Given other roster holes and the greatness of Patrick Mahomes, it might surprise you to realize the Chiefs might want to draft a QB.
The Kansas City Chiefs are focused on only one thing: the Super Bowl. It’s going to be this way in K.C. as long as Patrick Mahomes is under center as the starting quarterback and Andy Reid is on the sidelines as the team’s head coach
The reality is, however, that you never know what will happen in the NFL. There’s no guarantee that a quarterback—or any player—is going to stay healthy at all times, and the maxim “next man up” exists for that very reason. Making sure the most important position in the game is stocked with talent is vital for a team’s continued success.
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Looking at the Chiefs’ current depth chart at quarterback, the Chiefs went through the 2018 season with only two signal callers on the active roster: Mahomes and Chad Henne. Henne is the veteran back-up, a low-ceiling option who can, in theory, be tasked with not losing games with careless turnovers and mental mistakes. The idea of paying a veteran like Henne isn’t about some sexy upside. Rather, Mahomes is that upside and Henne is the safety net to keep the floor from falling out from under any hopes of contention in case something happens.
Henne is under contract for only one more season after having signed a two-year, $6.7 million deal last offseason. Henne’s cap hit for this year will be $4.1 million and there’s every reason to think the Chiefs will keep him around for the duration of his deal. At that point, Henne will be heading into a season in which he’s turning 35-years-old. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs remain interested heading into 2020.
Here’s where opinions on the situation will begin to diverge. There are undoubtedly some members of Chiefs Kingdom who are enamored with the third option that has stuck around since last year’s draft: Chase Litton. The former Marshall quarterback went undrafted and stuck with K.C. as a priority free agent on the team’s practice squad for most of the season.
Some fans will read more into this situation than others, believing that Andy Reid and Brett Veach kept Litton around like a diamond in the rough. It’s akin to the Chiefs keeping Tyler Bray or other such prospects around, and it’s easy to fall for the idea of some pro potential if the team keeps a player on the fringes of the roster.
But here’s the truth: in a quarterback-driven league with so many teams needing hope for now and later, 32 NFL teams passed on Chase Litton for a full seven rounds. It’s not that Litton couldn’t turn into a valued prospect, but it’s also just as likely that the Chiefs have him around because teams need quarterbacks for the scout team. Litton isn’t valuable enough to take an active roster spot, and he’s also not valuable enough for another team to poach him from the practice squad.
Because of this, Litton is likely going to face competition as a third quarterback sometime soon—eitiher this year or next. Unless you believe in Litton’s pro potential, the Chiefs lack any developmental arms and no team should ever find themselves in that situation, if at all possible.
Ron Wolf, former general manager of the Green Bay Packers, was famous for wanting to pick a new quarterback every single year in the draft. You simply never know what you can uncover or what you will need at the central position in the game.
Bill Belichick has embodied this same idea by drafting a new young quarterback every few seasons to sit behind Tom Brady. While Brady is the starter, Belichick is clearly not content to rely on Brady to stay healthy. He’s sunk several early round picks into players like Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, allowing the team to feel good about any potential injury to Brady and hold valuable trade assets on the bench.
Right now, the Chiefs are only moderately equipped to handle an injury to Mahomes, with a veteran like Henne as a stopgap option. They’re also poorly equipped to handle anything long-term with only the presence of Litton to take into account.
The Chiefs should in no way force a quarterback selection in the upcoming draft. They have Henne in place, after all, for the next year and potential dead cap space will preclude the team from ever releasing him before his contract runs out next year at this time. However, sometime in this year’s draft or next, it makes a lot of sense for the Chiefs to keep a serious lookout for a prized quarterback prospect to draft and stash behind Mahomes.