KC Chiefs fans can’t have it both ways in free agency

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Byron Pringle #13 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts prior to Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Byron Pringle #13 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts prior to Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The complaints ping back and forth between two opposing poles: 1.) a person’s favorite team should have signed this particular free agent, and 2.) a person’s favorite team should give [insert young, unproven player’s name] a real chance to actually play. It happens in every fan base every offseason in every sport, and fans of the K.C. Chiefs are certainly no different.

Lately, the conversation has centered around the wide receiver position in the 2021 offseason, but we’ve been around these binary parts before, to be sure. It’s just that our memories aren’t that great when it comes to providing proper perspective of our present desires.

Consider how often you’ve heard either of the following (likely both), assuming you’re a willing participant on social media surrounding the team. “The Chiefs should give Byron Pringle more reps going forward,” is the common refrain heard on one side. “How could the Chiefs miss out on [insert free agent WR]?” on the other side. That name could be Josh Reynolds or Corey Davis or JuJu Smith-Schuster, but it doesn’t matter in the end. Fans see a roster need at wide receiver in the wake of Sammy Watkins’ departure (or even if he didn’t leave) and want someone proven—at least proven enough to be dumped by their prior employer.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been guilty of thinking or even saying both things this offseason. Maybe these are two different camps, but I’ll be the first to confess if it helps. I have said both. I have wanted both. Both sides make sense to me.

It’s been interesting to see a young player like Pringle look good in limited reps over the last couple years. Watching him run back 100-plus yards on an electrifying return makes me wonder what he can bring to the offense is given a handful of targets in every game. He’s climbed the depth chart to this point, and now I’d like to know how high the ceiling actually goes.

Chiefs fans can’t have it both ways when it comes to certainty and potential.

I also feel the same about Demarcus Robinson, who recently said he was ready to step up and be a 1,000 yard receiver. That might sound crazy with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce on the same offense, but there are a lot more targets and yards to go around alongside those two and 800 yards seems pretty easy for someone to reach as a next-tier target (remember that takes less than 50 yards/game these days).

At the same time, the thought of the Chiefs going into next season with Kelce, Hill and a return of last year’s depth chart more or less feels frustrating. Somehow, as free agents sign elsewhere, I forget this team won 14 of 15 games in which they actually tried. I also forgot they made it to another Super Bowl. Instead, I just couldn’t believe that Smith-Schuster wanted to catch passes from Ben Roethlisberger over Patrick Mahomes.

The veteran free agent addition sounded so good over the last month and it’s hard to stomach that re-signing Robinson was the best they could do. If rumors are true, the Chiefs agree with this part of me. After all, they were reportedly in on myriad receivers and Smith-Schuster even explained that Andy Reid was texting him photos of the Lombardi Trophy. See! I’m right!

But we can’t have it both ways, can we? If Byron Pringle is going to be given a chance to grow then that means giving him the space to do so. If the receiver room is overcrowded once again, then we’ll literally never know about Jody Fortson. You have to create the vacuum in order to allow something to fill it. Therein lies the tension: the feeling of the present vacuum in the hopes of seeing something grow in the months to come.

Chiefs fans are no different than anyone else wanting things both ways. It happens all over, and we feel this again and again. It’s just that we forget that trading certainty for potential always involves this tenuous space in which anything is possible. It’s exciting and frustrating. It’s also what makes it all so compelling in the first place.

The 2015 Chiefs draft class was among best ever. dark. Next