1. Anthony Hitchens
Anthony Hitchens was one of Brett Veach’s big signings when he first took over as GM. Hitchens was supposed to bring some needed athleticism to K.C.’s linebacking group after they parted ways with their all-time leader in tackles in Derrick Johnson. However, despite having the team’s 8th biggest cap hit last season and 9th biggest for this coming season, Hitchens has been a big disappointment.
Hitchens first year in K.C. was a complete train wreck. He was slow to react and, while he racked up big tackle numbers, they were typically 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Last season, Hitchens graded out as PFF’s 81st ranked linebacker with a pitiful 44.4 overall rating and that was an improvement over his 2018 season. His 34.1 run defense grade was flat out embarrassing for a starting middle linebacker.
Hitchens is signed through 2022, but when a team is hurting for salary cap space, it will be hard to justify keeping Hitchens’ salary on the books if he is below average again this coming season. If the Chiefs were to designate Hitchens a post June 1st cut after this season, they could save $6.5 million in 2021 by cutting ties with him. If Hitchens doesn’t want that to happen or doesn’t want to have to take a pay cut, he needs to up his game in 2020.
The Chiefs defense improved as a unit as the year went on in 2019 and did enough to help K.C. win the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t change the fact that their linebacker play was well below average. They added Willie Gay Jr. in the second round of the draft, and if he looks like the real deal as a rookie, it will be all the more likely that the Chiefs could show Hitchens the door.
There might not be a player that could improve the team more by drastically improving his performance from previous seasons in K.C. than Hitchens. If he could become just a dependable quality starter, it would be a huge gain for the defense.
So there you have it Chiefs fans, my top ten players that need to step up in 2020. Some of them need to justify their contracts or draft position. Some of them need prove they deserve to stick around after 2020. Some of them desperately need to help fill a void at a key position. Do you agree with these ten players I chose? Would you put them in a drastically different order? Is there anyone you think I am overlooking? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.