Why the Chiefs should sign free agent cornerback Prince Amukamara

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Prince Amukamara #20 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Chicago 20-10. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Prince Amukamara #20 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Chicago 20-10. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Kansas City has neglected the cornerback position this offseason. Should the Chiefs make a move for free agent cornerback Prince Amukamara?

The free agency frenzy and 2020 NFL Draft are over, but the Kansas City Chiefs still have some decisions to make regarding the roster. Several needs were addressed during the draft, including a coverage linebacker, upgrade at running back, and an offensive tackle to develop and be a protector of Patrick Mahomes for future seasons. While those three picks were good selections by general manager Brett Veach, it also means that for the third consecutive year, he has set aside the cornerback position.

Both Tremon Smith and Rashad Fenton were selected in the sixth round of their respected draft classes. While Fenton stepped up when his name was called in 2019, Smith was cut following the 2019 preseason. The Chiefs selected Louisiana Tech cornerback L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth round of this year’s draft and traded back into the seventh round to select Tulane cornerback Thakarius Keyes.

Before the draft, the Chiefs signed Antonio Hamilton and brought back Bashaud Breeland on one-year deals. Kendall Fuller will not return after signing a lucrative contract with the Washington Redskins. If Kansas City wants to repeat its success from 2019, they might have to address the cornerback position even further between now and the start of the season.

While the two remaining starters are set to play in Kansas City in 2020, including Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward, the depth behind those two players is minimal. If the Chiefs lose either of those players for any amount of time, things could get ugly quick. Rashad Fenton may have stepped up filling in for injuries last season, but he has a total of 41 snaps as a boundary cornerback—most of which came in Week 17.

Sitting behind Fenton, the Chiefs have day three rookies and a special teams contributor in Hamilton. Expecting day three rookies to come in and start Week 1 would be foolish, even in a typical offseason. With the global pandemic affecting offseason activities, it would be even more ridiculous to throw those guys on the field early in the season, whether that be on the boundary or in the slot.

That’s what the Chiefs are looking at right now, and given the uncertainty of what will transpire from the recent arrest of Bashaud Breeland, that could happen. Even if everything calms down and nothing comes of the recent incident, one injury could force an inexperienced rookie onto the field before they are ready.

Now, there is the argument that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme allows for the Chiefs to make minimal investments at the cornerback position. Spagnuolo’s use of his safeties takes responsibilities off of the cornerbacks like carrying vertically and playing strong man coverages. Given that the Kansas City was aware of the incident with Breeland and the possibility of a four-game suspension, they must have high hopes for the rookie cornerbacks.

While the scheme drastically helps the cornerback position, the Chiefs should still be looking for proven talent at the cornerback position. If the organization is putting together an all-in type of strategy to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2020, finding more depth with experience should be a high priority.

The cornerback position is one of the hardest to predict in terms of production, which means that there is no guarantee that last year’s starters will put up the same performances in 2020. Luckily, there is a cornerback that remains on the free agent market that would be a good addition to Spagnuolo’s defense and wouldn’t cost nearly as much as some of the top names.

Prince Amukamara

The Chicago Bears cut cornerback Prince Amukamara to save $9 million against the 2020 cap. He was set to play the last year of his three-year contract signed before the 2018 season, but Chicago was strapped for money. Set to turn 31 in June, Amukamara remains unsigned and could be a good signing for the 2020 season.

Standing at 6’0″ and 206 pounds, Amukamara wins with physicality at the line of scrimmage and playing in man and trail coverages. Rarely out of position, opposing offenses rarely target Amukamara. In 2019, only three cornerbacks with 500 or more snaps were targeted less. Allowing one reception in every 14.5 coverage snaps, Amukamara ranked seventh among cornerbacks in 2019. Similar to Byron Jones, who just signed a massive contract with the Miami Dolphins, Amukamara doesn’t have the interceptions that bring attention. Instead, he brings coverage that rarely brings the ball his way.

Over the last two seasons, Chicago has ranked within the top ten in pass defense DVOA. Most of the attention went to the opposite side of the field against Kyle Fuller. In those two seasons, Amukamara did have 22 passes defended to go along with his three interceptions in 2018.

Even while playing a more physical brand of coverage, Amukamara was rarely flagged. The NFL has progressively made rule changes to benefit the offense, which has led to a high volume of defensive pass interference penalties. In 2019, Prince was flagged five times. Three of those flags were hands to the face penalties that were thrown in the first few weeks of the season. Following Week 3, he was penalized once the rest of the season.

Age should not be ignored, and a decline could be coming. Still, given the state of the cornerback position in Kansas City and the style of cornerback that Spagnuolo covets, Prince Amukamara could be a low-cost option. Playing physical press-man coverage with the foot quickness and mental processing to play zone coverages as well, Amukamara makes a lot of sense.

Next. Chiefs rookie scouting report: L'Jarius Sneed, CB. dark