address this issue before the sixth round in 2019.