Brett Veach makes the trade deadline a Catch-22 for Kansas City Chiefs

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Brett Veach, General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with a fan before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Brett Veach, General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with a fan before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT /

With Brett Veach as the man in charge of making any trade deadline deals, Chiefs fans should be worried as to whether or not things will work out as hoped.

“Brett Veach was responsible for him.”

That was Andy Reid‘s response when Colin Cowherd asked Reid how Patrick Mahomes came to be a Kansas City Chief.

That’s a story we’ve heard over and over about Veach. He was the one pounding the table for Reid and then-GM John Dorsey to look at Mahomes’ Texas Tech tape. If it wasn’t for Veach, K.C. might not have the single greatest quarterback talent perhaps in NFL history. Reid has told similar stories about Veach badgering him about Desean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and Fletcher Cox.

But all of those successes came from Brett Veach the scout or director of player personnel, not Brett Veach the general manager. When you’re working beneath the GM, the players you’re passionate about have to pass through the filter of the decision makers. I’m almost certain that Veach has an equal (if not longer) list of uninspiring players for whom he was pushing hard yet was unable to get his bosses to bite. We don’t hear about those, because Veach couldn’t pull the trigger on them.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, now that Veach can pull the trigger on ostensibly whoever he wants, it’s starting to feel like the good:bad ratio when it comes to the guys he wants most desperately is weighted far more toward the bad than good.

As a general manager, particularly with his big splash moves and in the draft, what has Brett Veach done to elevate the Chiefs’ chances to win a Super Bowl?

Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens were two of his first splashy signings, and it’d be near impossible to argue either have been worth their hefty price tags. Most of last year Hitchens looked lost in Bob Sutton’s system, reacting so slowly he may as well have not even been on the field some plays. While he has seen some improvement this year, he’s now battling injury. Speaking of injuries, Sammy Watkins has been solid when healthy (and transcendent in Week 1 of this season), but like the majority of his career “when healthy” has been “not especially often”.

Veach’s 2018 draft class has been abysmal. The only player from the class currently seeing any significant snaps outside of Special Teams duty is Derrick Nnadi. Breeland Speaks is on the IR right now, but last year he did little to justify the confidence Veach had he’d be an instant-impact player.

After the 2018 season ended, Veach decided to make wholesale changes. He attempted to acquire Earl Thomas, but had the Ravens pluck him away at the last minute. He was able to bring in Tyrann Mathieu, which has been an objective positive for the defense compared to last year at the safety position.

His biggest move, and as of this writing his biggest failure, was the Frank Clark trade/contract extension. Not only was a 2019 1st round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick sacrificed for Clark, but he was given a 5-year, $104 million extension on top of it.

Because of the Clark trade, Veach’s 2019 draft was another without a first round pick. His 2019 class has already been more impactful than his class from 2018 (a low bar), with Mecole Hardman and Juan Thornhill already getting meaningful snaps and making impactful plays. Still, one wonders what could have been with that first round pick.

Now, I’m not one to covet draft picks. If you can bring in an elite talent at the cost of a high draft pick and you can afford to keep him, I believe you do that almost every time. A draft pick is, at best, a 50/50 gamble on a player becoming just a long-term starter, let alone a superstar. So if you can get an impact player, you get him.

Frank Clark isn’t that player, though—not for the Chiefs. Last season’s Super Bowl chances died because the Chiefs’ ability to cover stunk. Between Chris Jones, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford they had one of the best pass rushing trios in the sport. The pass rush didn’t matter, because Brady was able to pick apart the secondary while getting the ball out of his hands almost as soon as he got it. Anyone with eyes could see what was going on. The Chiefs needed elite talent in the secondary, and they needed it bad.

They still need it.

But, instead, the big splash move became Frank Clark. Pro Football Focus isn’t gospel, but it’s a reliable metric for how players are fairing through the season. The story their grading tells for 2019 and the player the Chiefs chose vs. the players they gave the boot is not pretty:

  • Dee Ford: 91.1
  • Justin Houston: 73.6
  • Frank Clark: 56.1

At this point I cannot be told the defense wouldn’t have been better off holding onto Houston for one more year and using their 1st round pick on a corner.

Now, maybe Clark just needs more time to get acclimated to the system. After six weeks, that’s starting to seem like wishful thinking. Clark’s play this season is beginning to feel like a movie I’ve seen before, like a bigger, more expensive sequel to Hitchens last year. Clark excelled in Seattle, but in K.C. he looks like a ghost of his Pacific Northwestern self. The game-wrecker seen in extended bursts in Seattle has yet to make his presence felt though the first third of the season.

But even if Clark turns it around and becomes what Veach paid for him to become, how is he going to help against New England in the playoffs? If a three-headed monster pass rush of Jones, Houston, and Ford couldn’t get to Brady fast enough last season, how’s a two-headed monster of Jones and Clark going to this season?

Which brings us to the trade deadline. October 29th. The Chiefs have to make a move. They need a lockdown force in coverage, but those don’t come cheap nor do they hit the trade block often. KC has already missed out on free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Unless a team who isn’t yet selling starts dumping elite corners on the trade block, that leaves the cornerback who has reached near-white whale status in KC: Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.

If Veach can swing a deal for Peterson, then he’ll deserve all the praise in the world for it—even if he has to overpay. Peterson is the rare sort of talent you move mountains to obtain. But if Veach can’t move those mountains, what level of trust can be had that he’ll be able to find someone at the trade deadline or next offseason who will elevate the defense?

It’s a nasty Catch-22. The Chiefs need to make a move, but at this point I’m not sure I want that move to be made by Veach. The same words that are true of Mahomes are true of Watkins, Hitchens, Speaks, and Clark: “Brett Veach was responsible for him”.

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