The Kansas City Chiefs approach at cornerback has looked confusing this offseason. Let’s try to make sense of what Brett Veach is thinking.
Are you worried that Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach isn’t doing enough to address the cornerback position? Are you wondering why each cornerback that seemingly would have made a good fit is going somewhere else? You aren’t alone. However, Brett Veach deserves some credit here.
First and foremost, the market for cornerback has been, well, weird. Seeing Nickell Robey-Coleman, (someone who I really liked, go for only $1.35 million after being a top 20 corner according to Pro Football Focus is mind-blowing. You may remember the name because of the no-call against the New Orleans Saints that would have resulted in a Super Bowl appearance, but he has been a top-tier slot defender for the past few seasons.
Immediately upon seeing the deal, I wondered why wouldn’t a team strapped for cash but in a win-now mode bring in this guy? I went through all of the scenarios and outside of Robey-Coleman straight up saying, “I want less money to play on a worse team,” the only logical scenario is this: Veach trusts the slot corner role to Rashad Fenton.
Fenton is a former sixth rounder who no one seemed high on during training camp, but who continually grew during the season and even got a good chunk of snaps in the Super Bowl. To Fenton’s credit, he had a productive rookie season and coupled with the late-round rookie contract, Veach is rolling with it.
Then again, why wouldn’t he? Veach has hit on most of his draft picks. He has hit on Charvarius Ward in a trade. He’s hit on his prove-it deals, a la Bashaud Breeland. When you hit as often as Veach does, you earn the right to be trusted. The fact that Veach let a high-end slot guy go for what is seemingly a tiny contract means he has the upmost faith in Fenton.
Now on to other guys that I thought would have made a fit. With the departure of Kendall Fuller to the Redskins (I know safety/cornerback but roll with it), who does Steve Spagnuolo need as the defensive coordinator? A safety? A corner? Why not a another hybrid, which is where Jalen Mills would have came into play?
Mills signed a 1 year, $5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that will have him playing all over the field. Wouldn’t Mills have made sense in Fuller’s old role? Mills is a guy who seemingly hasn’t lived up to what Eagles fans have thought. He has been up and down but a late season switch to safety helped land him this deal. Sound familiar?
The way I believe Veach will go about the departure of Fuller is to stand pat (not Mahomes). With Thornhill on track to bounce back from injury, this allows Mathieu to be even more aggressive and play that hybrid role that he thrives in. Add in Sorensen, who is still under contact (as of now), and I believe the loss of Fuller will mean going back to things prior to Thornhill’s injury.
Finally, the last player who would have made sense in this defense was Ronald Darby. Darby was a second-round pick who has been pretty inconsistent but has shown flashes throughout his career. He was actually linked to the Chiefs for awhile last season before signing a 1-year deal to stay with the Eagles. This year he signed with the Redskins on a cheap 1-year, $4 million deal.
Now I understand everyone was clamoring for Chris Harris Jr. or Patrick Peterson, but the money isn’t there. A long time starter who hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations, I believe that Spags would have made Darby into this year’s version of Breeland. That is, until we heard the real Breeland is coming back on a new one-year deal of his own.
The most surprising part of the Breeland deal is the amount he is getting. I fully believed he was getting a Fuller-type of deal, but something is holding his market back. He was solid last year, even though penalties were somewhat of a concern. Still, seeing guys like Josh Norman who hasn’t been good in years get nearly double his salary is very surprising. I do expect this to be Breeland’s last go around in K.C., and if he plays like last year, I expect his market to rise.
As we have seen, Kansas City is trying to keep the band together and this offseason may have a bigger impact than others. With the coronavirus, no one knows if OTAs, training camp or even the preseason will start on time. Taking all of that into consideration, players who know the playbook, scheme, coaches, and each other become even more paramount. Bringing back guys that already know what to do gives the Chiefs a leg up on the start of the season.
Right now, you have the starters pretty much entrenched with Breeland and Ward on the outside and Fenton in the slot. This might not scare a lot of teams around the league, but we know here in K.C. that this group has what it takes. Expect Veach to draft a corner, and if it isn’t 1st round, do not freak out. Like I’ve said, Veach’s vision allowed a 6th rounder and an undrafted free agent to turn into legit starters. As far as corners to look at in the draft, someone like Bryce Hall, A.J. Terrell, or Kristian Fulton could make sense, depending on the round in which Veach invests.
So there you have it. Why haven’t the Chiefs addressed the cornerback room? Faith in Fenton and Ward. The return of Breeland and the goal of getting the band back together. The ability of Mathieu to play slot if necessary. The bringing back of Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson makes it so the team has one less position to worry about in the draft.
Finally, trust. Veach just brought a Super Bowl to a city that had been without one in 50 years and did it his way. The biggest concern going into the season last year? Cornerback. That group exceeded expectations, grew together, become a fearsome unit, and won a Super Bowl. Run it back, Veach.