The Kansas City Chiefs signed four players to free agent deals on Friday, including a former first-round quarterback in E.J. Manuel.
The Kansas City Chiefs announced a round of free agent signings on Friday that added up to four new players total on the roster: quarterback E.J. Manuel, wide receiver Sammie Coates, wide receiver Davon Grayson, and defensive back Dontae Johnson.
As it goes for any team, any player signed to a free agent deal during this time of year is likely a flyer of sorts, a longshot to make the roster that will shrink from 90 total players to 53 before all is said and done. Remember last year the Chiefs signed David Amerson in February and that was one of the better shots to make the team as a newly released player.
Let’s get a quick rundown on each player and what the Chiefs might see in each as they scan the roster:
E.J. Manuel, quarterback
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Manuel will be familiar even to casual fans due to his first round status as a quarterback in the NFL. The average fan might not be able to say where he’s played since the Bills drafted him, but at the very least, he will be known as a bust out of Florida State.
Manuel has likely coasted into several franchises simply due to the initial investment given to him by the Buffalo Bills, but Veach and his team are smart enough to know better than to bring in a first round pick just for the sake of it. Instead, it’s likely that Veach remembers something about Manuel’s game film and draft stock when the Chiefs were scouting him in the first place. If the Chiefs liked him for any reason, even in a lower round, it might be worth checking out what is still there.
Remember, so much of a quarterback’s success is predicated upon the scheme and coaching staff around him. Task a player with too much or fail to adapt to the quarterback’s abilities and it’s a marriage made in hell. Just ask Alex Smith about the difference a coach can make. No one is declaring any serious reclamation projects here, but it’s at least a curious signing that doesn’t hurt anyone to bring in competition behind Patrick Mahomes.
Dontae Johnson, cornerback
This is a welcome sight for fans concerned about the state of the defense, knowing at least one of the imports is a cornerback.
Johnson began his career in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers as their fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, a running theme for many fringe defensive backs who end up in Kansas City (Will Redmond, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser). As recently as 2017, Johnson started all 16 games for the Niners before he was allowed to walk after his rookie contract expired.
Johnson signed with the Seattle Seahawks in free agency last year but was placed on injured reserve to start the season with a groin injury. He was then released with an injury settlement as the Seahawks were ready and willing to move on to other younger options in the secondary. From there, Johnson tried to catch on with the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals
At 6’2, 200 lbs. it’s easy to like the size and stature of Johnson, but it’s also clear that Niners fans weren’t sad to see him go. Pro Football Focus wasn’t kind to his full year as a starter, so the Chiefs likely want to see how a change of scenery and coaching can affect his potential.
Davon Grayson, wide receiver
The first of two new wide receivers to join the Chiefs on Friday, Grayson is a prospect out of Eastern Carolina who was an undrafted free agent from last year’s draft. He caught on with the New York Giants after last year’s draft but that didn’t last.
Grayson’s college stats won’t jump out at anyone, especially in his senior season where he was able to start 11 games and caught 59 passes for 886 yards and 6 touchdowns. However, he missed the entire previous season due to a back injury and has dealt with a number of other health concerns in his collegiate career.
The Chiefs have likely seen something they like enough on game film or in his measurables to see how Grayson would stack up with other options on the roster.
Sammie Coates, wide receiver
Coates is the most well-known of the bunch after Manuel given his stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers and their high-profile offense. Despite being in the NFL for four seasons thus far, Coates is still only 25-years-old.
Coates was the Steelers third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he only lasted two seasons before he was released and signed by the Cleveland Browns. He lasted a single season in Cleveland before being released and claimed by the Houston Texans, which is where he spent the 2018 season.
Coates had only 1 catch for 12 yards in 12 games for the Texans and only has 29 total catches in his career. However, he has experience on special teams and even returned a handful of kicks for the Steelers at some point if the Chiefs were looking for insurance at that spot. Perhaps Dave Toub wanted to see a bit more of what he can do.
The Chiefs have their reasons for signing each and every one of these players, some bright point to consider that warranted more than a single workout. That said, the Chiefs are going to continue to pack the roster with more players who have proven to be much more productive than these four. Anything can happen however and it will be interesting to see if any of the four players signed on Friday can last well into training camp and beyond.