Why David Amerson will likely be better than advertised for the Kansas City Chiefs
By Matt Conner
If you bring up the cornerback position among many Kansas City Chiefs fans, the feeling is that there’s not enough talent, but if Brett Veach is confident, you should be too.
The quotes are all readily available, and they’re all confident in David Amerson.
From general manager Brett Veach to head coach Andy Reid to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to myriad teammates, the Kansas City Chiefs have a unified front when they discuss the cornerback position. In summary, everyone seems to believe that there’s plenty of talent on the roster at the position that the team’s fans would call “most concerning.” And not only are they confident in the bigger picture, they also like Amerson.
There are good reasons for concern, and anyone would be foolish—including the front office, coaches and players—to shrug it off, as if fans are crazy to think as much.
- The team’s secondary was a mess in 2017, rotating numerous players in a starting role in search for outside help when some of those guys probably didn’t deserve even backup snaps (e.g. Phillip Gaines).
- Marcus Peters wasn’t just the best overall corner on the Chiefs but he’s one of the league’s few elite cornerbacks, a man on a Canton-esque trajectory with the number of turnovers created early in his career. That the Chiefs traded him away when the roster was already thin at the position only exacerbated any perceived need.
- The team basically flushed anyone on the roster besides Steven Nelson, meaning that depth is also a serious issue along with talent.
To help bolster the position, Veach has brought in three new players of note along with several undrafted free agents to compete for depth. He traded for Kendall Fuller. He signed David Amerson. He drafted Tremon Smith.
Fuller is the only player that has anyone excited about this part of the roster. He’s a slot corner who will remain a slot corner after early quotes flirted with moving him outside. The Chiefs should have a lockdown defender once again in the secondary, and this time it will be Fuller as he moves around the inside.
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As for the other options, the hopes aren’t nearly as high. Smith is a small-school prospect taken in the sixth round and any fan should view him as such. Amerson, however, has taken his licks after signing with the Chiefs, as some fans simply believe he’s a poor option to throw on the outside and that the team needs to make further moves (e.g. Bashaud Breeland rumors).
Amerson’s doubters have their reasons, to be sure. I’m sure even the man himself would admit that last season was not a good one. Amerson “allowed a league-high 156.3 passer rating into his coverage” last season, per Pro Football Focus, and he also missed the final 9 games with a foot injury. Even if you’re willing to give him a mulligan on a full season it was also clear that Amerson wasn’t quite the playmaker in the secondary in 2016 after his extension as he was when he first arrived with the Oakland Raiders on waivers in 2015.
But let’s be clear: the finances and commitment involved with Amerson and the Chiefs show what thin ice the cornerback is really on. It’s termed a prove-it deal for a reason, and Amerson faces an uphill climb to earn another major payday as a player. The Chiefs only committed 1 year and $2.225 million, and if it’s clear it’s not going to work out, it only takes $500K in dead cap space to release him.On the flip side, Amerson has nearly $3 million in incentives to make good on this deal with the knowledge that a solid year will reap much more dividends next offseason.
When Amerson is on, he’s a rare playmaker with a nose for the ball, not on par with a Marcus Peters, but Amerson set a Raiders franchise record with 6 passes deflected in a single game and had 42 total pass breakups in 2015-16 combined along with 6 interceptions. Those are good numbers, disruptive numbers, that show Amerson is a physical corner who uses his size (6’1, 205) well.
It’s also important to remember that Amerson is only 26-years-old, still very young and now with much to prove to everyone about the year wasted in 2017. As a former second round pick, a high ceiling was clearly envisioned by at least the Washington Redskins and Amerson made good on that when it counted the most—after Washington had released him and Oakland gave him a second chance.
After the Raiders released Amerson last February, Veach struck very quickly to sign his man. From that point forward, Veach ignored all kinds of other free agent possibilities—even some that remain available—which means he had likely fixated on Amerson as the other cornerback he desired most. It wasn’t a huge secret that the Raiders might make Amerson available on the open market, and Veach pounced when he could.
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Veach’s actions imply that he fully believes that the former Raiders cornerback is the answer to the Chiefs woes in the secondary—or at least a significant part of it. While last year remains disconcerting and seeing is believing, Amerson has already made believers out of those who matter most. Fans might want to give him the benefit of the doubt.